Why Doing a ‘Good Job’ Won’t Get You Anywhere

If you think doing a “good job” is what it takes to get to the head of the pack, you’re wrong.

Doing a good job is a starting point. It’s what’s expected. Plenty of people are doing a good job, but they’re dead in the water.

Tough words to hear, but they don’t need to be the last if you stop dwelling on what your company should do for you. It will only make you angry, resentful and useless. Instead, focus on getting to the head of the pack, and develop a skillset for solving problems.

What skills, you ask? These five will do the trick:

1) Make stuff make sense. Communications in business—emails, letters, memos, reports and the like—don’t often make sense to those who can benefit most from their message.

In all communications, focus on your audience—co-workers, vendors or those you want to do business with. Picture these people looking over your shoulder as you write, and ask yourself what they would benefit from hearing.

2) Get out of yourself. Is this really a skill? You bet. Most people think if they just take the right classes, get the right degrees and have the right experience, they’re all set. But that’s not enough to get ahead.

We beat up on millennials for being too self-centered. But maybe we’re just jealous, feeling left behind by these 79 million young adults. Could it be that we’re the ones who feel entitled and expect accommodation just because we’ve been in line longer? 

It’s not about you. The only way to grow is to get out of yourself.

3) Let your mind run wild. This may be a treasonable offense in some companies, but it’s the mental engine that stimulates thinking, fosters dialogue and, most important, drives creativity in the workplace.

Letting your mind roam is the cure for ‘solution think,’ the disease that bedevils marketing and salespeople in particular. Some sales & marketing programs are certain they know what customers want, what works and what doesn’t. And before long, they’re gone.

Instead, approach problems in a way that challenges what sounds good and what others want to hear.

4) Be a magnet for tough jobs. After Randall Stephenson spent decades taking on tough assignments across the world for AT&T, CEO Edward Whitacre, Jr., handpicked him as his successor. “This one looks easy,” Stephenson said to Whitaker, who replied, “Why do you think I chose you?”

If you want to get to the head of the pack, look for tough, problematic jobs that make others run and hide. Companies want people who want to make a difference, not those who mark the days on their calendars.

5) Make yourself memorable. Doing a good job is like living in the shadows. To change that and become a leader that makes an impact, make yourself memorable.

That's what one couple learned about marketing and sales when looking for a second home. The first real estate agent they worked with was enthusiastic and lined up a couple of showings quickly, but neither piqued the couple’s interest. Promising to get back to them with other properties, the agent suddenly went “offline.”

The pair contacted another agent, who asked questions and sent them a weekly e-bulletin featuring a description of only one property based on their profile. Now, the couple doesn’t even remember the name of the first agent they worked with.

John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategy consultant.