7 things great employees do

Great Employee Picture courtesy Flickr user dan_mcweeney

COMMENTARY This definitely isn't the first time somebody's written about what makes employees special. But it may very well be the first time someone's telling you what will genuinely get your management excited about you and ultimately get you promoted. No kidding.

Look, you've got to understand the reality here. People will cite ridiculously esoteric research studies and pull all sorts of popular, feel-good stuff out of their utopian behinds -- whatever it takes to get you to click. That's great for feeding your ego and your addiction to distraction, but it doesn't do squat for your career.

This is different. It's not some kumbaya fluff that will get you a big pat on the back, a "Nice job, buddy" from the boss, or a gift certificate for a cheap dinner. This is what employees really do to distinguish themselves in the eyes of management. It's how up-and-comers become up-and-comers. It's how you get recognized and moving up the corporate ladder. It's what today's top executives did when they were in your shoes. 

Take responsibility for hot projects with a fearless attitude. And get this. If it works out, you don't waste a lot of time basking in the glory, at least not at work. Maybe you go out and celebrate with the other team members. That aside, you're all about finding the next big challenge. You're hungry for more. And if it fails, you don't point fingers. You take full responsibility and learn from it. And you know what? That's when management will start to see you as one of them. That's big.

Demonstrate natural leadership. That means when you take charge of something, people naturally follow, even though you don't have the title or the authority. Never mind everything you read; that's what natural leadership is really all about. There are all sorts of different styles that work, but mostly it comes down to a fearless self-confidence and charisma that people find magnetic. That's like gold in the corporate world.

Say, "Sure, no problem, will do," and then do it. It's one thing to have a solid work ethic and get the job done. That certainly key in the real business world. But it's another thing entirely to always accept challenging assignments with open arms and a simple, "No problem, will do" acknowledgement. And the tougher it is, the more confident you sound and the harder you work to make it happen. That's the sign of an employee who needs a promotion or two.

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Roll with the punches without taking things personally. Sure, it's hard to keep your balance when the rug's just been pulled out from under you. But let's face it. The nature of contemporary business is one of constant change, reorganizations and layoffs. Programs come and go. Companies too. One day you're rolling in resources, the next day you need three signatures for a chair. That's the way business is. And if you're flexible, you're adaptable, you've got fortitude and you don't take things personally, that's big.

Think of the company's goals as your goals. I know, the jaded among you will say that blind loyalty to a company will enslave you and get you nowhere. Well, there's truth to that. After all, any employee can be fired or quit, and that's as it should be. This is about understanding how companies operate and making the company's or the department's priorities your own. When you start to identify with the goals of management -- live, eat and breathe them -- then you start to become management. Yes, that's a good thing.

Do whatever it takes to get the job done, even when you're not getting paid for it. Look, success in the real world doesn't work like tit for tat. First, you put yourself out there, take risks, do the work, and accomplish things. Then, and only then, do you get to put your hand out and say, "Give me some." Then, if your company doesn't take care of you, you learn a lesson, put your accomplishments on your resume, and move on to a better place that values overachievers like you.

Grow the business or improve the bottom line. Yeah, I know it's not popular, but that doesn't make it any less critical or true. These days, it's all about doing more with less. Being more efficient, effective, scrappy, innovative, motivational, engaging, and not only that, happy about it. Think of it as a problem-solving challenge where the problem is how to grow the business or cut spending while improving productivity. Like it or not, that is what it's all about.

Image courtesy of Flickr user dan_mcweeney.

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