Early in my career, I worked at the worldwide headquarters for Kraft Foods as the Corporate Recruiter. The VP of HR gave everyone in the department a token for our desks to remind us how to stay focused.
It displayed 3 simple questions…
1. What’s my job?
You must be clear about what’s expected of you. How are you supposed to spend your time and energy? What are you supposed to do?
People (bosses, employees, clients and vendors) make assumptions about what’s supposed to be done. They often assume that the other person has the same understanding that they do. This is not always the case. It’s critical that you confirm your understanding of your job with your boss or clients.
Be clear. Write down your understanding. Have the review your document and then discuss it.
2. What counts?
Once you have the clarity, the next step is setting priorities. I remember hearing a story about a new senior manager at Apple asking her Director boss if her job was to get things done or make people happy. She knew technically what she was supposed to do – oversee the implementation of all software development projects. She just needed clarity about HOW to go about making that happen.
If trade-offs have to happen, make sure you’re clear about what criteria will be used to make those trade-offs.
3. How am I doing?
This is a great question to ask yourself AND the people you’re delivering your service to. You know if your slacking or not.
You may not know though how well your boss or client think you’re doing.
Better to check in periodically than risk being blinded-sided by the sudden disclosure you’re not measuring up. People are sometimes reluctant to offer negative feedback. So they may just put up with being unhappy until they can’t stand it anymore. Then they fire you when you don’t measure up to their (uncommunicated) standards.
Don’t be caught by surprise. Assess your performance constantly and get feedback from people important to your success to make sure you stay on track.