Search for literature and guidance on how to be a great manager, and you will be spoilt for choice. If you’ve ever gone to look for advice on how to be a great employee though… you might find it’s a very different story.
The fact of the matter is, not many of us think about needing to be a great employee. There are a couple of possible reasons for this. Either we assume that we already are! – or we decide that we’re not bothered about whether we are or not. Surely, we might think, it’s our employer’s job to get the best out of us. Why should we worry about raising our game? What have we got to gain from it?
The answer to the latter is: absolutely loads… but we’ll come back to that later.
So, what does it take to be a great employee? Here are ten things we should all be looking to do to ensure we’re leading the way when it comes to employee performance.
Let’s start with what should be the blindingly obvious. If we want to be a great employee, then we need to deliver. We can be the most punctual, enthusiastic and supportive member of the team… but if we’re not delivering a tangible output, then our value to the business going to be debatable. Be absolutely ruthless about delivering, and track your own output, in order to be able to demonstrate this.
#2 Build Relationships
Great employees don’t work in silos. We need to build relationships right across the business, to ensure that we can effectively communicate, reducing duplication of efforts and improving efficiencies. Go out of your way to spend time with other teams and talk to them about the challenges they are facing, working together to resolve these. Your own performance is almost guaranteed to improve as a result.
#3 Do What We Say We’re Going To Do
If we make a commitment, we follow through on it. The very best employees in an organisation are those who can be unquestionably relied on to do what they’ve said they are going to do. Try not to commit to the unachievable, and instead work through to propose an alternative approach which you know you will absolutely be able to deliver.
#4 Treat Others Like We’d Like To Be Treated
You can be delivering non-stop, but if you’re alienating everyone who works around you as you do so, you’re unlikely to be in the running for an Employee of the Year award any time soon. Take the time to assess how you come across to others and, where necessary, make adjustments to your style. Simple respect and good manners go a very, very long way.
#5 Be Proactive
This isn’t school. You shouldn’t be waiting for someone to come and tell you what to do. Great employees actively look to what else they could be doing to improve delivery and support others.
#6 Get The Basics Right
It’s still surprising just how many employees fail to get the basics right. Turn up for work on time. Ensure your choice of dress is appropriate for the role that you’re carrying out. Respond promptly to emails and requests for help. All of these form the foundation for great delivery, and it’s important that you don’t let the little things impact on your employer’s perception of you.
#7 Help Your Manager To Help You
News flash: managers are people, just like you. Sure, they’re there to help you and provide support where needed, but you can also help them by letting them know when you need that support. Great employees flag with their managers when they need their time and input, and are proactive in arranging time to sit down together. Don’t moan and complain about your manager not having enough time to spend with you… actively go and help them carve out that time so that you get what you need and are able to deliver.
#8 Take Responsibility For Your Own Development
One of my biggest bugbears is employees who use that immortal line: “But I haven’t been trained.” Training and development isn’t something you should be waiting for to land in your lap. Take ownership for your own development and identify the training you need. While your manager and HR team are absolutely there to provide guidance and make recommendations, the person who ultimately has responsibility for your own development is you. Development opportunities don’t come to those who sit there waiting for them… they come to those who actively go out and grab them with both hands.
#9 Throw Yourself Into Things
If you are keen to progress, the best possible thing you can do is to go and take up every single opportunity that is available to you. If you look at those employees in your business who have been rapidly promoted, it’s highly unlikely they sat there passively refusing to carry out any task that they didn’t feel fell squarely inside the remit of their job role. The more you are able to get involved with, the more quickly you become able to broaden your skillset, increase your understanding, and ultimately prove that you are ready to take the next step up on the career ladder.
#10 Understand Your Business
Not enough employees take the time to do this, and yet it’s fundamental if you want to be able to really deliver on your potential. Maximise those great relationships you have built in other teams and spend time understanding how the various cogs and wheels of your business interact and fit together. As you do so, you become able to make smarter decisions and provide more valuable input. Which truly marks you out as one of your organisation’s star performers.
And where does this leave you? Well, it leaves you in the best possible position to pursue that promotion, position your next pay rise, or simply get the most out of your time at work. Being a great employee is not simply great for your employer, it’s essential if you want to be able to progress. So why not take a cold hard look at your own performance and look to see what you can do to make it even better. You might just be surprised at what you’re able to achieve as a result.