Five Ways to Be Awesome at Work

Dispensing with the obvious characteristics of great leaders, e.g., integrity, honesty, vision, here are five additional ways to be awesome at work. 

1. Be precise.

when everyone else is speaking in vague terms, non-specific time frames and unfocused targets, be precise.  Here’s how:

a. when someone asks you “how many…?” you answer with a number

b. when someone asks you “when..?” you answer with a date

c. when someone asks you “who…?” you answer with a name

d. when someone asks you “how much…?” you answer with a dollar amount


Your boss: “When will that email campaign to prospects in California launch?”

Your colleague:  “Sometime in Q3”

You:  “October 8”

Which one sounds like it comes from someone who know what they’re doing versus someone who’s guessing?

2. Find ways to make someone else’s job better today.

Don’t wait for someone to ask for help before you jump in and lend a hand.  Be proactive when it comes to offering your experience or expertise to a problem.  Recently, I noticed a colleague of mine was struggling to organize his plan for gaining traction with one of our product lines in Europe.  I thought he could benefit from some kind of template to help him organize his information gathering approach.  So, I wrote one for him. It only took about an hour, but the template proved to be just what he needed to focus his research.  I didn’t have to jump in.  I certainly didn’t have to spend an hour creating something from scratch without knowing exactly how it would be received, but I did it, and now the project is starting to yield results we can use to grow our business.  Good thing I didn’t wait to be asked for help.  Good thing I took the time to make someone else’s day better.

3. Do things someone else’s way once in a while. 

With more than 15 years of product management experience, I thought I was pretty well versed in software development process.  From waterfall to agile, I did it all.  However, at my new company, I ran into a development leader who had a very specific way of managing development projects that required very specific documents to be completed by product management.  I had a very different set of documents that I was comfortable with.  At this point, I could have made an issue of this and insisted on doing things my way (technically, I “outrank” this person). However, I quickly realized that my main goal was not to create specific paperwork, but to get a product developed and launched.  Why did I care how?  So, I did it his way.  As a result, we’re having substantive conversations about the product and our market objectives as opposed to pointless battles over forms and documents.

4. Be relentlessly focused.

I was recently asked, “how is working for a really big company similar to working for a small company?” Since my experience includes long stints at Fortune 100s and 20-person operations, I felt qualified to answer this way:  “the most glaring similarity is that leaders in both types of organizations have difficulty focusing.  Maintaining focus on organizational, product and market priorities is the leading factor in tripping up companies of all sizes. 

To be awesome, maintain your focus – and help those around you maintain theirs.  How do you do this?

a. In meetings, keep the agenda tight and the discussions on track.  Cut off extraneous conversations. 

b. When delivering presentations, always restate your primary objectives and tie your initiatives directly back to them.  This way you reinforce  your focus on your core objectives and keep the audience focused on them as well.

c. When evaluating market opportunities, consistently ask:  “will this help us achieve one or more of our core objectives?  If not, be a strong advocate for nixing the initiative and refocus your colleagues on those projects that clearly and directly support your strategic plan

5. Inspire through passion and energy.

First of all, If you don’t have a passion for what you’re doing, the company you’re with and the job you have, get out.  Find something else to do.  Now.  Listen, you don’t have to be Steve Jobs or Bill Clinton to be equally inspiring to small groups and large audiences.  A few things anyone can do to drive inspiration include:

a. Learn how to be a great presenter.  Take classes.  Practice.  Seek feedback.  You can’t motivate if you can’t communicate in person.

b. Become a great writer.  In the age of sharing, there’s a near 100% chance that your written communication will be shared more widely than you expected.  Embrace it.  Your writing will likely inspire sharing for one of two reasons:  1) its God-awful and is worth sharing to make people laugh; 2) it’s so phenomenal and inspirational that your audience had to share it with everyone they know as a beacon of hope for all of mankind (OK, calm down…).  Make sure your writing goes in the second bucket.  Again, take classes, practice, seek and accept feedback.

c. Tell great stories.  Avoid “death by Powerpoint.”  Get up there and make your point with a great story.  Name names, use numbers, give dates and drive your point home with a cast of characters and events that are vivid and memorable.

Hope this helps.  Let the discussion begin.  Go forth and be awesome.


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