January 20, 2021
We are all looking forward to the end of the pandemic. It cannot come soon enough. Right now, many individual contributors want to impress their boss and come out of the gate sprinting in 2021.
What actions can you take that will impress your boss the most?
– To answer that question, I gathered data from 9,288 individual contributors. The data was an evaluation where managers rated their direct reports on 48 individual behaviors (which clustered into 16 competencies).
– They rated their performance on both productivity and effort.
– Individual contributors were divided into two groups based on their performance rating (e.g., those below average and above).
– Calculating t-tests on the results, we looked at the biggest differences between the below average and above average groups.
After all of that, I was able to identify the top five competencies that will impress your boss.
I wanted to go the extra mile for you, so I applied an experimental design to my analysis. I randomly selected 50% of the individual contributors from this same sample group and ran the same analysis listed above. In both studies, the top five competencies were the same—an excellent finding.
In the graph below, I show the average effectiveness ratings on the 5 competencies, comparing those in the below-average to the above-average group on their performance ratings.
(If you desire nitty-gritty details when doing a t-test comparing the two groups, the T-Value = 56.53, Sig. 0.000. This was when using the randomly selected 50% of participants.)
While the analysis did show that all 16 competencies were statistically significant, I wanted to highlight the top five competencies that made the biggest difference. The above chart demonstrates that above-average performance on these five competencies will significantly impact performance rankings. Simulating the impact of being above average on three of the competencies would move the performance ranking to the 50th percentile, but having three of the competencies at the 90th percentile would move the performance ranking to the 75th percentile.
In other words, doing THREE of these five extremely well should be the preferred path.
Five Ways to Impress Your Boss
1. Stretch Yourself. Most people plan to do the work they are assigned and work reasonably hard. What really impresses a boss is where people go above and beyond and stretch themselves to achieve something out of the ordinary. When your manager assigns you a pile of work with the expectation that it will be completed in a week, those who stretch themselves complete the work in three days. Some people worry that if they stretch once, their manager will expect that performance level every week, but never stretching yourself conceals from your manager what you truly can accomplish. Be willing to stretch yourself on some assignments. Let your boss know that to accomplish this stretch goal you went above and beyond expectations. Doing this will demonstrate to your boss what is possible.
2. Consistently Deliver Expected Results. Many people assume that if they occasionally deliver expected results, that will be good enough. But those who consistently deliver results create a difference in their manager’s mind. There is a fascinating interview with the actor Will Smith where he talks about being on a treadmill in a gym and someone is next to him working out. Smith is so competitive that he says that he will die before he gets off the treadmill first. While that seems like an overreaction, what would your manager think if he knew how far you would go to deliver your expected results? When you’re consistent about delivering results with no excuses, this can significantly impact how your boss perceives you.
3. Take More Initiative. I was always fascinated when my daughters brought their boyfriends over for Sunday dinner. Some would watch me cleaning up after dinner, but others would help. It was the helpers that got my nod of approval. When you finish an assignment, do you wait to be told what to do next? Or do you look to see what needs to be done? Those who take initiative see the mess and clean it up; they see and take care of a problem before it occurs. These actions get noticed. When your boss must ask you to help clean up the mess, you get no extra credit.
4. Solve a Problem. It is interesting how long people will put up with things that need fixing. A leaking tap, an inefficient procedure, a process that could be automated but is still manual. There are a thousand things in every organization that need fixing, but the average person does the work inefficiently and then complains about how the job is dumb. Solve a difficult problem; fix something and your name will always be associated with the new, improved solution.
5. Set the Example of High Performance For Others. It is always nice to have an employee who performs well, but what is better is an employee who encourages others to also perform well. Often, they do this by their example when others are not looking. It is also done by the attitude, encouragement, and enthusiasm they bring to work. Working alongside someone who hates their job and does the bare minimum is discouraging and draining, but working with an enthusiastic person who loves what they do makes the journey enjoyable.
Hopefully, this article has provided some practical, actionable ways to set your performance apart from others and impress your boss. Keep in mind that these five behaviors were not dreamed up or imagined but instead, come out of scientific research that validates their impact. Remember—just doing three of these things extremely well will raise your performance ranking into the top quartile
(This article first appeared on Forbes.)
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