This is part 2 of the behaviors I tracked for my month-long focus on work for my Happiness Project.
- Make a note of it. A senior executive once said to me, “You always do what you say you will do.” A big part of that is my inner rules follower and personal commitment to keep my word, but good intentions don’t always equate to remembering to do things. My secret to following through is simple, keep a small notebook with me and write things down. I am generous with my pages and don’t try to squeeze too much on each sheet. I use checkboxes to highlight items that require my action. It is amazingly effective and a top tip I tell new folks as they enter the workforce. I’ve had many come back to me years later and say Thank You. I recently attempted to go all digital and lose the paper and pen. It didn’t work. I forgot things, I felt like I was slipping. Studies show that the act of physically writing imprints more information on your brain. If I really need something from my paper notebook in my digital files, I just take a picture of the page. Problem solved.
- Build relationships. People matter. I take the time to get to know people, to serve them and not care if I get served in return. I strive to be a good collaborator and to openly praise people and remind them of their strengths. The result has always been that people enjoy working with me. This has been key to my success. But I have to work at it. Sometimes I may feel like avoiding an introductory meeting or a networking event, but I know these are good for me and feed my soul. So I go. Case in point: Recently a new employee set up a one on one meeting with me and we had a few hiccups in scheduling. I told her where I would be (in a remote office) and her back-to-back meet everyone on the project in one week schedule caused her to not be able to find me. We ended up starting late and talking on the phone versus talking in person. I was frustrated, but I took a deep breath and opened my heart and mind to this woman. I gave her my best wisdom on being successful at our company. Starting with not over-scheduling herself and guarding her calendar (and her time) like the precious non-renewable resource that it is. She shared that God was moving in her life bringing her to our city, this company, this project. I went out on a limb and asked her if she had found a local church. She had only been in town 2 weeks so she hadn’t. She attended my church that weekend and followed up with me that she loved it. We’ve bumped into each other several times and have formed a loving bond. This past week, we happened to be at a networking event with about 12 other ladies and as we all went around the table to introduce ourselves and share our experiences of women helping women, she praised me in front of everyone for being so kind to her in that initial meeting. She said my advice had saved her life and that I was key to her success and sanity at work so far. She even shared that I had invited her to church! My heart sang. We don’t do good works for the praise, we never know when we will reap what we sow, but having this amazing woman speak from her heart about how I had made a difference in her life gave me encouragement to keep investing in people. I have now established a regular mentoring relationship with her and have a sister in Christ for life.
- Anticipate the next move. Using an overly simplified example, sometimes the answer to the question “Do you have the time?” is just plain “Yes.” But those occasions are rare and more than likely will frustrate the asker. If you want to truly demonstrate that you add strategic value, you answer the first question and anticipate the next one, or prevent the next one. “Yes, the time is 12:30. Here let me show you how you can find the time out for yourself going forward.” Or, “that is interesting that you are asking me the time, is there a fundamental issue that is keeping you from knowing the time that I can help you solve?” Teach people to fish. Understand the problem behind the question. Save people steps. Another concept I weave into this theme is to respond versus react. Using the same goofy time example, I could easily have an inner-dialogue along the lines of “why is he/she asking ME for the time? I’m not their time keeper, it isn’t my job to tell them the time. They could figure that out themselves, they are just lazy. They don’t value me to waste my time with stupid, tactical questions like this.” It is important to shut down that inner-critic and breathe. A more constructive dialogue would be: “I’m feeling a little annoyed they asked me this stupid question. Let me put myself in their shoes and not over-react. They must be very out-of-sorts to ask me this. They must think I’m a safe person to ask. I’m going to leverage this opportunity to build our relationship and be helpful.”
- Master your business. Study something new every day. No matter what your business you can always know more about it. What do your competitors do? What are the industry best practices? Everyone is using that new buzzword. I wonder what it really means? Use the internet to continue your education. Take a few minutes each day and research something online, you will be amazed what you can find. I do this to find cool Powerpoint slides all the time!
- Add to the resume. Keeping your resume updated is like exercising every day, easier said than done. Turning your many work achievements into the right bullet points to capture your audience is a daunting task. One thing I’ve started doing is regularly reading job descriptions and grabbing key phrases. I store these on my computer and refer to them as my marching orders for getting my job done. Why yes, I am “comfortable in a fast-moving environment with rapid, incremental deliveries and direct customer feedback” and I excel at “driving cross-team partnerships to deliver impactful end-to-end scenarios.” Knowing these are the qualities companies are looking for helps me squeeze more out of each work moment and improve my skills. I’m not just participating in another meeting, I’m driving cross-team partnerships! I’m not gearing up for yet another round of external complaints, I’m building on my ability to process and manage direct customer feedback. It’s all about perspective.