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The importance of having a big head

Whether you are a graphic designer, a marketing director, a videographer, a freelancer, a salesperson or even a maintenance person, it’s important to always have a big head.

That sounds bad, right?

I’m not saying you need to be overly proud, arrogant, self-aggrandizing or full of yourself. You don’t want to be that kind of big head.

Here’s a story to let you know what I mean.

A story of apples, kiwis… and heads

As a twenty-something, I had been working as a volunteer in the fruit packing factory of a kibbutz—a Jewish commune—in northern Israel right next to the Lebanese border. As a volunteer, I lived and worked on the kibbutz and in exchange received room, board and little bit of spending money—plus a few all paid tours of Israel. It was a great way to experience Israel, its culture, its people and to see the land on a small budget. 

It’s there that I learned what having a big head meant.

In the factory, my job was to take the boxes packed by other workers and machines and to stack them on pallets. Each day, I’d stack anywhere from 10 to 16 pallets, each pallet bearing nearly a ton of apples, kiwis, pears and other fruit, all grown in the kibbutz’s orchards. I was also in charge of keeping all packing lines supplied with boxes. Some boxes needed to be built, stacked and set on the belts, and other boxes needed to have smaller cellophane boxes put inside them, then stacked and placed on the overhead tracks.

Needless to say, I kept pretty busy!

However, periodically I would find myself without work because the boxes of apples stopped coming down the conveyer. Sometimes there was no fruit for a short period while the factory heads were loading a new container of fruit for packing. But other times a box of apples was stuck in the system, causing other boxes to stack up behind it. If not taken care of, eventually the whole line would derail and apples would be rolling everywhere.

Because that was a major problem, each time I found myself without work I would jump up to see if there was a problem that I could fix.

Occasionally, the packing tables would get so full of fruit, the packers couldn’t keep up and apples began spilling to the ground—also bad. In these cases, if I wasn’t too busy I would hop in and pack alongside the workers just to relieve the pressure until it was time to jump back to my area again.

Many of the tasks I did were not necessarily my assigned tasks. I did them because I saw how not doing them affected the factory, the other workers and ultimately, my own job.

I could have rested during the breaks or focused solely on palletizing when the packing tables were spilling apples, but I didn’t. If there was a job to do and I could do it without neglecting my assigned tasks, I did it because it helped the whole process.

One day during one of our designated coffee breaks, Nitzan, a balding, middle-aged man who ran the factory strode up to me and said in Hebrew “You have a big head!” I must have given him a funny look because his plainly set face then broke into a big grin. Chuckling, he said in guttural, Israeli-accented English “Don’t worry! It’s a good thing!” 

He then explained that in Hebrew “rosh gadol” or “big head” is a positive term meaning something like that a person that has a big head sees the big picture, takes responsibility and initiative, goes beyond their job description and demonstrates leadership.

Big head vs little head

As I lived in Israel longer and learned the Hebrew language better, I came to understand “rosh gadol” (pronounced “ROHSH gah-DOHL”) meant having a large awareness of the processes you are involved in, your part in them and stepping in to do what is necessary to help the process. Sometimes that means doing things that are not your job, helping others or doing your job in such a manner that it helps those around you do their jobs.

Conversely, there is “rosh katan” or “little head.” A person that has a small head in this case is someone who doesn’t see the big picture, intentionally or unintentionally. He is focused only on his assigned task and doesn’t see or care how what he does affects the whole.

You recognize someone who has rosh katan when they say, “It’s not my job.” Recognizable both in Israel and in the U.S., this kind of person will probably not climb the proverbial ladder and may cut themselves out of a job.

Rosh gadol: Not just an Israeli thing 

While the idea of rosh gadol is very Israeli, it can be applied anywhere, even in the United States, especially in the business world and in whatever you do really—whether you work in an office, in a factory or for yourself.

Rosh gadol in the office: Don’t just “leave” it be

If you are working in the office, having rosh gadol can be as simple as entering the foyer of your office building after a lunch break and noticing leaves that have blown in through the doors, quickly grabbing the sweeper and cleaning them up.

Yes, your office may have a cleaning crew coming in that evening and they can take care of the mess. But until then customers will see those leaves. What are they going to think about your company?

As an employee, you are there to make the company successful. So while it may not be on your job description, you are doing your job by grabbing the sweeper and making your company look good. You are also setting an example for your fellow coworkers.

Who knows? Your boss may even give you a raise!

The point is, while your job may be in accounts payable, marketing or what not, your overarching responsibility is to help make your company successful. If you see something that needs to be done, do it!

Rosh gadol for your client: Getting ahead by putting your client ahead

Maybe like me, you work for yourself and are a creative. Maybe your client wants a new label for his product. As you are building it, perhaps you notice his company logo is outdated and just looks terrible.

You could just design the label, charge him for your time, collect the money and look for your next client. Or you could have a rosh gadol, realize he is trying to be successful and is wanting you to help him sell more by making a label that will make his product appealing. Approach him about his logo. See if he wants it to be redesigned. Or if it is already being redesigned, offer to wait until the logo is finished and then add it to the label. In other words, look out for your client.

You may have guessed it already, but that really happened to me. My client had someone reworking his logo, but in the end gave the project to me. I saw the bigger picture and was willing to help. That resulted in not only a better label, but also a newer, more updated image for his company. Plus, I got an extra job out of the gig. 

Rosh gadol is about practicing empathy

Whoever you are working for, mentally place yourself in their shoes. Try to see what their goals are and how you can help. If you make it your business to make them successful, it just might bring you success too.

But if having a rosh gadol gets you a raise, a promotion, a bigger deal or maybe an Israeli telling you have a rosh gadol, don’t get a big head about it.

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