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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Nicholas

Are you a builder or an operator?

It's a question I often pose to clients who find themselves dissatisfied with their current roles. This distinction holds great significance because it speaks to two distinct mindsets.

Builders thrive in the face of ambiguity, relishing the challenge of turning risks into rewards. They are the vanguards of change, fearlessly leading the charge into uncharted territories. On the other hand, operators excel in stable environments, where the potential for incremental improvements exists. They focus on delivering exceptional results within well-defined parameters.

The predictability of operator roles can leave builders feeling uninspired and bored. Conversely, the ambiguity of builder roles can be overwhelming and exhausting for operators. Recognizing where you fall on this spectrum is crucial for your own success, as well as for the success of your team and organization.

Reflecting on my own leadership journey, I encountered a significant builder component early on. While it initially brought me great joy, as my role evolved, it required more day-to-day operational responsibilities. Trying to balance both roles proved ineffective for both me and the organization. That's when I made a pivotal decision—I hired a remarkable leader who excelled as an operator. Together, we formed a dynamic team that propelled our organization to new heights.

As time passed, I ventured into the world of entrepreneurship, leaving my previous role behind. The company promoted my trusted operator to my former position. However, within six months, he made a surprising decision to accept an operator role at another firm. "I just wasn't happy anymore, Andrea," he confided in me. Our conversation revealed his preference for the certainty of a role where he could enhance existing processes—a realm where he truly excelled.

Roles can evolve over time, requiring different skillsets than initially anticipated. Promotions may appear as continuations of prior responsibilities, but often, success criteria change dramatically. 

If you're grappling with job satisfaction, consider this fundamental aspect of your role. If it's a mismatch, it might be time to seek a position, either within or outside your current organization, where you can leverage your innate talents as either a builder or an operator. Doing so will not only boost your job satisfaction but also enhance your performance, ultimately benefiting your organization.

If you're ready to harness your full potential as a builder or an operator and want expert guidance on how to thrive in your current role or transition to a new one, I'm here to help. Let's connect and explore how we can work together to unlock your executive-level expertise.

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