Between The Code

thoughts on coding and everything in between

Monthly Archives: November 2013

Raise The Bar

Do you consider yourself a pretty good employee? Or have you attained “rockstar” status at work?

Or are you like those people on American Idol who have been told they totally can sing and would hands down win, but they actually really can’t sing to save their life?

All too often it seems I encounter people who think they are all that plus the six-plus figures they are expecting, but the truth is that they are not operating at that level of responsibility and excellence.

I have recently been through the process of interviewing candidates for a few positions and I am sorry to say I was very disappointed with my hiring choices. I was looking for quality employees who needed little guidance from me or anyone else. I was willing to pay for quality employees! I needed people who could pick things up quickly, be self-motivated, problem solve on their own, and for heaven’s sake could follow the simplest of directions. I thought that is what I was getting based on the interviews I conducted and the money I was putting on the table. Little did I know.

It seems the understanding of quality work and workers has been lost. People either cannot see the bar anymore for the great distance it is above their head, or they have taken the bar down and put it on the ground in the name of entitlement or sensitivity to others.

Please.

First off, good work is not the same as good enough work. If you care anything at all about what you do or what your work efforts produce, you should do more than just good enough. Think about what good enough says about you. With a bit of training, any person could do good enough. It certainly doesn’t say “I’m irreplaceable” or “I do valuable work”.

If you don’t care whether or not someone can say that about you at your current job, start looking now for one where you do care. You are hurting yourself, your employer, and your co-workers by churning out worthless work and wasting your (and their) time. If you can’t find another job right now, then look at the job you’re in as practice time and practice doing what you do really well so when the time comes, your new employer will be ecstatic to have you.

The point is, raise the bar. Do more than just enough. Make yourself valuable.

Perhaps those paragraphs don’t describe you at all. You are a hard worker and you know you do good work. Excellent! Now, let’s raise the bar.

Ask yourself where you could be better. Better yet, ask your co-workers and your boss to give you honest feedback of areas of improvement for you. Be prepared. You might not like what you hear. But I guarantee that if you actually work on those things, your perceived value will increase. And that perceived value will become real value and increased value as you work on those things.

So just to give a few concrete and practical ways to raise the bar, here are a few things to try:

1. Come up with solutions to problems instead of always just pointing out the problems. I’m not talking about emergencies, but for non-emergency types of problems, practice your critical thinking skills. Roll your sleeves up and see what you can do on your own! For heaven’s sake at least give it a stab on Google! Not only will people around you see that you are doing more than just enough, you will grow more than you probably thought. Win-win for everyone. 

2. Practice. Even if all you do is squeeze in 30 minutes on your lunch break, its well worth it to practice your craft at least a couple of days a week. You will find your own shortcomings this way. Set the bar high and see where you fall, then practice improving until you surpass that fail point. 

3. Practice integrity. Be honest with others and yourself. Be an ethical employee (come in on time, don’t leave early, etc). Don’t talk bad about others (especially not those you work with or for!). Upgrade your vocabulary at least in the office (sure it’s hard to keep it clean, but you will be seen in a far better light if you can control your tongue! Especially in front of customers!) 

4. Learn. Don’t freak out, I’m not saying you need to go back to school (although, kudos to you if you decide you do need to do that). Take the time to learn a new skill at work or to improve upon the skills you have. Whether than means asking to sit with someone while they do a task or Google-ing how to do something. Whatever it is that you have been tasked with or you find interest in, take the time to learn it without asking your boss to show you or take care of it for you. Remember, you are raising the bar, not ridding the coat-tails. 

5. Question everything. Well, not literally everything, but at least stop and question yourself when you think you’ve done everything asked of you. Double check. Think again. Look again. Could you have possibly missed something? Maybe you didn’t miss something, but is there an opportunity for improvement? Perhaps this one won’t produce much extra in your output of quality work as often as the others will, but it will at least keep you thinking and keep you on your toes which can only improve how you are thought of by your peers and your boss. 

The point is: raise the bar. Raise it for yourself.

Don’t wait for someone else to tell you the bar is way over your head – at that point the next thing you’ll see is a pink slip.

Raise the bar now. Do more than just enough.

 “Anything worth doing at all, is worth doing well.” – Lord Chesterfield