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Three Questions to Make You a More Valuable Contributor on the Job

August 28, 2012

Last Friday I spent a couple of hours thinking about my job instead of actually doing it.

I mulled over the current state of affairs at work, what I’ve been accomplishing, where my time is being spent, what my priorities are, and so on.

I guess you could say I was reflecting.

To some of you, this may sound like a colossally assinine waste of time, but self-reflection is actually one of the defining qualities of a high-performance leader. Which I am attempting to be, and I hope you are too.

We get so busy in the frenzy, so lost in the propulsion and swirl of daily activity, it becomes difficult to find the time to step back and ask a few fundamental questions of ourselves about what it is we are actually doing, and if it is effective.

Are you working on the right things?

Are you delivering the highest and best use of your talents and skills?

Are you meeting expectations of those who are watching and talking about you behind your back?

(Yes, people are talking about you behind your back. Get over it.)

The answers to these questions could become very important later on. For instance, later in the year, right around the time of your performance review. Unfortunately, by then it is probably too late to discover if you are on the wrong track.

Carving out time and space for self-reflection allows you to step back and ask a few questions about your own job performance, and hopefully keep you one step ahead of the curve.

Here is a simple self-reflection exercise you can use to evaluate your own job performance. It involves gauging your work against three criteria.

1. Are you meeting the expectations of your job? Look at the basic expectations set out for your job. It may be outlined in a job description somewhere, or a to-do list, or a bucket of responsibilities. Make sure you know what this is. Are you living up to it? Are you delivering on these minimum expectations? If so, don’t get too excited yet. Because no boss wants people who are simply doing the minimum expectation. That’s not going to get you a promotion, or even keep you in the employment pool these days. You need to do more.

2. What else could you be doing that no one else could do? There are probably things that are not in your current job description, but are things that you could be, or should be doing, because you bring a unique set of skills and experience to the table. This is where you can add value, bring new insights, big ideas, or just plain get more stuff done. There are two things every company expects you to do: save money and generate revenue. What are you doing to contribute above and beyond what is expected of your job?

3.What is the perception that others have of what you should be doing? The key word here is “perception,” because in the corporate world, perception is what forms reality. This is a little more subtle, but essential to understand. It’s far too easy to operate isolated in our own personal bubble of responsibility, when what may be far more important for your career is to understand what the boss, the VIP’s, the executives-in-the-know think about what you should be doing. If you have a disconnect here, then it might not matter how well you perform in the realm of your job description. Find out what others are thinking. Set an appointment with your boss, with your peers, and get feedback. Check in with the most important people you know to make sure you are in alignment with their expectations.

So now that you are self-reflective, stop all that thinking and get out there and make something happen!

Thanks to Ms. Davis Rosback for the photo. She is doing a great job, isn’t she?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 28, 2012 6:43 am

    In my humble opinion, this concept of self reflection is where the real work takes place.

  2. August 28, 2012 3:53 pm

    I must take issue slightly with one thing you said: How you spent time thinking about your job instead of actually doing it.
    I believe that thinking deeply about your work IS part of your job. The shame is that so many people think it’s a nice luxury that’s somehow outside of their normal sphere of responsibility, and this often gives them an excuse to not grow and change. I think the reflection can, of course, be taken to an unhealthy extreme, but too often many people err on the side of not reflecting enough.

  3. Susan DiMickele permalink
    August 28, 2012 4:00 pm

    I really like the question -“what can you be doing that no one else could do.” We all have something special and unique to contribute — it may be something “small” but it is nonetheless important. Otherwise, we might as well be a bunch of robots.

  4. August 28, 2012 5:22 pm

    Gosh Darnit Jim! Stop goofing off and get back to work.
    Nicely crafted advice though…

  5. August 29, 2012 7:52 pm

    Sage advice, JB. My boss is a former Navy pilot and definitely a man of action. And yet he keeps a running “reflection list” that usually has about a dozen work and personal items on it and makes time each week to review it. He’s insistent that it’s not a to-do list (he has a much longer separate one of those) and expect items to stay on the reflection list for weeks or months at a time as he considers them from different angles and slowly chips away at them. There’s no question this system works.

  6. August 30, 2012 7:29 pm

    The second admonition works. I have about six other jobs that no one else wanted .. and I volunteered for. Now, they are important functions, and I”m the expert. So, when lay offs come, they must also consider getting rid of these functions since I ‘own them.’

    Of course, like most of us, I am expendable. But stepping up into unpopular jobs does have some preservation qualities.

  7. September 3, 2012 9:17 pm

    JB, really like #2 here. If we’re taking God’s call for our lives honestly, there must be something that we can do that no one else can, etc.

  8. September 4, 2012 3:51 pm

    I’m all about reflection :). Seriously, though, this is one of the things that Guy Kawasaki talked about in his book: periodic evaluation.I think he called it a “pre-mortem”, as opposed to the post one.

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