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.
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.
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.
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.
There is a wide world of new and different thinking out there just waiting for you to find it. Don’t assume that the bubble that you live and work in introduces you to all the concepts that might benefit you. Reach out to different types of media to stay up on current issues that may effect you, impact your opinion, help you see a new POV or simply learn about something innovative. The information that is at your fingertips is staggering and by exploring it you are guaranteed to discover something new.
It is important to be plugged in enough at work to know the political landscape so you are aware of the backstory and what if anything it means for you. Knowing which way the wind is blowing, who is in favor and what is important to them is being heads up. It is up to you to choose what role in the political landscape you choose to take (initiator, conspirator, advisor, player, etc). The important thing is that you are connected enough to know what is happening, in what timeframe and how it is likely to affect you. By being plugged in enough to know the scene, you will be able to navigate the waters better.
There is something magical about creating something new, but it may not be easy. Sometimes you can think up ideas on your own. You may need quiet time to meditate or get in your zone to be in the right frame of mind to focus or think differently. Other times you may want to brainstorm with others. If the problem is more complex or you need a wider range of experience than you have, other people can bring different perspectives to the table that are catalysts for new thought. Sometimes the ideas can be impromptu without a dedicated scheduled time. Whatever the case, brainstorming with yourself or others is a great way to ignite new thinking.
Standing out helps you get noticed. There are so many people in a crowd it is easy to blend in, if you want to. But what if you want to stand out, how can you go about doing that? Now if drawing attention to yourself in a group setting sounds a little intimidating, there is a way to ease into this. Many meetings have Q&A sessions. This is a time when everyone is hoping people ask questions, so you are in the right place. So make a deal with yourself that you will ask a question in every Q&A session that you attend. Take notes during the session so you make sure that you have gotten the main points. You can ask a clarifying question on one of the main points to ask the speaker to go further, which they are always more than willing to do. Or you can have a number of predetermined questions at the ready. What are the biggest challenges you see us facing in the next 6 months? What is your top priority? If there is one thing you would like the audience to take away from your discussion today, what would it be? After a while, speaking up and standing out can become second nature for you.