15 Guerilla Tactics To Set Yourself Apart From The Pack in The Workplace Right Now.
Written by Scott McGinnis (CEO, XGrunt Inc.) for Goombay Tally Blog | Business Leadership | Strategic Management
Newsflash: The same economy that sustained and propelled our parents and grandparents doesn’t exist anymore. That economic paradigm where “Paw Paw” graduated from high school (or not) and walked into the factory on the east side of town, asked “Nana” for her hand in marriage, dropped about 7 kids and supported an entire family comfortably on one salary? Yep, it’s gone.
Fast-forward the clock to today … the economy that you and I are experiencing right now sees young, educated college graduates … from really good schools … hanging out in mom’s basement, wordsmithing their resumes for the fifth time in a week and hoping for at least one solitary phone call for an interview out of the 35 applications that they submitted that week.
Moreover, many college graduates are making caramel mochas with whipped cream and iced coffees at the local Starbucks down the road that they used to hang out in as a student studying for finals. The irony is both deafening and depressing.
I believe a reasonable percentage of college grads will eventually find that job or position that sort of challenges them intellectually and professionally, but once they get that interview and subsequent job offer … the question is: now that we’ve escaped mom’s basement (and dad’s critical glare of condemnation), how do I galvanize my value as an employee to keep myself out of the unemployment line and off of mom’s couch in the future?
Additionally, if my boss was told that he had to let two people go next week, what have I been doing since I arrived here to ensure that my name never comes up for serious consideration?
Obviously, the trick is to start planning your teflon performance strategy on day one in your workplace so if you ever find yourself in a potential layoff situation, you know that you’ve done everything you can do within your power and capability to prove your worth to your company.
You have to prove to your company or organization that you are not only a valuable new recruit, but that you have the potential for being an invaluable future leader within the organization that they need to invest in by grooming and polishing for bigger and better things beyond your entry-level skill-set.
Will layoffs happen regardless of how hard and industrious you are on the job? Of course they will — “shift happens” and there are always financial and human capital decisions that have to be made that are above our pay grade and out of our direct control.
But that doesn’t matter right now. Right now, you need to ensure that you set yourself light-years ahead of your peers by developing a work ethic and attitude that keeps your name and face constantly reverberating through the upper management suites and offices with the breathtaking view of the city. For good reasons of course.
Here are some guerilla tactics that you can incorporate right now in the workplace to establish your unique brand of excellence and professionalism.
The good news?
You will find in many instances that it may not be that hard to set yourself apart from the pack in your workplace.
Many new employees come into the workplace with a strategy of keeping quiet, inconspicuous, and just staying out of trouble. And let’s be honest … some employees are just there for the paycheck. These employees are easy to identify:
The “Meh Employee” Key Indicators
- They arrive to work either just on time or “unfashionably” late everyday
- They just do the very minimum to get the job done and never go above and beyond the customer’s expectations
- They never volunteer for anything – that’s seen as being a “brown-noser or sell-out”
- They never network or collaborate with their peers on anything outside of obligatory job tasks
- They fear change, growth, and innovation as much as cats fear cucumbers
- They avoid rigorous analytical effort, hard work, and generally lack substantive productivity
I could list many more characteristics of the Meh employee but I think you get the point. Point being: setting yourself apart in the workplace isn’t really as difficult as you think. But it does require hard work, heads-up cognizance of opportunities, and Rocky Balboa-style perseverance.
Try these tactics right now — don’t wait until next week:
15 Guerilla Tactics To Set Yourself Apart From The Pack in The Workplace
Set Your Watch 10 Minutes Ahead and Never Be Late For Anything … Ever!
Repeat after me … “I will never be late for a meeting….ever.” When you can’t get to a meeting on time, your supervisor will naturally wonder what other things you are failing to do within the organization when they don’t see you. Even if a person is a mediocre employee … if they can at least consistently show up on time … they can hide a multitude of weaknesses in other areas. Don’t let these people outpace you on the job over something so simple as showing up to a conference room when you’re supposed to. Additionally, when supervisors and co-workers consistently see that you are the first one to arrive at meetings and scheduled events, they begin to realize that you mean business and this instantly identifies you as a strong and reliable employee.
Volunteer for Everything You Can Until You’ve Established a Solid Reputation of Dedication to the Company:
Remember that most of your co-workers have been brain-washed to think that you should never volunteer for anything because mediocre people in their past have convinced them that volunteerism makes you “square,” a nerd, a brown-noser, a kiss-ass etc. Throw that mentality out the window now. This is the mentality of the lazy. And by the way … these will be the same people who are sweating rain buckets when they find out that management has to make layoffs. Don’t follow their lead. It will lead to a life of missed opportunities and woeful underachievement.
