There will undoubtedly be times where your boss or colleagues are not in favor of something you did, how you did it, when you did it, where you did it or why they think you did it. And in some way shape or form they will let you know it. Don’t take their criticism personally because honestly it usually isn’t. Even though it may not be your first instinct, it is best to hear them out and look to understand their point of view. Chances are you can learn something from the interchange and there may be something you would do different next time. Even if there is no positive aspect to the interchange, it is important to forgive, forget and move on.
At Microsoft, we have our fair share of re-orgs I am sure that where you are there are uncertain times too. I am always surprised at the number of colleagues, at all levels, that are willing to sit back during these times of uncertainty and wait to be told what to do. I have found that these are actually a great time to lead. There can be less headwind and less opposition. Sideline observers say why bother because this will all get sorted out in the near future. But what I have found is that much can get done in a short amount of time during these times. And the fact that you step it up to continue to move forward in times of uncertainty is noticed and usually rewarded.
The buck stops with you. It is important to accept personal responsibility for tasks, duties, projects that you own. It sounds like a no brainer but odds are that most of the people you work with don’t do this. So you can stand out if you don’t pass the buck but instead own your work. Let others know what you are accountable for and when you will deliver. Share this with your management chain so they know what they can look to you for, what they can count on your for and then follow through. And if there comes a time that you are unable to deliver everything, own up to that too. In a situation where I was working with a team the most junior person was the most accountable which I thought was quite admirable and because of that stand out quality I offered to mentor him and I am still a mentor of his today even though he has moved on.
During your career, whether that be long or short, you have learned things..many things..along the way. With that knowledge comes responsibility, the responsibility to pass on your learnings. The more important your knowledge, the more important it is to share. So look around and identify those that could benefit from you and what you know..students just starting out, recent graduates new to the working world, colleagues breaking into a different industry or new job, peers from a different team or your regular working team. Then proactively reach out to share the insights from your experiences without expecting anything in return.
There is a big difference between what you know and what you think you know. So spend some time learning the facts before you move forward. But don’t stop there. With the tidal wave of data today, many of your decisions can be data driven. So whenever possible use the tools at your disposal to let the facts form your strategy plan. In addition uncover the insights within the data to drive your business decisions and recommendations.
Remember you are in this for the long haul, so pace yourself. You may have a tendency to want to keep up a high activity pace or set overly aggressive of goals out of the gate but honestly the worst thing you can do is burn yourself out. If you understand from the beginning it is a marathon and not a sprint, you can make sure you set your pace accordingly. Rome was not built in a day and your project or job won’t be completed in one either. I am not saying you shouldn’t push yourself, because you should, but also take time to breathe and save some reserve for tomorrow. Realize that you need to be at peak performance not only today, but tomorrow and next year and five years down the road and 10 years after that so take the long term view. Everyone including yourself will thank you for this perspective.
When you get stuck thinking through an issue, sometimes it is best not to brute force it or stew over it but instead take a break. Often times when you stop focusing on an issue, you free your mind into a space for creative thinking. Sometimes a change of scenery helps in creating alternative approaches. Other times just focusing on something else or even sleeping on it, allows you to have a breakthrough. So even though it may seem counterintuitive, taking a break may be the most productive thing to do.
Enjoy what you do and how you do it! Not only should you seriously have fun in your time off but it is just as important that you should also have fun on a daily basis at work. Bring a sense of humor with you. Laugh often. Bring others into the fun too. By helping make it a fun place to work, others will want to join you, time will fly by and you may even have improved outcomes.
There is an old proverb that says “No matter how far down the road you are, when you realize it is the wrong road, turn around.” Sometimes opportunities seem rosier than they really are and you may not know this when you start out. However it is important to always have your radar on and antenna up. If you start to get a feeling that things were not as they seemed or a solution to the problem you were solving is not proving out, don’t be afraid to stop moving in your current direction, turn around and try something different. The quicker you learn, the sooner you will get where you want to be.
It helps others get to know you when you have different interests outside of work that you enjoy talking about. I am not saying that you need to share your life story, on the contrary. But there are certain interests that you can proactively share, whether that be travel, sports or a hobby, to help people know other dimensions of you and therefore feel more interested and linked in to working with you. If you were stuck in an airport with a colleague, would they be intrigued to talk with you for the duration or would they reach for their laptop? Much of this is up to you.