Coldplay have been voted the best festival headliner of 2011. The band – who headlined Glastonbury and T In The Park – topped the survey with 22.7% of votes cast. US rock band The National came in second with 14.2%, while Muse were third with 13.9%.

Coldplay’s drummer Will Champion said playing festivals gave the band “a chance to win people over. But there’s also a strong possibility that people have already made their mind up about you,” he added, “and no matter how well you play they’re not going to be happy about it.”

It can be a bit like that in organisations too: you get the distinct impression that whatever you do, people have already made up their mind about you. If that’s the case for you right now, then it’s probably time to think about being slightly unpredictable – and change the way you contribute.

In practice, this means taking a bit of a risk, but the rewards can be high. For example, if you’re an expert in your field, people will expect you to deliver against your expertise. Of course, that brings a benefit to the business, but what could you do differently that would produce even better results than you do now? What would it take to show your colleagues that you’re actually capable of more than they thought?

Before you throw your hands up in horror and yell at me “But I have no capacity for more…!”, please hear me out just for a minute more. The ‘more’ I’m referring to here isn’t about quantity of work. I want to encourage you to think about working a different way.

The Four Sages of Contribution is a great way to think about this.

If you’re the expert I described above, your main contribution is probably in Stage 2. Now, if you could take that contribution into Stage 3, at least for some of the time, it could have a massive impact on your value to the business. Or perhaps you’re a manager, whose main contribution is in Stage 3 for most of the time. Imagine the impact you would have if you could contribute more strategically (Stage 4) for some of the time. Our research has shown that this kind of different contribution increases employee engagement as well as the bottom line.

So maybe, like Coldplay, people have already made up their minds about you. But with a shift in your approach to how you contribute, maybe… just maybe… you can bring them round to seeing a whole new side to what you’re capable of.

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