How to improve your job performance

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Organize yourself
one of the biggest misapprehensions I run into is people thinking that visible signs of activity: messy offices, breathless voice mail greetings, abruptly terminated phone calls, makes them seem busy and important, when, in fact, they send a message that things are somewhat out of control.

So, organize your office, record a welcoming and authoritative voice mail greeting, and take the few extra seconds needed to end your phone calls gracefully. Remember, it’s easy to make it look hard. What’s hard is to make it look easy.

Withhold praise/credit from co-workers.
Sometimes we become so focused on presenting our best self that we forget to acknowledge the efforts of others. Alternatively, concern that pointing out others’ achievements means our own could be overlooked sometimes keeps us from expressing our thanks, or offering praise, for others’ work.

The trouble is that when we neglect to acknowledge others’ contributions, we send a message to those in charge that we’re not ready to be part of a team—and you don’t get to the executive level without understanding the importance of being part of a team.

Consequently, during these one hundred days, actively cultivate the habit of thanking others for their ideas and their work, and make a point of telling those in charge about their achievements. 

Dress the part.
I’m sure you’ve heard “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” This idea is particularly important once you’ve set your promotion deadline because, while I have no doubt you are dressing appropriately for your current role, the position you want might require you to make some adjustments.

For example, perhaps your office has a policy of dress down Fridays, and this is something you and your contemporaries look forward to. That said, you’ve noticed senior management doesn’t take advantage of this. Given that, I’d recommend you abandon casual Friday, too. The visual reassurance that you have picked up on, and are willing to adhere to, this unspoken policy will go a long way toward their feeling confident you’re ready to become part of the team.

Speak up.
One seemingly small, but vitally important, way to impress is by exhibiting ease in multiple situations. One of the quickest ways to have this ease recognized is by speaking up at every opportunity—not just during the weekly staff get-together.

For instance, perhaps you find yourself on the elevator with your CEO a few mornings a week. Rather than simply standing face-forward and observing the control panel, I recommend taking this chance to greet him or her. I’m not asking you to be effusive—a simple “Good morning,” coupled with a smile, is often as much as is needed—but I am asking you to speak up.

In the absence of orders, initiate appropriate action.
Show of initiative on your part—in ways both large and seemingly small—is a great way to move up in the ranks.
Lead a team.
Few jobs these days are about working individually. More often, they require people skills that are as strong as any technical skills you might have. Given this, showing you have the ability to motivate your co-workers is a strong indicator to C-level executives that you’re ready to be one of them. With this in mind, I strongly recommend volunteering to head up—or initiating—a team project. As you work, remain aware that your people-skill results will matter as much as any impact your work might have on the bottom line.

What’s the easiest way to provide motivation and inspiration for your team? Praise them. Again, I’m not asking you to be effusive. It can be as simple as, “Good work today,” as they leave the meeting. I think, however, that you’ll be surprised at the difference this makes in their willingness to go the extra mile—and their improved performance will only reflect well on you.

Ask for it.
For many of us, the idea of asking outright for what we want or deserve is extremely foreign. But asking for what you want is a must. Not doing so means you’ll be disgruntled.

Given this, I recommend:

• Making an explicit appointment to discuss your request.

• Providing concrete examples of how you have contributed to the firm’s success.

• Having a specific salary figure/title in mind.

• Most importantly, however, I recommend recognizing that, more often than not, “no” is just information—not a reflection on your value to the firm. In fact, it’s more likely a reflection on the history of the position, or the current balance sheet of the company.

Why is this important? Because making requests with this in mind will help you remain relaxed throughout the conversation. And when you’re at ease it’s easier to roll with the punches—to think strategically and convey confidence and humor, essential elements in the negotiation process.

Ask for it.
As you can see, asking for it is both a do and a don’t. The reason for this is that there are a lot of effective ways to make your request, and lots of ineffective ones, too. Here’s the flip side of the above—some things to avoid:
  • Tagging your request onto another conversation—catching your boss off-guard won’t endear you to him or her.
  • Making the request based on promotions/raises received by others at your level; i.e., “I know Bob just got X and I was wondering if I could, too.”
  • Not having a specific number/title in mind. If you don’t know what you want, you could lowball yourself in the pressure of the moment.
  • Finally, failing to recognize that no is just information can keep you from thinking strategically, and strategy is crucial to negotiation. Given this—should “no” be the first reaction you get—I strongly recommend asking if your terms can be revisited in another one hundred days.
Sulk.
Sometimes you contribute 110 percent and still have your efforts overlooked. When this happens, it can be difficult to accept gracefully. It’s possible you might find yourself visibly or vocally disgruntled in the moment. Or, you might take this chance to log a few sick or personal days in order to recover.

The trouble with this is, it rarely goes unnoticed. Placating you might have to become the focus of the meeting, or your behavior could become fodder for post-game, water cooler gossip.

With this in mind, then, take care to vent your frustrations and resentments in such a way that there’s no chance of their harming your future. There’s truth to the saying: you may have lost the battle, but you can still win the war.

 

Gossip.
Gossip is all-pervasive. It headlines celebrity magazines on every newsstand, provides content for hundreds of blogs on the web, and has the potential to waste the time [not to mention destroy the reputations] of countless office workers across the country. And of these three, office gossip can often seem the most exciting, as we intimately know the players involved.
But when we become involved in the conversation—either by actively participating, or by passively listening as others let fly—we send a message to everyone around us that we can’t be trusted. All of which can leave your boss thinking, “If I can’t trust him with the small things, how am I going to trust him with the big?”

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