What defines a "great employee" now? What qualities? What results? After traveling the world for the past 16 months, listening to top Executive Assistants' stories about their managers and fellow employees I've concluded that we "workers" are a bit lost. We join companies with the best of intentions, feeling empowered and ready to assert ourselves for the benefit of our managers, the company, and yes, to feed our egos a bit with each win we're recognized for.
The reality, we find, is that we've joined companies often with under-baked managers who are spending more time mitigating the perceptionthat they have no clue WTF they're doing vs. actually managing. We're surrounded by employees who, like us, joined the company with the same, great intentions only to end up surly, unchallenged and defeated, yet still showing up every day to collect the check. Situations like this can feel like a slow, painful death to an overachiever who is always looking for ways to streamline process, improve communication and, generally, make the company or the product even better. So what does one do when in a situation such as this?
One thing I teach in my classes is accountability. It's important to understand that your individual contribution to a company is based primarily on how you show up each day. Your attitude is a key contributor to your success, even if conditions at the company aren't ideal or as you'd hoped after you signed your offer letter. Sure, there are situations and work environments that simply suck, be they too hierarchical, poorly managed, nepotistic, etc. Those are the situations you extricate yourself from ASAP. However, I continue to wade through endless whining and complaining about companies and managers by employees who have completely exonerated themselves from blame for why they perceive their company is going to shit. Sorry. Not buying it.
As employees I believe we've handed over the reins a bit too willfully. We show up with this "what's in it for me" attitude and quickly become disenfranchised when our grand plans are thwarted, instead of continuing to fight for what we know is right or could help the company succeed. My grandmother used to tell me, "One monkey don't stop the show." And I believed her. I show up every day with the same goal: to make an impact. No rogue employee or bad manager could ever stop me from achieving that objective because it's solely mine. The impact that I choose to make, even in small increments, is purely up to me. Fighting for an initiative or continually re-crafting my message until it's accepted/adopted is part of how I show up as a passionate, experienced employee every day. For instance, when a manager rejects one of my ideas I don't get salty face, fold my arms and immediately stomp to the water cooler to express my disdain for the company with the other crows gathered 'round doing the same. I assess whether or not my message was clear or relevant enough. I ask clarifying questions to understand the "no." I try to understand the opposing view in detail so that I can figure out what the blockers are, specifically, to vet whether they are factual or emotionally-based. And from there I craft a strategy to change their mind. If I still can't get through and my idea still gets rejected, I've already done enough research to ascertain whether or not I'm dealing with someone rational or emotional. If my ideas are too often rejected without facts, then I know I either have to circumvent that particular manager or consider leaving the company if that manager is the CEO.
I've never subscribed to "worker mentality." That's likely because I've been both "worker" and small business owner several times throughout my professional career. What I've learned as a worker has influenced how I ran my businesses. What I've learned as a business owner influences how I show up as a worker. I'm acutely aware that I have an important responsibility as an employee. That is, to show up every day to do my very best work, be hyper prepared and with opinions based in fact not emotion, and contribute my ass off with a great attitude, strong work ethic while reliably meeting or exceeding expectations. Kinda simple, really. It's when we fall victim to worker mentality, believing we don't have the respect we deserve, can't make an impact because we're cockblocked relentlessly, or that our managers are idiots and are somehow out to make our lives completely suck, that we become those crows at the water cooler looking for external validation that should be supplied, in abundance, internally.
Newsflash: business has changed. The rules have changed. Now, more than any time in the history of business, employees have the opportunity to be heard and make an impact. Leadership teams are much more open to opinions, suggestions and ideas than in decades past because they now understand that some of the best ideas come from the most unlikely sources. However, employees still fear that, "Knock knock...do you have a few seconds?" on the CEO's door. They let great ideas get dusty or even die for fear of rejection or ridicule. I've always held that an idea, even if rejected, leaves a subconscious footprint. It plants in the mind of the listener that you were passionate enough to share it and often leads to another idea or discussion based on the idea you shared. This creates positive momentum and could actually score you a seat at the table unexpectedly because you made the effort to leave that subconscious footprint in the first place.
So, how can you become a "great employee" in today's business paradigm?
It's time to really do a bit of self-reflection and reclaim our power as employees. That starts with personal accountability and showing up every day with the correct attitude, the right perspective and the confidence and resolve to make an impact. That's what makes people successful in today's business. We already have plenty of examples of those who have simply given up and remain content being competent and collecting the check while low key undermining the company with their endless whining, complaining and lack of initiative. Be the former. Not the latter. Choose well.
Phoenix is coaching and supporting American billionaires, CEOs and executive teams in tech, retail and banking for over 25 years. He also founded and created MEGA Assistant University, a revolutionary skills and mindset “boot camp” for top Executive and Personal Assistants who want to level up quickly and begin forging a mutually successful business partnership with their executives and teams. Phoenix holds a Bachelors of Arts in European Studies/Civilisation from Trinity College Dublin.