It is not always easy to be objective about one's work performance, and not all bosses are always open about their feedback, positive or negative.
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But there are some indicators of success at work that are reliable, regardless of your role or the industry you work in. Here are 11 indicators that prove you're doing very well at your job, or at least on your way to doing so.
You come to meetings with solutions, not problems
Superiors don't appreciate it when you bring a problem to them with nothing more. Instead, they want to hear your ideas on how to solve it.
For example, Weebly CFO Kim Jabal recommends telling your manager:
‘We have a great opportunity to fix something wrong. Here are some ideas. I would like to hear your opinion.’
In fact, Leon Shimkin, managing director for Simon and Schuster, who later became the owner of the company, had a rule that you could not bring a problem to a meeting without first trying to fix it yourself. Apparently, this rule helped reduce the time spent in meetings by 75%.
So save your boss some time and avoid annoyances: solve the problem, don't complain about it.
You know how to prioritise your responsibilities
In the modern world of work, everyone is burdened with demands and responsibilities. Employees who can manage their priorities will stand out.
What impact do you have on the business when you perform this task? The Y-axis represents your passion: how much do you care about this particular task?
Manage your responsibilities based on your answers to these two questions. Depending on the answer, you will know how to set priorities during your day.
You take the time to learn
Beth Comstock, former vice president of General Electric, says she dedicated 10% of her working time to what she calls ‘discovery.’
Can I spend 10% of my time every week reading, going to sites like Singularity, TED, talking to people, going to events in my industry, asking people: what trends do you see? What are you worried about? What are you excited about?
This way you make sure you stay creative and are not caught off guard when your industry evolves.
You don’t spend your day answering emails
‘There are two kinds of people in this world.’ Elie Langer via Twitter
Sending and looking through your emails can make you feel like you're being productive, but the best employees know that this time is better spent elsewhere.
Charles Duhigg, a New York Times journalist who researched the subject of productivity for his 2016 book, ‘Smarter Faster Better,’ says he measures his daily productivity by the number of emails he sends. The fewer he sends, the more productive he is.
In an interview for the Peak Work Performance Summit, Duhigg told psychologist Ron Friedman, ‘You can be busy all day and never really be productive.’ He added, ‘You and I know that we can spend all day answering emails and get to no unread messages, feeling like we've been working every minute but not really having done anything. You could do that all your life.’
Similarly, time management expert Laura Vanderkamn wrote in 2015 in her book I Know How She Does It:
[You] will never get to the end of your inbox. It is better to realise that everything you haven't answered after a week will be lost or will come back to you in the form of texts or calls.
You can say 'no' to your supervisor, without being disrespectful
You should never say a direct ‘no’ to your manager when he or she assigns you a project. The key, according to Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of The Humour Advantage, is to find out how you can say ‘yes.’
For example, maybe you're overwhelmed with other projects. According to Lynn Taylor, an American workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behaviour and Thrive in Your Job, you might say:
I would be very happy to do this project, but that would mean [the other project you're working on] would have to be postponed until tomorrow, because I was going to spend the next three hours working on it. Do you want me to postpone it?
In other words, you adapt your answer to show that you're doing your best, which is certainly in your boss's best interest.
You set yourself ambitious goals
The leadership development consultancy firm Zenger/Folkman has collected more than 50,000 360-degree assessments over five years on more than 4,000 individual employees.
More specifically, they examined the leadership behaviour that distinguishes ‘good’ employees (those ranked from the 40th to the 70th percentile) from the ‘best’ employees (those ranked from the 90th percentile upwards).
The results showed that one attitude in particular had the greatest influence on individual employee scores: setting ambitious goals.
Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, CEO and president of Zenger/Folkman respectively, wrote in the Harvard Business Review:
The best individual contributor sets, and achieves, ambitious goals that go beyond what others thought possible. They also encourage others to achieve outstanding results.
You keep your promises
In their book Spark, three American military veterans and leadership consultants explain how employees at any level of an organisation can demonstrate leadership behaviour. One of these behaviours is to have a small gap between ‘say and do,’ which is ‘the gap between your words and your actions.’
Maintaining a small gap between saying and doing is a way of gaining the trust of others and setting a good example for your team. Even if others fail to meet deadlines or keep their promises, the authors of ‘Spark’ say that it is important that you do so.
You make sure you contribute to the success of your superior
Taylor recommends that you ‘review’ your job responsibilities periodically to ensure that you are truly integral to your manager's success.
Take 15 minutes every day to reflect on exactly what you are working on. Could a temporary worker do what you do and satisfy your manager? If the answer is yes, or even maybe, you might need to put in more effort.
And if the answer is no? You're on the right track.
You monitor your own performance
Marketing consultant Erica Gellerman said that a simple daily routine helped her client get a series of raises and promotions, and that she can help anyone. All you have to do is spend 10 to 15 minutes every Friday thinking about your week.
You list: the situation, what needed to be done to improve the situation, what you did, the result, the response to your actions, and your level of satisfaction. In this way, you have concrete evidence to present to your manager when you ask for a raise or a promotion.
And an even simpler routine that can help you boost your performance, according to a study, is to take 15 minutes at the end of each working day to jot down a few ideas.
You are able to help others without burning out
Wharton psychologist Adam Grant's bestselling book Give and Take, published in 2013, introduced the concept of ‘givers,’ or people at work who help facilitate the success of others.
Grant says givers are more likely to excel at work, but only if they know how to give effectively. For example, you can set aside a moment to help your colleagues, so you don't get constantly interrupted and lose track. Or you could adopt ways of doing things that are in line with your goals and those of your company.
In ‘Give and Take,’ Grant cites the example of Kat Cole, President and COO of Cinnabon, who started as a waitress at Hooters and worked her way up through the ranks. When someone needed a temporary replacement, a waiter, or even a chef, Cole took on the responsibility. In the end, she had filled so many different roles that she was selected to help open Hooters restaurants abroad.
People try to include you in their networks
Grant says that creating your network on your own will not help you advance in your career. While it certainly helps to form relationships with people in your sector, a better alternative is to work hard to let those relationships form naturally.
Grant says he learned the concept the hard way:
I once sent an email to an entrepreneur I admired and received nothing in return. A few months later, he called me out of nowhere, with no recollection of me trying to get in touch with him before. He had attended a conference I had given and wanted to meet me, he now had proof that I could make a contribution.
In other words, when you notice people trying to learn from your expertise, you know you are on the road to success.