You may think that I will start talking about going back to colleges, get a MBA degree, or acquire new skills. Not really. No, I am not talking about how much you need to look confident and intelligent to others either. Those attributes cannot be ignored, but they are just self-centered. In other words, you think you are valuable and even indispensable to your organization, but actually your boss, colleagues, or customers may not think that way (unfortunately).
Then, what do we need to do to be valuable? Here are some of my own personal measuring rods that I’ve been carrying through my career life. Up until now I can safely say they worked 8 out of 10, and that 2 out of 10 are only when the company, the group, or the leadership is completely dysfunctional. Please note that this is not an exhaustive or statistically analyzed list. Some of you may even think these are elementary! But, isn’t it life’s truth that those elementary things do make a huge difference at the end?
1. Be punctual!
Do you show up at internal meetings on time or always 3-5 minutes later? Do you complete your projects on time, or blame quickly delays on other external influences? Being punctual and on time sounds easy and basic, but it can be very powerful and send positive messages about you to others louder and faster than your own self-promotion can. By contrast, not being punctual can taint your image and credibility slowly but surely. The worse thing is that people will quickly build up their own parameters around you to protect themselves since you are not reliable. The sad thing is that once these parameters are built, people will not even bother pointing this weakness to you. So, if your colleague or boss takes their time and energy to point out to you about not being punctual, be thankful and take heed!
2. Be more organized than your boss!
Are you on top of all those deliverables, emails, meeting minutes, deadlines, follow-ups, phone calls, etc? Do you support your boss to be organized, or does your boss need to support you to be organized? Do you get frequent emails from your peers asking you about the status of your delayed deliverables, or do you actually help your boss and customers to be on time with their deliverables? Do you take better meeting notes than your boss? Of course, some of your bosses may be super-organized and there would be no way for you to be more organized than him or her. In that case, you should at least stay on top of your own items. If you still have post-it notes and blank note books as your personal organizers and no systematic approach in managing your incoming emails and tasks, today’s speedy, multi-dimensional, and demanding business environment will bury you.
3. Be more of a “yes” person, than a “no” person!
Ok, hear me out! In this super-demanding world, you absolutely cannot and should not say “yes” to everything. Also, there is a profound benefit in keeping your to-do-list at a manageable level. But, are you more of a “no” person, than a “yes” person? Do you naturally think of first why this cannot be done than why this can be done? When your boss asks someone in your group to step in for a very demanding situation, do you step forward or backward? Do you immediately think of external influences to blame on why you cannot do this or that? Your attitude carries pretty strong signals to others around you. Either you are the problem solver or the problem! A problem solver is always valuable and needed in any organization.
4. What Would the Owner Do (WWOD)?
Many business problems will disappear if employees and CEOs always ask “What would the owner do?” If you are the owner of a company, you would not mind greeting and serving a customer walking in your shop a few minutes after the business hours. If you are the owner, which hotel would you choose to stay on your business trip? You see, the perspectives change when you put yourself in the owners’ shoes. Publically traded companies have owners too. They are the shareholders. Politicians and federal, state, municipal workers should always remember their owners are the citizens they are serving, and their salaries are paid by the tax payers.
5. Be a positive encourager (or influencer)!
For this one, I can tell you that you cannot judge yourself if you are a positive encourager or not. Your peers need to testify if you are one or not, because we all believe in this self-centered idealism that we encourage other people. However, especially when things are gloomy in the office, do you counter it or become the next victim or messenger of negativity to others? Do you encourage others to become more than who they are and achieve more than what they can? Being a positive encourager (or influencer) is not about spitting out many empty pep talks either. People can immediately spot the authenticity because they know sooner or later how you behave when things are rough, demanding, unfair, and difficult.