The business world is fantastic. It's also challenging. Over the course of your career, you'll face ethical, cultural, political, and personal dilemmas in the workplace. You'll work with difficult people. You'll find yourself in compromising situations. You'll have to balance who you are as an individual with what your employer asks of you.
Can you stay true to who you are without sacrificing your success? Absolutely YES.
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Great Employee?

Are You A Great Employee?
Three Ways To Know For Sure

Being a great employee is about more than 
working hard and delivering results.
The payoff is worth it.

I have a confession to make. I haven't always been a great employee. It hurts a little to admit it. It also makes me realize I'm much wiser today than I was even a few years ago. Before you get the wrong impression, read on. After all, you may be in the same boat and not even know it.

For years I believed that being smart, hardworking, and committed made me a great employee. I would work long hours, juggle priorities, and deliver important results. I thought it was enough. What I realized at one point is that those characteristics made me a great worker. It takes more than that to be a great employee. I can say that because I've been both. Sometimes I really earned my status as a great employee. Other times, I didn't.

You might be wondering why you should even care if you're a great employee. Here's why. Great workers... are pretty easily replaced. Great employees... are not. We all want to feel valued at work. Irreplaceable even. The fact is, you really only fall into that category when you go beyond what's expected of you in your job. Great employees are the ones that companies fight to keep. They're also typically the most successful and the most satisfied people in a company.

Increased job security? More opportunities for advancement? Greater success? More satisfaction? I mean, if you have to work (and work hard) anyway, why not focus on what it takes to be a great employee? You might be surprised just how little it takes to gain a lot of ground.
What does it take to be a great employee?   
Three Ways To Know If You're A Great Employee

I know what you're thinking. "I'm working so hard and making so many sacrifices. If my company doesn't think I'm great, well, too bad." Long hours. More to-do's than you can possibly get done. Unrealistic deadlines and expectations. Added busy work that you know doesn't matter, but you have to do it anyway. I've been there.

I can remember thinking at times that I couldn't possibly give any more than I was already giving. I didn't feel particularly appreciated for what I was already doing. Why in the world would I consider doing more?

It seems ridiculous to think that being smart, hardworking and committed isn't enough to make you a great employee. I may not have always seen it in the moment, but it's true. I'm here to tell you, it takes more than hard work and results.

Here are three ways you can know for sure you're a great employee.

1.  You Consistently Deliver Great Results.

I'll start by saying that it doesn't matter what else you do if you aren't someone who delivers great results. Working an agenda to be valuable in other areas may help you for a while, but eventually everyone is required to deliver. Ask yourself these questions. If you can't answer yes to most, if not all of these questions, I encourage you to consider raising the bar for yourself. 
  • Do you consistently deliver results that meet or exceed expectations of those around you?
  • Do you show up expecting to do great work every day?
  • Do you find yourself being the go-to resource for your boss because he or she knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that you'll deliver?
  • Do you occasionally get a "wow" response, exceeding what others thought possible?
  • Do you make and keep commitments to others in the organization?
  • Do you admit mistakes and errors when they occur?
  • Do you clearly reset expectations when things aren't on course?
A "yes" answer to these questions is the first step toward becoming a great employee. It's a BIG step, too, so give yourself well-deserved credit before you read on.

2.  You Have A Positive Influence On Your Organization.

The second thing that makes you a great employee is that you have a positive influence on your organization. You deliver results, but you also leave things better than you found them. I encourage you to be really honest with yourself here. This isn't about not being a negative influence. It isn't about being neutral and just doing your job either. It's about helping to move your company forward on a positive and productive path toward greater performance over time.
  • Do you find - and solve - real problems for the organization?
  • Do you identify opportunities for the organization to be better, smarter and faster?
  • Do you suggest specific changes that could be positive for employees, customers and partners?
  • Do you embrace change, and do your part to get the best possible results, even if the decision isn't one you'd choose? 
  • Do you take direction well and respectfully?
  • Do you support your boss and acknowledge his or her authority?
  • Do you work well with others, including people you don't particularly like?
  • Do you support and respect your peers, even when you disagree?
  • Do you manage conflict in a productive way, without undue negativity?
  • Do you avoid bad-mouthing the company, its leadership and its customers?
  • Do you treat co-workers with respect and communicate directly and honestly?
This is a tough category, I think for most people. I've done this well, and not so well, at different points in my career. What I know for sure is that if you want to be satisfied and successful in your career, doing this well matters. It's crucial for organizations to have people who positively influence future directions. If you aren't a positive influence, you shouldn't be allowed to remain for any length of time. Even being neutral does your company a disservice.

