Natalie’s been struggling with her boss and her job – not because of overwork, but because there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly important about what she’s doing. And of course, she would struggle to mention this, fearful of being loaded down with even more unimportant stuff.
I’ve worked with a surprising number of people in similar situations. They have tons of work to do, but none of it seems particularly useful.
Here are some ways to deliver great work that people can get excited about.
1) Find Out Why
Your boss probably believes your work is useful, or at least someone up there does, so find out what that is. Are those TPS reports used for checking that critical deadlines are being met? If so, why are those deadlines important? Who relies on them? Realize that this idea is much more about changing your own mindset than changing what you deliver.
2) Just Ask
Often, we have much more fear of management than is really warranted. If you ask respectful questions with a true desire to learn, most of the time you’ll get useful answers. What does true excellence look like for my work? What would knock people’s socks off? How much would you support me in doing creative things to improve our results?
3) Look for the Gaps
There are always things to be done which aren’t being addressed – I haven’t talked to anybody for YEARS who claims that there’s more people than work. So start digging. What you’re looking for is something that’s both VALUABLE to the organization, and INTERESTING to you. So it might not be the first thing that pops to mind if you ask your boss what extra work she has for you. Look a lot further than that.
4) Become Your Local Expert
We all have egos which feel better when others come to us for advice in an area where we can be helpful. So find some areas of the job which you find interesting, and build up your skills and expertise to a point where others start noticing. If you’re worried about being perceived as taking that role away from someone else, …
5) Learn at the Feet of the Master
One of the great ways to learn new things is to get the cooperation of those who are already expert. But your attitude can’t be that you want to take away their job. Instead, you need to be humble, open, and helpful. If you’re learning about an area that you find interesting, you’ll have a lot more energy to offer that help and learn new things.
6) Look at the Big Goals
Usually, there are new things that your organization would like to do, but they’re constrained by the number of people and money to invest. But there will often be a larger vision – either written down or in the leader’s head – which identifies new exciting opportunities. If you find one of those personally interesting, you might identify some useful steps that you could help with to get it started.
7) Start a Group
It’s amazing how much energy can be created when people collect around a common interest. Even if it’s just kicking around ideas during a lunch break, you can help to support each other and generate some new ideas. And it feels a lot better than sitting around during lunch just complaining about your boss.
8) Say “No” to Something
Many are scared to limit their boss’s demands, being worried about losing their job. But in fact, there will always be points at which you say “no”. If he demanded you work through the weekend, would you do it? If you got sick – which WILL happen if you’re letting job stresses affect you without limit – you’d have to say “no”, right? And the world wouldn’t fall apart, would it? Work with your boss to set some limits before you make yourself sick.
9) Improve What You Do
Work with those around you to figure out how to deliver better results. Of course, you have to understand the TRUE reasons why your work is valuable, so you don’t break something when you change it. But that investigation is vital, because it highlights the areas that would be most valuable to improve – and the constraints on what can’t be changed.
10) Improve How You Do It
There’s often ways to improve HOW you deliver results better, faster, and cheaper. Depending on how tightly your work processes are controlled, you’ll need to work with key people who can help champion your improvements. Seek them out and start having those discussions. They’re already thinking about how to do the work better, faster, and cheaper, and no doubt they could find your help useful.
There are a number of reasons why you would want to do these extra things:
- You’re uninspired and would like to care about your work again.
- You’d like to become a more valuable employee for your organization.
- You want to grow your base of experience beyond just filling out TPS reports, week after week.
What’s the opportunity that you’re starting to see for yourself?
by Carl Dierschow