The Secret Sauce

Cathy Davis

I love it when a workshop goes “off topic.” You get to hear what’s really happening in the world of entrepreneurs—what questions they have, what innovations are emerging in their industries, what technologies are increasing their capabilities. It’s magical.

Earlier this year, during one of these “off topic” discussions, a participant asked the group, “What characteristics define a multiplier team member?” Being a team member myself, my brain was tingling with anticipation. A hush came over the room as Dan slowly moved toward the SMART Board, picked up a pen, and wrote four words: alert, curious, resourceful, and responsive.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was like the entrepreneurial heavens opened, revealing one of its most tightly guarded secrets. Sitting at the back of the room, I tried to stay as unassuming as possible, worried that if I drew any attention to myself, they would stop their discussion and the recipe for this “secret sauce” would be lost forever.

Since that workshop, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about these words. I’d like to think that I’ve always embodied these qualities, but I knew that by adding some intentionality to my efforts, I could really ramp up my contribution as a team member.

Here’s where my focus on this intentionality has led me:

Alert: As a project manager, I’m all about anticipating. It’s important to not only know what step I need to take next, but what obstacles may lie in my way. Being alert is key to being able to anticipate effectively. Always having your antenna up is what will keep you best connected to the vision of the company and savvy to what capabilities can be used to move toward that goal (and your own).

Curious: This one was hard for me. Ever since I was little, I’ve been told that this characteristic always “killed the cat.” What I’ve begun to understand is that, when properly focused, curiosity is about being interested—in new ideas, new capabilities, and new systems. It’s about improving yourself. Learning. Here’s the trick: When you partner curious with alert, opportunities start emerging—and this is a very, very good thing.

Resourceful: To me, resourceful is knowing what resources I have, and not necessarily always needing to be the resource. The great thing about being on a team is that I always know I have “reinforcements” I can call in when I get stuck. My area of improvement in this department is to always remember to approach resourcefulness without ego. It’s not about what I can bring to the table, but what we can do together as a team. The whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. I believe that the best Unique Ability Teams are the ones that best maximize resourcefulness.

Responsive: I have always felt that responsiveness was “in my bones” (this was confirmed in 2001 when my Kolbe results revealed my Facilitator profile – 5563). For me, there’s something exciting and superhero-esque about responsiveness—showing up where needed, jumping into action, and saving the day. This is, by far, my most favorite of the four characteristics. But, there are still pitfalls I need to keep top of mind. The biggest is being aware of how I’m responding. In an entrepreneurial organization, there are a lot of ideas, and sometimes the last thing I want is another project to think about. But I’m always careful to be open and excited about new ideas. I do this for two reasons:

  1. Even though I’m busy today, it doesn’t mean I won’t have time tomorrow, and
  2. I want to be the person who gets the opportunity to work on these new and exciting innovations.

The last thing I want is to become the person who is constantly “raining on their parade.” This is a one-way ticket to being left behind when the innovation train leaves the station! And, as a happy strategic by-product, I’ve found that input and suggestions are always met with greater interest when they are backed by excitement. Total bonus!

Every day is a different combination of these four characteristics, but the really great part is that not only are these traits the best way to survive in an entrepreneurial environment, they’re how you thrive in it!

Thank goodness I was alert that day in the workshop.

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