This month’s article is based upon helping you get to the next level of your employment.
Have you ever noticed it feels like some people can reach the next level of management faster than others? What are they doing that the rest of us aren’t? It’s like they have this extra ability that bumps them to the head of the line. I’ve come to recognize that the special ability is being a self-starter. In this article, we will be talking about how a self-starter separates themselves from the others, and if you’re thinking to yourself you want to be one, I have a few pointers for you as well.
In the vast majority of cases, the employee who has been promoted to management is a self-starter in some form. But before we get into it too much further, I think it’s important define what a self-starter is. According to Google and Oxford Languages, a self-starter is a person who is sufficiently motivated or ambitious to start a new career or business or to pursue further education without the help of others. You probably get the idea when reading the definition of a self-starter, but I think there’s actually much more to it. In this article, I want to dig a little deeper into what it means with the hope of helping you understand what it takes to get to the next level of your career.
I have made mistakes in the past by promoting some employees to managers who shouldn’t have been. The mistake was actually simple and made because of my lack of experience. I found out the hard way that most (store) managers need to be self-starters. They need to be able to find out problems that are happening and come up with solutions for staffing issues, customers issues and/or facilities issues to name just a few. The idea of a self-starter is one who does something without being told to do it. My mistake in some cases has been taking an employee who excelled at following directions and thinking they would be good at leading and giving directions. Once promoted to a management position, they were waiting for someone to give them the instructions or directions to run a store. As anyone who has managed a tanning salon knows, there isn’t an instruction book. There are just way too many variables that happen daily (sometimes hourly) to ever be able to give specific directions. That is why the self-starter characteristic is so important in managing a tanning salon. They need to be able to walk into their store, assess the situation and move forward.
As mentioned before, a self-starter will walk into a store, study what is going on, look for ways to improve and come up with solutions. The last part is very important because solutions need to be created. If you can’t create a solution, the same problem will happen over and over. Each day will stay at status quo at best. Self-starters who can create a solution will try and find ways to create something that is permanent, or at least minimize the problem. Let me give you an example:
You just became a store manager, and an employee calls in sick. As a new manager, you would like to impress upper management, so you work a double shift. A few days later, you walk into your store and notice the store is dirty and there is a lack of towels ready for the customers. You quickly clean the store and do a load of laundry. Just as you finished folding the towels, the phone rings and the employee who called in sick is calling in again because he/she has a big test tomorrow and studying must be done. So, you start texting and calling others to see if anyone can pick up the shift. Nobody answers and you are stuck working the shift again. You continue to cover the shifts and clean the salon, and after a few longs months you are burnt out.
In this scenario, the manager is proactively working (a lot) to make sure his/her store is running smoothly. I think this happens in many salons across our country, and it makes for a fast burnout. I want to run this scenario by you again, but this time with different solutions.
You just become a store manager and an employee calls in sick. As a new manager, you would like to impress upper management, so you work a double shift. In addition, you follow up with the employee to find out if they are feeling better and if there is a different shift they want since they missed some hours. A few days later, you walk into your store and notice the store is dirty and there is a lack of towels ready for the customers. You quickly clean the store and do a load of laundry. Just as you finished folding the towels, the phone rings and the employee who called in sick is calling in again because he/she has a big test tomorrow and studying must be done. So, you start texting and calling others to see if anyone can pick up the shift. Nobody answers and you are stuck working the shift again. The next available time, you ask the employee who didn’t clean the store to meet. You sit down the employee and let him/her know they didn’t complete their job and explain what your expectations are. You have him/her sign a document stating they understand. Next, you ask the employee who called in twice to meet. Upon meeting with the employee, you let him/her know the impact it has on the store when they call in. In addition, you let him/her know if there are any additional call-ins, you will be reducing their hours and possibly letting them go. You no longer need to cover shifts and clean the salon, and after a few quick months the salon is running smoothly. All employees know their boundaries and expectations.
In the first scenario, the manager covered the situation with a bandage. All he/she did was look for a quick way to fix the problem. In the second scenario, the manager went right to the source and created a solution. A self-starter is usually the type of manager that will look for long-term permanent solutions to problems. They want the problem fixed once and for all.
So, what makes someone a self-starter, and how do you become on if you’re not one? I’m sure some are born with this characteristic, but I believe that it’s a skill that is also developed. There’s not much I can about someone being born with or without it, but there is some advice I can give someone who wants to develop the skill. It’s actually more of an understanding instead of a skill. The first part you need to know and understand is most self-starters find problems. They will notice and find problems that others can’t see. This comes with experience isn’t formed overnight, but once you start finding the problems, you will start finding more.
But, if you find problems and aren’t willing to fix the problem or help fix the problem, you are now a problem. wrote about this in a past article about being a problem teller versus a problem solver. The next step is being able to come up with a solution to fix these problems. Again, having more experience is going to help with this. The more experience you have the better. The more experience you have, the more common sense you gain. Eventually, you will know how to fix the problem the second you spot it, as you have done it before and/or done something similar.
The self-starter will start looking at these situations as opportunities. As we know, most employers are looking for someone at the management level who can solve problems. So, how does one become a manager? As an employee, they identified problems and found solutions. How does one get to upper management? As a manager they identified larger problems and found solutions. It’s as simple as that: Problem solving skills were used as an opportunity for them to advance. I’d like to use the example of a scientist using problem solving skills to travel to Mars. Hopefully this gives some clarity.
We know there is a race to Mars. It’s NASA vs. other countries vs. private companies. Being the first to Mars would be a huge accomplishment. So, each party involved with this task needs to identify problems or issues that are preventing them from going. Once each problem or issue is identified, they need to come up with solutions to fix them. I think that part is easy for us to follow, but the people who are working on this project didn’t just learn how to identify and solve problems yesterday. They have been doing this for a long time. They didn’t get thrown into this project by accident. They have shown from past experience they can problem solve. Their education and knowledge of the job is vital, but education and knowledge of the job are just the tools they use to help come up with a solution. The end result is to find a solution to get to Mars.
Just like you are with your job now. You have the education and knowledge of the indoor tanning industry, but do you possess the ability to problem solve and do it day in and day out?
Being a self-starter really has nothing to do with motivation but everything to do with looking at a problem and being able to find a solution. I sit on a leadership board for our local school district, and they are trying to currently teach students knowledge for jobs that don’t exist yet. Technology and other industries are moving so fast the education system has a challenge of keeping up. The number one thing they are teaching the students is critical thinking, otherwise known as problem solving. The self-starters out there should be thrilled because the opportunity is humongous, as there will always be problems, and there will always be a need for solutions.