The best employees understand that while some ideas might seem at first blush to be contradictory, they may actually be keys to better performance. So take a look at the ones outlined below. While some of them may seem like contradictions, if we take a closer look, they might not really be; but I’ll let you decide that for yourself.
The best employees understand that it’s important to give yourself time to breathe and have fun. And then get stuff done.
Folks are tricked into feeling like they must choose between two extremes on this one. Either they can be workaholic, Look-at-me-I-haven’t-even-gone-to-the-bathroom-on-company-time-since-Donald-Trump-was-still-on-The-Apprentice types, or they’re somehow convinced that all of work and life is one, big, hippy commune where we’ll all simply sprinkle pixie dust all over our projects and happily wish them to completion whilst singing merry little ditties together.
Here’s the thing. Neither of those is a healthy, human approach to work and life. Both research and common sense tell us that humans can’t and don’t work well for eight, non-stop, uninterrupted hours. The best employees understand the importance of taking breaks, connecting with teammates, having fun, investing in interpersonal relationships, developing others, and so on; just like they understand the importance of flat-out getting stuff done. Can’t have one without the other.
The best employees understand that you can fit in with a team and still be unique.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. Ready?
My position remains that people “fit” together better when they’re all unique — or human — together. I see teams actually fitting together better when people are able to bring their unique personalities, skills, and perspectives to the table.
The best employees understand that you should be insatiably curious, but question with a positive purpose.
I believe some degree of curiosity is an absolutely indispensable trait in successful employees, leaders, and human beings. Often, that curiosity will manifest itself in the form of questions and questioning. I think that’s great; I really do. As I’ve stated elsewhere a time or twelve, questions can be used in so many positive ways and toward so many positive ends, even if others might not understand them in the moment.
But at the same time, we always have to be self-aware and ask ourselves why we’re asking stuff. The best employees are curious about things and ask questions with a positive purpose, meaning that in many cases, they’re trying to figure things out so that then they can take action and make something positive happen.
Contrast this with what I’d call “complaining questioners.” Those are the folks who tend to question everything, but with no discernible point or purpose other than what seems to be complaining about things; and even after receiving answers, they don’t seem to then take the information and do anything positive. They simply move on to the next series of things to question.
The best employees understand that job descriptions are important, but only somewhat important, and only as a start.
Job descriptions are such a crap shoot, aren’t they? What the best employees understand, though, is that even great job descriptions are really just a start. They outline the basics of the job, but great teammates and high performers aren’t really as concerned about the job description as they are about being alert to what their team and organization need at any given point in time and being ready and willing to do what it takes to make things happen, regardless of whether it’s “their job” or not. Those are the folks that stand out, and are often the ones you see rallying others around the cause.
So what’s the bottom line? Take a breath, but get stuff done. Want to fit in? Then don’t be afraid to stick out. Be curious, but with a purpose. And forget about trying to figure out exactly what “your job” is and figure out what others need.