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The Secret To Getting Ahead at Work

by Doug Williamson

Organizations look for a number of key characteristics in prospective employees and leaders; business acumen, management capability, and interpersonal skills are just a few. Rarely do they look for the most important traits of a star employee, however;  these are the traits of a catalyst, the organizational equivalent of “a spark”.

Catalyst in an organization

Why Companies Need More Self-Starters

Rarely do companies look for a natural-born catalyst. Someone who can initiate serious amounts of growth throughout the organization. Someone who can see past the bureaucracy and red tape and decide what must be done, right now.

Organizations need catalysts now, more than ever. With too many employees paralyzed or at least demoralized by the current economic situation, catalysts are needed more than ever to use their natural abilities and kick-start an organization’s road to recovery.

In tough times catalysts are needed more than ever. Just as importantly, in great times catalysts can provide the spark needed to help drive a business forward past its competition.

Catalysts are wired differently. They understand what is needed to achieve an organization’s growth target, and how to get around any obstacles that may get in the way. The role of the catalyst is someone who speeds up a process that must happen within an organization.

Many organizations know what must change in order to be more successful. However it takes a catalyst to cut through the analysis, and red tape, to get the process started – now.

Now I know what you’re thinking right now. You may feel trapped. Or that you can’t initiate change in your current organization. There are too many constraints. Red tape, corporate policies, you name it. There is no way you’ll be able to cut through all the obstacles to get done what needs to get done.  Well, let me tell you something that you may not want to hear…

This attitude is all in your head!

In many cases, organizations teach – or better yet brainwash – managers and employees into thinking that they can’t take control of the organization and make the necessary changes to achieve long-term substantial growth. In the organization’s eyes, the key is to minimize risk and maximize control. In other words, maintain the status quo.

So how can you be an all-star catalyst in your organization? As a catalyst, you need to see through the trap of thinking change can’t occur. If you spend the time and energy (sweat equity) and if you can build a sound business case to achieve the company’s goals, you will get the permission you need. As a catalyst, you have the power to change the company.

4 Ways to Become the Catalyst in your Organization

The good news is that anyone can become a catalyst. Here are some of the traits you’ll need to exhibit in order to do so:

Dominance: As a catalyst, you are likely frustrated with the here and now, and are always looking for the next big idea. Catalysts are also very task-focused. If the growth target is “meaty” enough, a catalyst will get to work on it immediately. So you’ll need to be fired up about moving the company forward and ready to roll up your sleeves to help enact this.

Influence: Catalysts know that they can’t do this alone. You must influence others in the organization to get on board with you and pursue this new approach together. While you can certainly create a “spark” by yourself, no great catalyst can make meaningful changes alone.

Steadfastness: While this trait is important, it becomes secondary when there is a major change process underway. Do not be shackled by your organization’s past, understand its importance, but don’t be constrained by it.

Conscientiousness: Choose uncharted waters for your change plans, learn as you go, and don’t let rules and regulations get in the way. Have faith in your plan and do everything you can to move it forward.

With these 4 traits you’ll be able to move yourself, and your organization forward to a new level. And if you do this right, soon enough you’ll be looking to build out a team of catalysts yourself.

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Doug Williamson

Doug Williamson is President and Chief Executive Officer of The Beacon Group, a Toronto-based firm that specializes in Organizational Transformation and Effectiveness programs as well as Talent Identification and Leadership Development.

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