A few blog entries ago, I wrote about a letter someone wrote to their child advising what to do as they took their first job. It had a lot to do with working hard and not making excuses. Some of the advice was, admittedly, from a more industrial-age perspective. A lot of it was timeless though. Last year I mentored someone new to the team I’m on and saw him make great progress. This year he is mentoring a new hire who I mentioned in the above link. My old Padawan is providing product knowledge and I was sought out to give some tips on how to make your way around the large company we work for. As I think about it, some of those universal truths I wrote about apply but they boil down to a couple main points and ways to make sure you’re clicking in fulfilling them.
Point number one: Be dependable and over-deliver when possible. When you’re asked to get something done or volunteer to help out, make sure that you get it accomplished. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t bite off too much. But definitely finish the job without drama. In a world that increasingly relies on collaboration, people actively seek out others who they can rely on. If you’re one of them then you’ll find yourself given increasingly more responsibility and bigger or more important tasks. This is trust that’s earned. If you repeatedly fall short then you’ll develop an MO that top performers will steer clear of. If someone sees your picture, you want it to be on a headline, not a mugshot.
Point number two: Don’t develop blinders. Keep your eyes out for new trends, new ways of doing things, and new tools to share with others. This prevents you from stagnating and fosters your creativity. It’s great to be known as someone who can solve the same problem over and over again. Eventually that problem will get to be an old issue and either be automated or avoided altogether. That leads to the end of your specialization. It’s a better thing to be a master of the domain your specialty lies in rather than just the mechanics of getting the problem solved. That way you’re ready to drive transformation when it comes or even bring it to your organization. Then you guarantee yourself a path forward. Be great at your job today, but chances are good that it’s not the only thing you’ll ever do. Be ready for what’s next.
The big key to this is non-stop learning. Read, read, read and do, do, do. Mix new learnings into your daily job and make sure you do so in front of others in a visible way. I’m not talking about shameless self-promotion. I’m really talking about learning and developing new approaches then using them to deliver on your commitments. The effect of having top performers seek you out is magnified when people know that you’re delivering something unique which they can learn from. The work ethic required to deliver on your commitments is something which you should also apply to learning and applying new approaches.
A great example of this is a regional sales manager who devotes 45 minutes of each day to networking and reading on LinkedIn. He’s got one of the busiest jobs I know of between managing accounts, deals, sales reps and on boarding new people himself. He still dedicates his valuable time to expanding his reach and knowledge. This practice ensures he’s a step ahead and is always bringing value to his team.
The last tip here is networking. This process of learning, delivering, and impressing people helps build connections. Connections open doors and give you access to new areas to explore plus new resources to leverage. You can get yourself drawn into a bigger web and be a key node which helps others make connections. Organizational knowledge is extremely import and helps accomplish short and long term goals. Be willing to aid those in need and gracious to those who expose you to information and situations you may not have been involved with otherwise.
These tips should work in organizations of all sizes. I suspect they’ll actually be even more true over time as old barriers break down and new paradigms arise.