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How to Know If You Are Doing A Good Job

January 28, 2011

Last Friday I spent a couple of hours thinking about my job instead of actually doing it.

I mulled over all that is going on, what I’ve been accomplishing, where my time is being spent, what my priorities are, and so on.

I guess you could say I was reflecting.

To you, this may sound like a colossally assinine waste of time, but self-reflection is actually one of the defining qualities of a high-performance leader. Which I am attempting to be, and I hope you are too.

We get so busy in the frenzy, so lost in the propulsion and swirl of daily activity, it becomes difficult to find the time to step back and ask a few fundamental questions of ourselves about what it is we are actually doing, and if it is effective. Are you working on the right things? Are you delivering the highest and best use of your talents and skills? Are you meeting expectations of those who are watching and talking about you behind your back?

(Yes, people are talking about you behind your back. Get over it.)

The answers to these questions could become very important later on.

For instance, later in the year, right around the time of your performance review. Unfortunately, by then it is probably too late to find out if you are on the wrong track.

Carving out time and space for self-reflection allows you to step back and ask a few questions about your own job performance, and hopefully keep you one step ahead of the curve.

Here is a simple self-reflection exercise you can use to evaluate your own job performance. It involves gauging your work against three criteria.

1. Are you meeting the expectations of your job? Look at the basic expectations set out for your job. It may be outlined in a job description somewhere, or a to-do list, or a bucket of responsibilities. Make sure you know what this is. Are you living up to it? Are you delivering on these minimum expectations? If so, don’t get too excited yet. Because no boss wants people who are simply doing the minimum expectation. That’s not going to get you a promotion, or even keep you in the employment pool these days. You need to do more.

2. What else could you be doing that no one else could do? There are probably things that are not in your current job description, but are things that you could be, or should be doing, because you bring a unique set of skills and experience to the table. This is where you can add value, bring new insights, big ideas, or just plain get more stuff done. There are two things every company expects you to do: save money and generate revenue. What are you doing to contribute above and beyond what is expected of your job?

3.What is the perception that others have of what you should be doing? The key word here is “perception,” because in the corporate world, perception is what forms reality. This is a little more subtle, but essential to understand. It’s far too easy to operate isolated in our own personal bubble of responsibility, when what may be far more important for your career is to understand what the boss, the VIP’s, the executives-in-the-know think about what you should be doing. If you have a disconnect here, then it might not matter how well you perform in the realm of your job description. Find out what others are thinking. Set an appointment with your boss, with your peers, and get feedback. Check in with the most important people you know to make sure you are in alignment with their expectations.

So now that you are self-reflective, stop all that thinking and get out there and make something happen!

Thanks to Nance Marie for the photo. She is doing a great job, isn’t she?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2011 9:12 am

    Perception is reality, isn’t it? Perception even becomes reality in my limited experience.

    I like this tip the best: What else could you be doing that no one else could do? Too often, we just do “stuff” b/c we think “someone” has to get it done! And we get so busy doing stuff (often stuff that other people can do) that we miss out in contributing what we can individually and uniquely contribute.

    Now, my challenge is convincing lawyers to operate in this mindset. Think I have a chance?

    • January 30, 2011 7:52 pm

      I met last week with a partner from one of the big Philly law firms, who was trying to get “strategic alignment” out of her firm’s staff. We joked about how independent and opinionated most attorneys are, the prima donnas and all that. I think there’s a chance, but clearly there are challenges in manging the personalities in a law firm. We agreed that if there was a greater vision, and a specific direction to point them in, at least there would be competition among the attorneys to achieve it!

  2. January 28, 2011 1:34 pm

    i agree that self-reflection is good. and i like that you have given some really good things to reflect on. because self-reflection without some kind of positive starting point might not be as helpful and constructive. not that there aren’t times for daydreaming, however, it is better to possess and hold onto a more positive direction toward planning and action. which is what i believe that that these questions encourage.

    the third question of perception really intrigues me. i would think that it would take some
    practice to be able to communicate with someone to obtain perceptions and expectations.
    however, it seems to me that it is very important to take advantage of this understanding for
    reasons related to performance advantage more than a once a year review that is in someone
    else’s hands. i like the pro-active mindset of this awareness.

    good post, bj.

    (and thanks for using the shot. very cool)

    • January 30, 2011 7:53 pm

      Yes, I think that this last question forces us to reflect beyond the here and now to ask how we can actually make a big differene in the areas of influence that we work in.

      And your photo, once again, was a perfect fit!

  3. January 28, 2011 3:32 pm

    I love times of self-reflection. They’re good for the soul and the mind. Thanks for stopping by my blog to comment, Bradley. I always appreciate your posts and comments on THC and can’t wait until we all get together again!

  4. January 31, 2011 11:34 am

    I love how you’ve given Thinking Time the credit it deserves. It seems like if we don’t have something immediate to “show for it,” we’re being time-wasters. But honestly, I get some of my best work done while driving, when I simply think things over, reflect, dream, and plan ahead.

    I appreciate this thoughtful post … and the photo, too.

  5. January 31, 2011 11:38 am

    Maybe it’s the weather, but I was doing a lot of reflecting this weekend as well so your post is very timely.

    I like the suggestion to look around for what you could be doing that nobody else can or is doing. It’s so easy to get trapped within our own perception of what our job is, isn’t it?

    Always be learning and looking for opportunities to increase your net worth as an employee, as a leader, and as a person. Your suggestion plays well in this.

    Thanks for the great post.

  6. February 3, 2011 8:43 am

    Sage questions and point of views.
    Further insightful questions: Are you inspired and do you feel the flow every day? Are you making a difference?

    Thank you.

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