How To: Be A Good Employee, Be A Great Boss | #winningcareers
At different points of the day, sometimes from one minute to the next, I have to switch gears so that I can be fully present as both a good employee and a good people leader. This constant quest for excellence, from one email to the next, from one meeting to the next as context changes is… taxing.
From observing behavior closely, and from my own experimentation and failure, I’ve noticed consistent patterns in what great employees do and great bosses do. In my long professional career, I’ve tried to emulate these patterns and to build on them as I try to deliver a non-normal impact to my employers.
While obsessing about Marketing and Analytics here on Occam’s Razor, I want to share the habits and behaviors encoded in these patterns so that you can have a non-normal impact in your chosen field as well.
For any employee – at any level of seniority – I do not expect (as a people leader) that you will know everything, or that you will be able to articulate the perfect solution to any problem. But, please bring a solution(s). Or recommended next step(s) that you feel are a way out of the problem you’ve identified. At a minimum, succinctly describe the context, i.e., what have you already tried, and why won’t it work? Help your boss out.
At the very least, a boss has 18 other things on their plate at any given moment, 5 to 40 other employees to worry about, and 3 big things that are 2 weeks late already. When you bring a solution(s) along with the problem, in addition to demonstrating empathy, you’ve gifted your boss some starting points for a productive conversation.
It is also an excellent demonstration of your proactiveness (especially if you explored some of those solutions with others in the team or other stakeholders). It also shows ambition. It shows you are different. This is invaluable.
[Bonus Tip: When you present your solution/s to the problem you’ve identified, be sure to explain the framework you used to think of. The solution may or may not be great, getting your boss’ feedback on how you think is super-precious. And, great bosses love frameworks! (See some of my favorite frameworks in item #4 in the boss section.)]
Our time is so fragmented. Our lives are so stretched. Even as I’m writing this post at midnight work emails are flowing and I’m trying to be a good employee/boss by responding with value-added perspectives.
The first casualty of fragmentation is that an employee becomes a surface skimmer. This is the person who takes in just the minimum amount you need to complete a task. It is so damn easy for the corrosive tl;dr to become your fundamental approach.
They do more research than is required. They talk to one more expert than I expected. They find the external author of the statistical algorithm I want them to use, and ask them for guidance. They proactively end up taking free training courses. They instinctively ask for assumptions in any dataset/argument (I adore this!). They go deep into problems to identify causal factors and not correlations – which is why their solutions have a non-normal impact.
As a people leader, I should not have to spend 30 minutes fixing alignment in your slides. Or, check for spelling errors. Or, request that you fix shifting altitudes in your analysis (a true-crime!). Or, request that you tailor the analysis for the audience/s (context!). Or, remind you not to be on your phone in a team meeting. Or, triple-check the formulas in the analysis from the Agency. Or, tell you there is already a tool that does what you want to build.
Look, I’m happy to fix all this for you – they might seem small but they really matter. But consider two things: 1. If I’m fixing your small mistakes, what’s my opinion of you. 2. Imagine how much joy I’ll feel as a people leader when I, repeatedly, notice your attention to detail (no matter how small the detail).
Here’s a great example: We had a little emergency at the office. While in my area, I rushed to get it fixed for a very senior leader. Two days later a thank you note arrived. It felt special. And, I know this leader is really busy, he did not have to write a note. I would not have noticed. But he did. He cared about little things. It spoke volumes about their values.
Another example: I had a meeting with someone on our team today. It was at 1500 hrs. She brought me lunch. She’d peeked at my schedule and had realized I would not have eaten. Little thing, big message.
Your world is smaller than your boss’s. By design. You have a core area of focus. Your team peers will have theirs. That entire superset is your boss’s world. It is much bigger, has a higher altitude, and contains additional strategic responsibilities (some obvious to you, others perhaps not).
An error occurs when an individual employee looks at their finite view and assumes that is all there is and proceeds to create solutions with that view. Or, identify problems with just that view. Or, unwisely, jump to conclusions based on that view.
They Pitch In
At most companies, there’ll be opportunities to join committees or take on responsibilities that aren’t necessarily part of your job description: Your company is overhauling its social media procedures and needs a representative from every department to sit on the project team, say, or your office is putting on a major fundraiser and needs someone to coordinate with the event planning company. The most successful people pitch in—so they’re always right there where the action is.
Anyone can drop a complaint into the suggestion box, but the marker of a truly brilliant employee is coming up with solutions to those problems. Becoming a problem solver shows that you care—not only about your own career, but about the long-term health of the business as well.
48. Bends over backward
Knowing that you have people on the team who will go out of their way to help meet deadlines, achieve goals and do whatever it takes to help the firm succeed helps everyone else breathe a sigh of relief; after all, you are in it together.
Playing nice with others is one of the first attributes we are judged by as children, and going forward in life it can be difficult to be nice to everyone. However, sometimes the difference between a successful pitch and one that bombs is the team’s ability to give a genuine welcome to that grouchy dude from the client’s office.
We hope this list has helped to reinforce the qualities you already know to be a good fit for your firm. For more insight on boosting your company culture by providing delicious snacks and caffeine fixes or by hiring great new talent, contact the team at Corporate Essentials. We have almost 25 years of experience fueling the best corporate cultures in New Jersey and New York City offices , and we are happy to share our insights with you.
About Judson Kleinman
As the founder and CEO of Corporate Essentials, Judson set out with every intention of bringing a new meaning to the words “office culture”. As leaders in the industry, his company constantly sets the bar by investing in, and improving their product offerings, technology, people and training. 20 years and 1500 clients later, Judson can proudly say that Corporate Essentials continues to positively fuel culture and allow over 150,000 employees to work happy.