The best way to avoid hot water is to steer clear of things that turn up the heat. Here are ten tips to help you swim comfortably through the ins and outs of the company aquarium.
1. Take the initiative. If you can do the right thing without being told, you lift a huge burden off your boss’s shoulders. Do that and your stock rises. If you do not do this, your stock will fall. Which is the smarter move?
2. Complete your assignments with diligence and quality. When the boss trusts you to do something, the last thing he or she needs to be wondering is whether it will be done correctly.
3. Do not pass (or dump) onto the boss a problem that he or she suddenly is expected to solve. Bosses have other things to do. They also have very long memories when it comes to harboring negative impressions of buck-passers.
4. Efficiently do more than what is asked or expected. This trait alone will separate you from nearly everyone you work with. Your job is to help your employer succeed; and along with that goes the responsibility to find and create productive enablers even when no task is assigned.
In the unglamorous but straightforward words of the McDonald’s burger chain: “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean!”
It’s smart to be proactive and even smarter to be efficient. The late Austrian-born American management legend Peter Drucker nailed it when he said, “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” Efficiency drives straightlined success. Make efficiency a cornerstone of your personal brand.
5. Minimize multitasking. Studies show that multitasking output tends to produce lesser quality than linear output. Substandard quality creates management doubts.
If you are certain that you are the exception to the statistical norm, at least be aware of the “Dunning-Kruger Effect.” This principle revolves around the cognitive bias in which the (relatively) unskilled worker suffers from illusory superiority.
In other words, he or she mistakenly rates their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to the unskilled’s metacognitive inability to recognize his or her mistakes. Whether you call it “ego” or “blind spots,” being unable to see your shortcomings is a cognitive limitation.
Those who are competent may also overestimate themselves by falsely assuming that others share an equivalent understanding.
As Justin Kruger and David Dunning like to say, “The miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.”
Kruger and Dunning proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:
- tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
- fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
- fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;
- recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they can be trained to substantially improve.
Multitasking is growing in today’s workforce due to the increased velocity of thought and dexterity execution among Gen Xers and Gen Y employees. These workers have grown up seamlessly using electronic tools as part of daily life. They have, in essence, created a world of “organic” comfort and competence. These young workers have been raised doing several things simultaneously; and because of that they bring those tendencies into the workplace.
Although younger workers are used to multitasking and work at greater task velocity than older Boomer workers, jumping back and forth — no one can do two things at once — what is gained in expediency is lost in accuracy and execution.
If your boss is a Boomer, minimize multitasking and maximize linear efficiency.
6. FSO: Figure Stuff Out! There are eight behavioral categories of workers: Compliants, Independents, Silents, Discouraged Workers, Snipers, Heroes, Attention Seekers, and Anxious Dependents. Anxious Dependents rely on the boss for every little thing, which consequently drives the boss nuts.
It’s your job — and it’s your responsibility to figure out how to get things done. If you constantly boomerang back to the boss for step-by-step direction, sooner or later the boss will start thinking, “Why are you even necessary?”
7. Ask relevant questions. Questions should seek information, clarify what you’ve heard, or test your understanding. If your question isn’t important and easily placed into one of those three buckets, then it is not an essential ask. If it’s not an essential ask, don’t ask — figure it out.
8. Have an opinion when you are asked for one. Sometimes bosses care about the opinions of their people. Other times they don’t. Know the difference. If asked for yours, share it. Do not shoot your trap off at every random opportunity.
9. Relentlessly learn. Unless you want to risk being trampled by others with greater motivation, you must continually strengthen your knowledge base and skill set.
Smart bosses know an important part of good leadership is to groom their replacements. The reason is simple: Having a plug-and-play promotable groomed and ready to go is the smartest way for them to get promoted.
If you have career ambitions, learn your boss’s job. Dress for it and role-model appropriate behaviors.
If your goal is not to manage but rather to remain a sole contributor, keep investing in yourself. After all, knowledge and skills are critical to job security.
10. Be enthusiastic. Attitude matters. Being positive, happy, and enthusiastic can spackle over a lot of faults. Positive energy creates likeability and likeable people tend to last longer than negative ones.
Remember: Being a boss is a tough job. Do your best to help yours be a good one.
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