“Under Promise” and “Over Deliver” on Everything:
Do you remember the time when your parents took you to McDonalds as a kid and you carefully opened up the bag to grab your hamburger and fries, only to also find two warm onion rings sitting in the carton or in the bottom of the bag? Do you remember how you felt? You didn’t order onion rings with your fries, but one of the McDonalds employees kindly (or accidentally) threw in a few extras for you to nibble on without you asking for it and at no additional cost. Well, in the business world, people love that experience of extra value too. Build your personal brand recognition by being the employee who goes beyond what the customer or supervision asks them to do and deliver that extra onion ring. You’ll quickly see that people will climb over themselves to seek you out personally because they know that you are giving them premium service every time. All the time.
Within the next 30 Days – Establish a Relationship with At Least Three People Outside of Your Company that Either Support, Are Supported By, or Collaborate with It:
Establishing professional relationships outside of your organization will help you expand your perspective and will readjust your vantage point. This tactic will also give you insight into ways to improve your organization’s processes and planning strategies. You will then be equipped to bring solutions to your supervisor because you are thinking outside of the corporate stove-pipes and exploiting information that many employees aren’t aware of.
Frequently Ask Your Boss What His or Her Biggest Pain Point Is …Then Make That Your #1 Priority to Solve:
In some organizations, you will know immediately or intuitively what your boss’s immediate pain points are. They will be screaming about it every opportunity they get and you will hear it discussed in the board-room every week. However, some of you may work in companies where those variables simply aren’t that apparent because of the complexity of business dynamics or because of where you or your skill-set stands in the office hierarchy. This is when you have to take the initiative and ask your boss what causes him or her the most headaches on the job and prevents the team from completing their objectives. This question will accomplish two things: first it will tell your supervisor that you are genuinely concerned about helping him or her do their job better, and two: it shows your supervisor that you really get it. You understand why they hired you in the first place – to get the job done through smart analysis of how the organization efficiently accomplishes mission objectives and handles challenges.
Find Out What Your Boss’s Bosses’ Priorities Are:
One of the best supervisors I’ve ever worked for gave me some of the most valuable business advice years ago when he told me that if I quickly learn what my boss’s bosses’ priorities are … then I automatically know what my workplace priorities should be. Think about it … if your supervisor’s boss sees that his priorities are being satisfactorily managed and that his or her objectives are being met, (or exceeded) then your boss is (by definition) doing their job. That’s a good thing. In turn, how do you think your boss will feel about your work performance when she isn’t taking heat from her boss for not taking care of their key priorities. Exactly.
Create a Spreadsheet or Calendar With All Your Co-Worker’s Birthdays Listed.
Want to create a personal support system of people who are all willing to do anything for you whenever you need it? Show your co-workers that you can remember something special like their birthday by giving everyone a birthday card on their special day. Also, say congratulations on the birth of their newborn with a card, send your condolences on the loss of their mother with a card and flowers, and always congratulate co-workers when they get a promotion. This act of thoughtfulness and kindness helps to set you apart from others — especially in a day and age when people are self-absorbed and caught up in their own lives and Facebook accounts. In turn, how hard do you think it will be to solicit their help or dial in a favor now and then when you need it in the future? You guessed it.
Never Bring a Problem to Your Boss Without Presenting a Viable Solution Along With It.
There is probably nothing more annoying to a supervisor than an employee who is an expert at explaining problems or issues within the organization but then turns around and walks out of the office without any substantive solutions to counter these obstacles. You need to develop a habit of discussing problems with your supervisor — along with recommendations for solving it in the following breath. This tells your boss that you are an employee that doesn’t just dump the bag of horse crap on his desk and leaves it for him or her to sort through on their own … this also shows your boss that you are an employee who can conceivably serve as a future supervisor as well … hint, hint. Anyone can rattle off a bunch of problems or challenges to another person — heck, your children and radio talk show hosts make a living out of doing that right? But it takes a critical thinker and leader to come up with a solid battle plan to help resolve them.
Identify The Root Cause of a Problem Afflicting Your Company or Organization and Kill It.
Want to know the quickest way to be a hero within your company? Find the one problem that upper management has been wrestling with for years and come up with some well thought out, well researched solutions moving forward. Remember, most of your co-workers will just be doing the zombie office thing and slugging into the office in the morning, hanging around the coffee pot throughout the day, and punching the clock in the evening to head home or to the bar. You’re better than that. You will put in the extra hours and collaborate with like-minded employees to fix limiting issues within the organization. That’s what supervisors look for in future leaders.
Don’t Be Intimidated By Fast-Burners in Your Company… Instead, See Them As Learning Opportunities Instead of A Threat:
Every organization has the guy or gal who seems to just fly at a higher altitude in terms of general intellect, work ethic, energy, skill level, leadership ability, etc. Instead of seeing these “marvels of the workplace” as enemies or threats … see them as an opportunity to learn and expand your own skill-sets. Most professional overachievers will be more than happy to share their “secrets of success” with you if you ask them. That guy in your office who is an absolute wizard at creating jaw-dropping spreadsheets, can probably show you two simple Excel spreadsheet tricks today that will impact your immediate team’s projects in a truly meaningful way, while impressing your boss at the same time. Hating on “Jerry” and “throwing shade” because you suck at Excel and avoiding him produces nothing positive for you. But collaborating with Jerry may gain you knowledge and a new skill. You choose.
