sara canaday make the shiftThough it might seem unfair, we all have a tendency to categorize our co-workers as doers or drivers. Not everyone can be seen as both. Most people begin their career as doers by the very nature of entry-level positions. At some point, those with the greatest potential make the gradual shift from doing all of the work themselves to making sure that all of the work gets done well. Instead of simply managing, they step up and start leading – delegating, motivating, strategizing. They expand the context of their reputations from doers to drivers by incorporating the subtle yet highly compelling characteristics of executive presence. Perpetual Doers struggle to make that transition, and this has a negative impact on the way others view their capacity to advance and handle more sophisticated leadership opportunities.

If you think you might be perceived as a Perpetual Doer, consider how your co-workers view your workplace contributions. Are you known for a particular skill or talent that is primarily production-oriented? Do others repeatedly seek out your help in that one particular area? Do you volunteer for similar projects because you feel most comfortable with them? Do you sometimes avoid other types of assignments that are less quantifiable and might take you off task? Is it possible that you have created the impression that you’re more valuable as a manager/producer rather than a leader/visionary? From an outsider’s perspective, does your career look a bit one-dimensional? Have you been pigeonholed in a certain area and now feel as though you are in a professional rut?

Fortunately, there are things you can do to make that critical shift from doer to driver.

1. Speak up. Talk to your supervisor more specifically about your career goals, and discuss concrete options to help you achieve them. A gentle approach and appropriate timing are critical, but you know what they say about the squeaky wheel…

2. Be prepared. Breaking out of the mold to reach next-level leadership likely requires some different skills. To make sure you are ready when the opportunities come along, do the homework. Read books. Take classes. Work closely with a mentor you trust.

3. Shift your focus. Make the conscious effort to adjust the way you think about your daily tasks. Shift from the tactical to the strategic. Look beyond the details to the people. Put the emphasis on leading rather than managing.

4. Climb into the driver’s seat. Start delegating, and actively seek out projects that will allow you to show off your leadership skills. Both are visible ways to begin changing the false perception that you can’t take the wheel.

5. Redefine your value. You are your own best salesperson, so make sure you are presenting the features and benefits that position you as a perfect choice for senior leadership. Update your value proposition, and weave in new examples. By painting a new picture of the value you offer, others will start to see you in a new light.

To learn more about Perpetual Doer syndrome and many other professional hazards, I hope you’ll visit or to order my new book:  You – According to Them:  Uncovering the blind spots that impact your reputation and your career.