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.
*** A BIG thank you to my readers now in 75 countries around the world! Wow. ***

Add More Value

Want More (of anything) At Work?
Add.  More.  Value.

It can be hard to accept that
success requires more than hard work.
But it's true. You have to add value.

I know a lot of people who work hard. Some of them are successful and advancing in their careers... and some aren't. Those who aren't, usually struggle to understand why, given how hard they're working. 
"My boss has no idea how hard I work."
"I'm killing myself at work and no one seems to care." 
"There's more to do than I could possibly get done. I'll never get ahead."
I said every one of those things at different points in my career. I'm sure each statement was true at the time too. The real truth was, though, that none of those statements had anything to do with how successful I was in moving my career forward. My focus on how hard I was working got in my way more than once, until I learned this valuable lesson.

Hard work is important and necessary. But what if you want more (of anything) at work? More opportunity? More responsibility? More respect? More money? Those things, and so many more, are given to people who add value. Working hard gets you in the game. Adding value is how you win. If you want more of anything at work, you have to add value.
Below:  5 quick tips on how to add value at work.  

How To Add More Value

Let's start by shaking off a few myths about what it takes to get ahead at work. First, having great experience and strong skills doesn't ensure that you'll get ahead. Second, being the smartest doesn't ensure that you'll get ahead. And third, working the hardest doesn't ensure you'll get ahead. Bummer, right? For people who are experienced, skilled, smart, and hardworking that may seem a little depressing. Keep the faith. All of those things matter. You just need to use them to add value if you want to get ahead. Here's how.

1. Know enough to have "informed" opinions.

To add value at work, you have to be informed about the things that matter to your organization - and to your customers who fuel your organization's success. What do your customers want today? What might your customers want tomorrow? What can your business do, within reason, to deliver those things? Customers are the lifeblood of your organization. Even if you don't interact with customers, you need to understand the intricacies of how your business works and succeeds in serving them. Ask others. Observe, listen, and learn.  

Spend time thinking about how to make your business better. Come up with good ideas that are work-able and reasonable for the business. People at all levels of your organization can come up with good ideas. And people who come up with good ideas, add value. Know enough to have "informed" opinions and be prepared to share them when you have the opportunity.

2. Speak up only, and always, with purpose.

Have you ever been in a meeting and someone is speaking, but they aren't really saying anything that matters? They're either repeating what's already been said, or they're saying something that seems unrelated or unimportant to the discussion (even if it's moderately smart and interesting). It's just noise. Don't be one of those people. Please. To add value, you have to speak with purpose.

Speak up and share your opinions with three things in mind. What matters - to whom - and when? Speak to the right people, at the right time, about the right things. It's the only way to add value in a discussion. Also be clear on what you're trying to accomplish and say so. Looking for a decision? Trying to convince the team to consider acting on a new idea? Asking for input before you make a change? Say so. Speak up only, and always, with purpose.

3. Take action and solve problems.

Once you're informed enough to have and share opinions, be prepared to act on them. Once an opinion about how the business can succeed is agreed to, action is needed. Don't be the one sitting quietly with eyes averted when the opportunity comes to take accountability. Be willing to take action and solve problems, whether it's your idea or someone 
else's that creates the opportunity.

You can work 80+ hours a week, every week of the year, but if you don't solve problems for the organization... you won't be given more of anything. (Except possibly more work, so someone else can go solve problems for the organization.) You don't have to solve world hunger to add value. Just take action, and solve problems that matter, big or small.

4. Deliver your best consistently.

You add value to your organization when you bring your best to the plate consistently and you're focused on adding value. Some people shine bright when they think others are looking, and then settle into mediocrity when others turn away. Over time, the discrepancy almost always becomes apparent. 

Consistency counts, big-time, in the business world. It's one of the traits leaders most appreciate. This is particularly true when it comes to employees who consistently apply their best thinking to the benefit of the organization. If you deliver consistently, with an eye toward adding value as you go, you'll add a lot of value to your organization over time. Before long, you'll have more of anything you want at work, without even having to ask. Deliver your best consistently.

5. Abide by the rules, but only to a point.

Every organization has unspoken rules about how to get things done. You usually learn these as you go along - things like who has the most influence in the organization and how to make suggestions. The general theory is that to keep the peace, you have to play by the rules. I say yes and no. You can't be a bull in a china shop at work and expect to be successful over the long haul. But playing by the rules all the time may keep you from sharing ideas that are worth sharing, to the detriment of the organization. 

Sometimes, ideas or changes are important enough to shake things up a little bit. (Note: a little bit.) Be creative in finding ways to have your voice heard or move your ideas forward - outside of the normal processes that exist in your organization. Think of it as dancing on the edge of the dance floor. Build strong relationships with co-workers or a boss who will support you if you go out on a limb. Always remember that your objective is to add value and benefit the business, not create unnecessary disruption, noise or chaos. The more successful you become at guidelines 1-4 above, the less you'll be held to unspoken rules in the first place.

Bottom Line

Before I share my final thoughts on this topic, I want to share this insight from best-selling author and business expert Seth Godin:

"If you come to my brainstorming meeting and say nothing, it would have been better if you hadn't come at all. 
If you go to work and do what you're told, you're not being negative, certainly, but the lack of initiative you demonstrate (which, alas, you were trained not to demonstrate) costs us all, because you're using a slot that could have been filled by someone who would have added more value.  
It's tempting to sit quietly, take notes and comply, rationalizing that at least you're not doing anything negative. But the opportunity cost that your newly lean, highly leveraged organization faces is significant. 
Not adding value is the same as taking it away."
That last statement is profound and so true in today's work environments, where there aren't enough people to do all the work that needs to be done. Your company may not actively encourage you to add value. You may feel like you're supposed to just do your job, and leave "problem solving" to your leadership team. But your leadership team doesn't always have the right answers and they know it. (Even if they don't show it.) Once you learn how to form and share your opinions so that it's clear how the organization benefits, you'll be given countless opportunities to add value and influence outcomes.

Work hard, yes, most definitely. But if you want your company to remain successful, and you want to have, do or get more from your company... add value. You don't have to come up with the next big revolutionary idea. Just add value in small and incremental ways resulting in a big impact over time. It's the most direct route to getting more (of anything) at work.

One final thought:  

As a consultant and a coach, I have to bring relevant experience to the table. I have to be skilled and smart. I have to work hard. But none of those things matter if I don't add value. I have to leave things better than I found them to be successful. I have to add value. As I look back on my career, I realize now that adding value has been the truest measure of my success all along. I just didn't always know it at the time. It's a worthy pursuit, to be sure.

More soon,

PS:  If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends, family and colleagues using the buttons below.  Pay it forward!