I was at a family dinner the other night and was talking about office politics with one of my cousins. This cousin is a successful software executive who has a chemistry degree and years of experience working oin almost every aspect of the software business.
Our conversation about office politics turned into one about business philosophy. He explained to me that he was very fortunate to have started with his company years ago when it was growing and there was opportunity for a young go-getter fresh out of university. When he was in an entry level position, he went out of his way to find ways to help his team, boss and company do better. He took on extra work, corrected inefficiencies in the company’s processes and always took the time to help his boss out.
The company grew and then when the recession hit, the company was hit hard and went from over 100 employees down to 18. He was one of the lucky ones who was able to keep his job. Mainly because he was highly valuable to the company. He explained to me that his mentality of always going above and beyond what was asked of him has not only made his career successful but also advanced his company. Over the years, he has been promoted many times, with each new role providing more responsibility and impact to the company. Although he was a quick learner in many of these new roles, he also said that he was already doing many of the tasks that his superiors were responsible for before moving into the role.
Now as a VP, he manages a large team of software engineers, developers and project managers. On his team, if there were two employees who both had similar skill sets, he would look beyond just their competency and see if the employees were willing to go above and beyond what he was asking for. The analogy he used was of two employees who had similar ability but one was slightly better than the other. Employee one has 85% competency and employee two has 95% competency. If the 85% employee frequently stepped up to do more and the 95% employee sat on his laurels because he was so good, he would award a project to the 85% guy. His rationale was that the 85% employee was more valuable not just because of his skills but because of what he was willing to do to advance the company and his team.
So my advice for today, is to think about your job or project or business, and think about how you can help. Whether it’s your boss who is completely slammed or a client who might need a bit of extra TLC, find ways to be helpful in your professional life.
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