SuperYesMore: Ownership

Originally published on

I remember the day I left my first job out of college. I had been temping as an office manager in the theater department at my old school, mostly answering questions for new students. My boss had suggested early on that during my free time (which was most of the time), I might find ways to improve the office. I had no idea what he meant, and instead spent most of my free time wondering what an office manager does. But that last day, as I packed my things and said my goodbyes, I saw a million little things that “someone” should improve – and for the first time, I realized I could have been doing those things.

I saw files without a clear system for separating trash from value. I noticed old paintings that might be rehung, or replaced. I realized the office could have a candy bowl to offer to new students, an “FAQ” sign on the door, and a suggestions box on my desk. That day it became clear to me that a sense of ownership makes a huge difference for productivity.

As far as I can tell, I was a perfectly decent office manager. I was cheerful, mostly on-time, and had answers to the students’ questions. I made photocopies, delivered mail, and filed paperwork. But I knew it wasn’t a lifetime commitment, and at the time I thought I wasn’t motivated enough to care about work beyond the day-to-day necessities. In retrospect, it just hadn’t clicked for me that I had the power to make changes. This sense of power and ownership is what transforms anyone from good to indispensable.

How to be indispensable

My first job wasn’t the last time I thought “what am I supposed to do when no one gives me a direct task?” But it is the last time I let myself get stuck without an answer. Whether you’re feeling unmotivated with creative work, or unsure what you’re supposed to be doing, there’s always an opportunity to do something more productive than busy work (or surfing Facebook). The key is figuring out what that is. Here are two approaches I’ve found to be helpful.

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By: Marli Mesibov

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