Find Out What Your Organization’s Critical Tasks Are and Learn to Do Them.
Every office, organization, company, corporation, and military unit has a set of critical tasks that are vital to mission accomplishment, and in many ways, defines success or failure for the entire team or service. Ask a F-15E pilot if he or she thinks they are specifically trained to accomplish a critical task for the United States Air Force. You need to find the key, critical tasks that have to be completed every time and in the right way in your organization and attempt to learn how to do those tasks. Grant it, some of these tasks may require special certifications, education, and skill-sets … if those variables are within the realm of the achievable … figure out a way to complete it. Even inquire into whether your company would be willing to pay for that requisite certification, masters degree, or course … if not, decide if it is worth digging into your own pocket to finance yourself. Why? Well … part of setting yourself apart from your peers involves possessing rare skill-sets that are critical to the organization’s survival. Here’s the truth: everyone has an important job … but some jobs are so important that there is a plausible risk of sinking the entire company if that that job isn’t done correctly and with steadfast precision. That’s the responsibility you really want to be apart of and learn.
Find Out Who Your Company’s Stakeholders Are and Become A Recognizable Asset to Them.
Your organization’s stakeholders are simply entities with a special interest or concern in your company’s product, activities, or services. These are your customers and investors. These are also people that will ultimately determine the success or failure of your company. You need to identify who your organization’s stakeholders are and ensure that all of their expectations are met and exceeded on a daily basis. If their expectations are not being met, you have to discover why not – and fix it immediately. This level or professional “hustle” and due diligence will not only get you noticed quickly, but will gain you positive attention with corporate.
Never Bad Mouth Your Boss or Your Co-Workers:
Get into the habit of never gossiping in the workplace about your management or co-workers. Gossiping is a cancer that eventually brings down the organization and infuses mistrust and disloyalty into the team. Additionally, the person you engage with during a gossiping session about “Susie in Marketing” or the boss, will be the same person who spreads ill-will about you when you make a mistake or when the chips are down. Furthermore, the toxic office environment that is polluted with gossiping and back-stabbing will eventually impact sales, mission accomplishment, organizational objectives, and of course, morale. You don’t want to be a part of, or even associated with the inevitable Titanic scenario that will invariably ensue. If there are true office problems that need to be addressed, always discuss them face-to-face with your supervision and keep everything above board.
Become The “Go-To” Person For Your Office:
Everyone has that one person in the workplace who everyone goes to for technical, program, or service questions. In fact, you’ve noticed that this guy or gal is so important to your daily work activity, that his or her absence is felt immediately when they are not there. Thrive to be that person in your office or workplace. If you are new to the company – find out who these people are and more importantly, figure out the skills or knowledge that makes them the “go-to” guy. (follow #11 above)
Never Upstage Your Boss In Public – Always Make Them Look Good:
Good supervisors will always create and look for opportunities for you to grow and develop within the organization and your profession. With that said … allow them to elevate your standing within the company over time and as a direct consequence of your hard work and dedication. Never attempt to take a short-cut up the success ladder by trying to upstage them in front of their boss or the rest of the team. This tactic rarely ends well for those that attempt it. Instead, be a team player who ensures that the “head coach” receives their due credit during your successes and is well supported during times of failure and challenge. If you are taking care of the boss and other team members – you will get the right level of credit and reward that you have coming to you anyway. However, if your boss is clearly incompetent and should not be in a position of authority, continue to be the hard working, dedicated worker that you pledged to be during your initial job interview. Besides, the laws of business management and human capital will typically right-size those supervisory mismatches — much like a basketball coach ensuring that his average player isn’t guarding Stephen Curry on the court in a big game.
Oh … By The Way, Here’s Your “Onion Ring”… #16. Get It?
Make It Your Goal To Remember The First Name of Everyone You Formally Meet.
One of the most impressive senior officers that I’ve ever had the honor of working for during my active duty military time, was known all over the base for his innate ability to recall the names of not only everyone under his command, but literally everyone he met face-to-face. I actually witnessed this feat first hand one day after work as I was finishing up my last rep on the weight bench at the base fitness center. As I was about to clear the weights from the bar and wipe down the bench, I heard a deep, but friendly voice say hello, and call me by my rank and name. I turned around and was surprised to see that it was my group commander. Mind you, I had no idea that this full-bird Colonel even knew who I was, much less my name. Yes … a simple thing, but what an impact this ability has on subordinates, co-workers, and leadership. As a team member in the workplace … you have to add this tactic to your tool box if you’re going to set yourself apart from the pack. Not everyone is good at remembering names and job associations … that’s why you have to be the guy who walks into a leadership conference in Las Vegas and remembers everyone that you meet during the first break, because you understand the impact that this skill has on building strong business relationships and networking. Who do you think new acquaintances and potential clients are going to want to collaborate with in the future? Someone who takes the time to remember their name, or the guy who can’t even remember where they first met? Exactly. Good luck out there my friend. Be fearless.
Written by Scott McGinnis, CEO, XGrunt Inc. | Goombay Tally Blog / Facebook