I was recently talking to a COO at a public company about our comparative experiences hiring people. Him, on a giant scale. Me, on a micro-scale. And, what became clear to both of us was…

Scale aside…

There is a single quality that is so rare, when you find someone who has it, you’ll do pretty much anything to bring that person on board and keep them happy.

And, the thing is, some people cultivate it naturally. But, others, once they realize its power, may be able to build it into who they are and how they operate. So, what do we look for?

What is that single quality that makes someone precious and indispensable?

Beyond intelligence, loyalty, kindness, respect, discipline, pride, passion and compassion, it’s…

…the ability to create.

Sounds so simple. But truth is, the vast majority of people spend their lives learning how to follow then execute other peoples’ game plans. Fitting their skills, abilities and mindsets into the predefined responsibilities and tasks required by a predefined job. And, that’s fine. We need people like that in the world. If that’s you and you work with pride and add value and that makes you happy, rock on.

But, know too that you regardless of how “hard” you work, you will very likely never be toward the top of the “gotta keep ’em” food chain. Not because you’re bad at what you do, not because you don’t add value. Not because those around you don’t like or even love you. But because there will always be a sea of people lined up to take your job who can do what you do in a similar enough way to make your boss, partner, colleague or collaborator happy.

For every creator, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of operators.

Which is why, when you’re a creator, everything changes. Rather than being the one people ask to carry out a plan, people look to you to create a plan. To solve a problem, to innovate a new idea, product, service or campaign, to see opportunities where everyone else sees barriers, to blaze a new trail rather than follow a well grooved one.

And, the thing is, most often it’s not about radical departures from the norm or Earth-shattering breakthroughs.

What I’m talking about is the ability to create solutions on a daily basis. To understand we’re at point A and we need to get to point B, then tap your creative/problem-solving juices to conjure the best possible way to get there. As someone who’s steering the ship, that ability is immensely more valuable to me than someone who needs to be told every step from A to B (provided I also have skilled Operators in the pipeline). Because it frees up my own creative juices to focus on other projects, while trusting in another’s ability to figure out how to get done what needs to get done.

Truth be told, though, there’s one person who’s even more valuable than the pure creator/problem-solver.

And, that’s the Creator-Operator–the individual who can not only create anew, solve problems and map out innovative pathways, but also possesses the ability to execute, to bring those plans to life. People who can do both are extraordinarily rare finds, because creation and implementation are very different processes and almost always inhabit different brains and bodies, too. Most peoples’ minds just don’t function well on both levels. Which is why those folks tend to rise quickly up the ranks and often become entrepreneurs.

And, that leaves us with two important questions:

  • Are you a Creator, a Creator-Operator or an Operator?
  • If you’re an Operator and you’d like to become more of a Creator, is that “trainable?”

Let us know what you think here. Have your say about becoming indispensable.

[Ed. Note. Jonathan Fields is a dad, husband, author, speaker, A-list blogger and serial wellness-industry entrepreneur. Fields writes about entrepreneurship and creativity at www.JonathanFields.com and interviews emerging world-shakers at www.GoodLifeProject.com. His latest book, Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel For Brilliance, was named the #1 personal development book of 2011 by 800-CEO-Read.]

 

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