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In business, be a driver, not a passenger
Business Basics

In business, be a driver, not a passenger

11 min read

Do you want to make a bigger impact in your business? Try a mindset change: being a driver, not a passenger. 

In a way, this is about being proactive versus reactive. When you’re trying to grow a business, you need proactive thinking. You can’t wait for other people—take initiative and find ways to be useful. 

This doesn’t mean rushing out ahead and doing unnecessary projects. In order for this to work, you have to understand the north star and know the meaning behind your team and company goals. When you know where the business is going, you can help steer things in the right direction. 

I’ve met plenty of people who tend to sit and watch while someone else works on things that move the needle in their department. But sitting and watching is not how great companies are made. You have to keep moving.

Driving change at every level

If you think your role is too small for this concept to matter, you’re wrong. Being a driver just looks different at different levels. The CEO is responsible for being proactive on behalf of an entire company (obviously), and an individual team member is responsible for their own tasks and the success of their team. 

The scale is different, but the principles are exactly the same. 

In the best organizations, every single person acts like an owner for their particular domain. That domain is different for CEOs and interns, but they both need to be drivers. They need to run towards problems instead of running away from them. They need to identify the opportunities for the most growth. 

That’s a trait everyone should have, regardless of their role.

Creating company-wide benefits

Being a driver not only makes a difference in your individual accomplishments, but it can also move the entire business forward. 

If everyone around you is a passenger, waiting for someone to tell them what to do, it’s easy to fall into that pattern with them. 

But a driver mindset is addictive, too. If you’re surrounded by people who are really engaging, it makes it exciting to lean forward and get the work done. It makes for a great team when everyone is proactive. 

It’s the difference between making a wave instead of just riding one. 

And in the end, companies filled with these engaged people deliver a lot more value, both to customers and shareholders. They are focused on what really matters: results.

Building up morale

You’re getting the idea, right? Well, you should also know that being a driver isn’t just good for business—it’s good for you

A driver-based company culture has higher employee morale. People who are seeking out projects with greater impact are able to find more meaning in their work. They aren’t sitting around waiting for tasks—they are playing an active role in the growth of the business. 

I think humans are happiest when they’re able to create, and you don’t create as a passenger. Passengers just wait for other people to do something worthwhile, and they tag along. Drivers are people who actually create. I think they’re a lot more satisfied with the work they do, and I know they progress in their careers faster than passengers. 

You can also end up learning at a more rapid pace. Drivers have to go out on a limb sometimes and explore ideas that are new to the team or the business. And sometimes you’ll make mistakes doing this, but in the end it could be an amazing learning opportunity. 

This is also great for managers too. Good managers want to lead a team of people who are developing and presenting their own ideas. People who wait around for work make things more challenging for managers on a day-to-day basis.

Moving without limits

A lot of people limit themselves. They might think they can’t share an idea or suggest a different direction until they are experts in the field. They want to have experience they can point to, so they can be positive that their idea is the right one. 

And the truth is, that’s not typically how it works. People who are willing to share new concepts—even if they might look silly—tend to be the ones who advance faster in their career. 

I’ve seen so many smart people just sit in the background because they don’t feel confident. So don’t be afraid to look stupid. Be proactive and share that weird idea that just might work. As long as you have the end goals of your company in mind, you’ll be on the right track. 

And this is very different from “fake it ‘till you make it.” I know a lot of people are drawn to that idea, but it almost sounds like a misdirection. I don’t want to work with people who pretend they have the knowledge and experience that they don’t have. 

Instead, I think it’s cool when people are willing to say, “I’m not an expert, but this is what I think we should do.” That honesty will take you farther than “faking it” ever will. 

Good ideas can come from anyone, but some people let what they don’t know get in the way of what they do know. The brave thing is just to be honest, but also eager to share. It can be scary, but it’s worth it.

Photo of Sterling Snow

Written By Sterling Snow
Senior Vice President, Revenue at Bill.com

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