There are lot of “10 things for success" lists out there. A lot of them are geared around how to make your boss happy. Is making your boss happy really the thing that gives you joy? Doing something that you’re proud of, with excellence, integrity, and pride is a personal pursuit for ones self. Success usually follows with it. In his book The Effective Executive Peter Drucker said “find the thing you’re uncommonly good at.” The quest for that ‘thing' can take a while; this list has helped me reconcile all types of work with a meaningful purpose while on that journey to find what I’m uncommonly good at.
I believe that we’re designed for relationship, and made to create things, to work, to hone our skills. It’s a humbling task to unpack that simple statement. And if you think about the people you love working with the most, you’ll find that they are humbled constantly by their pursuits, confident to continue with boldness, and respect their position, the position of others, and work hard to serve the people around them.
So, here’s another list. My top ten (not necessarily in order) things to keep in mind in order to show up and do a good job with regards to your personal self and your relationship with the team of people you find yourself working with.
- You need thick skin. Doing anything worthwhile is hard. Things change unexpectedly, new specifications come up. Problems in the original plan become known. Competition releases a new feature that’s just like the thing you’re working on… Being a snowflake makes it harder to see opportunities and new directions when the going gets tough. It’s not unfair, the world isn’t out to get you… you’re probably just doing something hard, and it’s worth doing!
- Be willing to do low level tasks that are under your position if you see they need to be done. Doing jobs that are ‘beneath you’ every once in a while make you more valued, not less. Being able to identify that something needs done, and just getting it done is so helpful to your team. This is especially important in small organizations where people need to wear multiple hats. If the team culture doesn’t support this type of service, then it’s actually pretty easy for small but important tasks to fall between the cracks and get lost.
- The difference between doing work and screwing around is data. You need to know when decisions were made, why you made the decision, who made it, and all the supporting information to take action on it. Institutional knowledge is wasted every day by poor scribes of important work. Tracking work well increases communication, productivity, and team focus.
- Have a reason for doing everything. I mean everything. Have a reason to organize a meeting. Have a reason to attend. Have a documented reason for a design direction, or a system architecture or technology decision. When someone asks you why you are doing a thing, and you can give a concise answer (even if it’s a simple one), it instills confidence in you and your team.
- Take ownership of the culture; you are the culture. Founders and company leadership absolutely have a huge role in setting the tone and course for the culture. Each and, every person, down to the janitor are the wind that fill the sails. Valued teammates help create the culture they believe in. It makes it real.
- Be a leader before you are ready. Your role isn’t small. It’s boundless. The way you interact with your teammates, your clients, the customer at the check out line of the grocery… These are all opportunities to lead with excellence. Become excellent at leading meetings. Take advantage of a teaching moment and empower a coworker with a new skill. Try it.
- Serve your team, they will serve you in return when you need it. Servanthood is a huge part of being on a team. Serving others and lifting them up not only builds every one up and bolsters culture, it is just plain chicken soup for the soul. It also means that when you need support you’ll get it back 10 fold.
- Treat your clients and partners like your friends. One of our ‘proverbs’ at Anthroware (a list of things we file away when we hear the team galvanize around a saying or thought) is to “be excellent to each other”. The people you love doing business with the most are the ones you like. People know when you care about them more than just a ‘client’. Our business model is built around having long standing relationships with our clients, and it’s just more fun to do business with people you truly like being around.
- Keep your workspace clean, and care about your appearance. A lot of offices have moved away from suit and tie ‘business’ attire (thank God). But when it swings too ‘casual’ then you start to lose respect for the privilege of doing the work. It still means a lot when a interviewee walks into the conference room in a suit. It shows they care. When you have a big presentation, or an important client visit, then dress to impress. Even if you over do it a little, they’ll appreciate the posture. Keeping yourself and your space crisp and neat invites space for ideas and creativity. It shows your team and your visitors that you put care and purpose into your day.
- Own your mistakes and shortcomings. Everyone needs grace on a regular basis. We’re imperfect people, we make mistakes with how we do our job, and how we work with others. Some mistakes cost more than others and it’s important to have a corporate mindset to learn as much as possible with things don’t go right. I, personally, am not one of the “celebrate failure” folks, but I do believe that when people hold themselves personally accountable for their contributions (good or bad) the ability to move forward past road bumps is easier, and team trust increases.
If you desire to work like this, then find a company that will let you spread your wings and has a culture you truly believe in.
Because you will be able to get a job there.