This category of performance is sometimes the sole difference between someone who stays during a layoff, and someone who goes. This is an area where I've invested heavily in my own professional development over the years. The payoff is huge if you put in the work. Want to be appreciated, valued and retained? Do these things.

3.  You're "All In" - You Invest Beyond Your Job.

I know. You're working hard. You have a busy life outside of work. You can't do any more. I'm here to tell you that you can. I'm not suggesting you join committees and volunteer for every social event in your company. I am suggesting, though, that you invest in being interested in your company. This is about showing support. It's a measure of loyalty for most employers.

Engaged and loyal employees who also deliver on #1 and #2 above are like bricks of gold for an organization. The great thing about being "all in" is that you also learn a lot and expand your experience. You become more marketable because of your experience. You also generally have a lot more fun at work. 
  • Do you understand all aspects of your business?
  • Do you provide constructive input when you have an opinion about the business?
  • Do you take advantage of opportunities to interact with company leadership?
  • Do you get involved in new projects?
  • Do you show initiative and express interest in having a greater influence?
  • Do you expand your knowledge and skills to the betterment of the business?
  • Do you participate actively in company functions and events to show your support?
  • Do you develop relationships across the organization to gain and share insight?
When you get involved with your company and the things that make it great, you become part of that greatness. It's a pretty big game changer. I haven't always chosen to do this. When I haven't been a great employee, it's because I chose not to engage beyond my work and my co-workers. If you don't do this, at least make sure it's by conscious choice. There are consequences to your overall value if you choose not to engage.

You may run into people who focus exclusively in this area, and fail to deliver results or be a particularly positive influence in their organization. Those people may cause you to turn away from being "all in" yourself; they're seen as brown-nosers or kiss-ups. Don't fall into that trap. Ignore those people. They have nothing to do with who you are or how you're contributing.

Bottom Line

Being successful at work doesn't require that you be a great employee. Organizations are filled with people who work hard, show commitment, and deliver solid results. The employees are great workers, many feeling successful and satisfied in their jobs. The issue is that those people are prettily easily replaced in a lot of cases. People come and go, and the organization just keeps running as if they were never there.

Great employees, on the other hand, have broad and deep influence. They go beyond their job responsibilities to offer value to the organization. They interact and engage differently than others and gain advantage as a result. Companies fight to keep these employees. They enjoy increased job security, more opportunities for advancement, greater success and more satisfaction.

The good news is that every incremental effort you make adds to your overall value in an organization. There are things you can do to work toward being a great employee.  It all starts with consistently delivering great results. You cannot be a great employee if you don't do great work. Period. Make and keep your commitments. Meet or exceed expectations. Deliver results.

To be a great employee you also have to be a positive influence within your organization. Find and solve problems, embrace change, and work productively with others. Finally, you have to be "all in" and invest beyond your job responsibilities. Learn about your business, participate in new initiatives, and take advantage of opportunities to engage with others on things other than work assignments.

It seems like working hard should be enough. Generally, it is. But if you want to be truly valuable to your organization, you have to do more. You have to engage more fully and participate more actively. The payoff is absolutely worth it if you do this work.

One final note: It isn't easy to be a great employee. There'll be times in your career when you choose not to earn the title. That's okay. When the stakes are high and you're in a role you love, or one that's important to your career progression... do the work. It's worth it and it gets easier the more you practice. The more you make greatness part of who you are and how you perform in any role, the more successful and satisfied you'll be.

More soon,