A fifth practice you can employ to show your conviction is playing into the white spaces. White spaces are the areas you encounter in your professional endeavors that are terra incognita. No one is looking at them, no one owns solving the problems they represent, and no one is asking you to take care of them.
Even so, you are the one who sees the friction that an unsolved issue puts into the system. You are the one who is able to discern the pattern that rests behind a series of inefficiencies. And you are the one who sees the organizational levers you could use to solve it.
Many clients ask, “Why should I take on white space work when my manager hasn’t asked me to? I’d be sticking my neck out, taking on extra work, and it’s clearly not a priority to him since he hasn’t mentioned it to me.”
The thing is, what this perspective doesn’t consider is how truly busy managers are and how there is no way humanly possible for managers to know what’s going on in every corner of their domain. Most managers I encounter expect their team members to own looking after the company’s interests, whether or not they have been explicitly asked to do so with regard to every particular. No one but you have a better purview on what’s going on in the details of your world. Being executive includes owning your domain. And that includes playing into the white space and solving the problems you have a front-row seat on.*
So, why not get in there and do something? You might have a blast. You might find your sweet spot. You might even make an incredible career of it. Taking a stand (EP #3), stepping into action vacuums (EP #4), and playing into the white spaces (EP #5) are all ways you can demonstrate you own it. Owning it — which is fueled by conviction of belief — is an important part of what being executive looks like.
*What if you don’t want to play into the white spaces (or fill action vacuums or take a stand, for that matter)? How you run your career is for you to decide and no one else. What is critically important is that you see yourself and how you’re showing up with crystal clear clarity so that (1) you can be sure you are making intentional choices about what you believe, say, and do; and so that (2) the choices you make set you up to achieve the outcomes you want.