An open letter from Glenn Stearns, CEO of Kind Lending
I overheard one of my managers talking to an intern the other morning. The manager says, “Today’s the third day this week you’ve come in late! Do you know what this means?” The intern replies, “It's Wednesday?”
Although it’s true that many of my most recent articles have been targeted at folks at the top of the professional hierarchy — I realize that not all of my readers are in upper management or executive positions.
Today, however, I thought I’d write something for those of you who are still finding your footing.
Those who are working within your team, not leading it.
So… You’re putting in the hours and grinding away towards the brilliant future that you’ve envisioned for yourself. What can you do to clear that path a little? Make the climb a bit less treacherous?
This article is about making sure you’re not getting in your own way. In it, I’m going to clue you in on seven key behaviors that myself and other bosses have spotted that let us know who’s on their way to the boardroom and who’s going to the chopping block.
1. Show Up On Time
This is mine, and many others’ first red flag that something is off. Whether you’re a new hire that’s struggling with their schedule or a reliable employee who’s just going through a rough patch — if you think you’re flying under the radar — think again.
Thankfully, it’s one of the easier behaviors to fix. All it takes is a little planning and foresight.
Go to bed and wake up a little earlier, try taking alternate routes to work if traffic is too bad.
Whatever you do, make sure that you’re in the office on time and ready to go.
2. Take Notes
There’s no quicker way to show your boss that you aren’t paying attention than to just nod along while they break something down for you.
Think of every interaction you have with your team leaders as a way to convey a message about yourself. If you want to send the message that you’re competent and attentive, a pen and paper are going to be your best friend.
Even if it’s just a rough outline, or simply a reminder of what the task is, writing while listening shows your supervisor that you’re processing their instructions and that you care about getting the job done right.
3. Learn How To Take Feedback
How someone reacts to feedback or criticism tells me a lot about that person. I won’t get into it right now, but the long and short of it is, if you’re responding poorly to feedback or ignoring it altogether then you simply aren’t going to be a fit for my team.
If I’m giving you feedback it’s not just because there’s an issue. It’s because I want to know if I can trust you with a task of similar or higher importance in the future. If someone’s going to make excuses or act indignant, then I already know they aren’t up to snuff.
4. Learn To Play Nice
This should go without saying, but treating your coworkers with any amount of cruelty or disrespect will get you thrown out faster than week-old tuna.
On the flip-side of this, being as kind and genuine as possible is a surefire way to gain the trust and admiration of both your co-workers and your manager. A good attitude is one of the qualities I look for when determining if someone has a real future with my company, and it’s a quality I believe you should take the time to foster in yourself.
5. Take Responsibility
When you mess up, make sure you step up and take responsibility for your mistakes. It might seem hard, but when things go awry, taking responsibility is your quickest and safest route towards resolution.
It’s tempting to cover up your mistakes, and for many of us, our first instinct is to hide them, but here’s why that behavior isn't going to fly in the corporate world:
First, if you hide your mistakes, they have a nasty tendency to grow into a serious problem.
Second, if you’re found out, a major blow has just been dealt to your relationship with your team leader, and sometimes even with the client. That relationship is what puts food on the table, so jeopardizing it is never worth the risk.
Sure, make sure your ass is covered if whatever happened really isn’t your fault, but if you absolutely have to pass the buck, make sure you find a way to do so elegantly and with compassion. We all make mistakes, underdogs. Let’s work together to fix it.
6. Step Up
You should NEVER be afraid to step up and take on the big tasks. When I’m looking at my employees and assessing their value to my company, one of the most important qualities I’m looking for is ambition and initiative.
What I want most is someone who’s going places. The ones who step up and ask for the tough projects and the dirty jobs are the ones I most enjoy working with. They’ve got Grit, capital “G,”
and I respect the hell out of that.
Just remember, if you find that you’ve bitten off a little more than you can chew, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Just make sure that you don’t wait until the bitter end to reach out.
7. Work Your Tail Off
Finally, if you feel like your hard work is going unnoticed or ignored, I can almost promise you that it isn’t.
I assure you that someone sees what you’re doing and they’re taking note. It’s on you, however, to never lose that drive to outdo yourself. And besides. On the off chance that nobody’s watching, at the end of the day you can let the results speak on your behalf.
Hopefully this has been helpful, whether you’re a team member seeking self improvement, or a manager cross checking your list of red and yellow flags with mine, I just hope I’ve given you a little something to think about.
Until next week, underdogs.