Jobs can be aggravating. You have to deal with all kinds of personalities, some of them difficult. You see things that are broken but lack the resources or clout to fix them, and people who don’t understand your work are often the ones telling you how to do it.
You just want to produce good results and get noticed (and rewarded) for your effort. In an ideal world, you are in a role that plays to your strengths and motivations and limits exposure to your weaknesses, and you are partnered with a manager who serves as your advocate. In reality, you’re likely motivated by some aspects of your job but not by others, and your manager is probably being pulled in too many directions at once to play cheerleader. The best you can do is to do your best.
Truth bomb: You’ll never be good at the things you’re bad at. In other words, you can’t simply choose what motivates you at work any more than you can choose your height or your family members. You can’t make yourself be outgoing if you’re shy, for example, just as you can’t force ideas to materialize if you’re not intrinsically creative.
None of us chooses external factors like economic upheaval, competitive threats, disruptive changes, and mergers and acquisitions, either, which are often the obstacles that stand between you and your career goals.
You can, however, choose how you comport yourself.
Organizations are always looking to identify high-potential employees. Focusing on the following six areas of self-management will not guarantee a promotion, but they could help you get noticed positively and increase your perceived value to your employer. And the higher your perceived value, the more likely they are to invest in you. Let’s get to it:
1) Staying composed under pressure – Did you know one of the top job competencies for supervisory, sales, and customer-service positions is Composure? Regardless of the power dynamic between you and your stakeholders, staying composed shows that you are in control. Staying calm earns you respect, sets the tone, and increases others’ willingness to follow your lead. It’s contagious, in a good way.
2) Showing self-awareness – Some folks have no clue how they are perceived by the people around them. They might be perfectly good at performing their work, but the rest of us only experience their loud personal phone calls that echo through the building, oblivious comments that insult other team members, and tiresome questioning of others’ statements. A self-aware person monitors reactions and considers how their words and actions affect everyone else. If you’re not sure how you are perceived, ask for honest feedback (and don’t argue with what you hear).
3) Being willing to change and adapt – Technology changes fast, as do consumer preferences and market trends. It’s inevitable that companies have to revise systems, strategies, and policies. Refusing to adapt and showing resentment toward change are sure ways to be labeled an outmoded dinosaur. Instead, ask questions, get ready to update your understanding when new information comes to light, and volunteer to be part of the solution.
4) Demonstrating professionalism – Professionalism is about maintaining integrity when executing your responsibilities, respecting people at all levels of the organization (as well as customers and vendors), and embracing the ethics and best practices of your profession. In fact, openly expressing a personal philosophy of professionalism in a job interview can make a favorable impression on a prospective employer.
5) Taking ownership of your work – No matter where you are on the organizational chart, from entry-level employee to CEO, make your tasks your own and deliver on your promises. This doesn’t mean you have to fall on a sword when other people screw up, but it does mean accepting praise and criticism alike and not passing the blame for setbacks onto others.
6) Focusing on learning – Everyone likes to be the expert and to feel confident in their skills, but if there’s a recurring theme for the 21st century business world, it’s “change.” To stay viable and valuable, it helps to keep an open mind, look for cross-training opportunities, and show an eagerness to gather insight and expertise from the people around you. This goes for senior managers too. New hires just out of college or trade school have been exposed to methods and philosophies you haven’t thought of. Being open to new ideas doesn’t undercut your authority; it strengthens your authority.
We’re not naïve enough to think that companies and managers don’t sometimes create their own obstacles to maximizing employee performance. Some managers say they want their staff members to take ownership and then they micromanage them anyway. And when companies shift gears every five minutes and senior leadership can’t make up their minds or provide clear direction, it’s hard to be “adaptable.”
While we may never experience the picture-perfect work environment, all other things being equal, isn’t it better to take a self-managed approach than to let the churning tide carry you off? Be your own high-potential employee and see what happens.