I've noticed that the top performers in an organization are not necessarily the most talented. It is not even the ones who work extremely hard and take on greater projects. It's the ones that do the simple things well and almost never slip up. Even if they don't rise to the top of a business, they get quite far.
The simple things
Yes, it's important to develop skills. And yes, it's important to network and share your craft and focus on your job trajectory. You cannot go too far without continuing to develop skills for the role ahead of you. Yet what I've noticed is most people don't even get to this point. They cannot even execute on the very simple things that separate good performers from poor performers.
Below are some example of simple things you can do to separate yourself from others. Skip these things at your own peril.
I'm very surprised by the percentage of people who do not follow meeting etiquette or take the time to prepare for a most productive meeting. What is interesting is that customer facing teams will complete all of the meeting best practices for customers, but do none of them internally.
Do this and you will immediately stand out amongst your peers.
If you tell others you'll deliver on something, deliver on it. If you are going to be late, inform them you'll be late and when you'll expect it to be complete. That's it.
A consistent theme I've seen amongst top performers is their willingness to share their work. They consistently share what they are working on, learnings, or even struggling with. If they have wins with customers, they share it. If they notice the good work of others, they share it. This can be in slack, email, or even team meetings. They eventually are seen as idea generators and a person who is capable of contributing. More simply, they are more visible across the org.
When someone asks you for help, especially for which you are somewhat responsible, you should politely smile (in-person or with emojis) and thank them for allowing you to contribute within your role. The sentiment of some to often complain, or show mild annoyance, for assisting with anything remotely beyond their specific duties confuses me and is very shortsighted. Be helpful and others will seek you out as someone resourceful.
You probably spend much of your day either reading emails or writing emails. How you write is how you will be perceived. So learn how to be an effective email writer. My friend recently wrote a short article with tips to get started.
People don't get promotions by executing against processes assigned to them. Doing this does not prove they can improve processes, build new things, and innovate. Generating and contributing new ideas and then making them reality is how you grow. A theme we speak about on my team is the 'what if?' philosophy. Always be asking, "what if..." we did this, or that. It's simply a mindset change.
I could probably come up with 5 or so more examples of very simple yet effective habits that make up top performers in any organization. Notice, I did not share anything about become an expert, mastering a craft, or becoming world class. There are truly talented individuals that will rise very quickly in organizations. But what is more common is doing the simple things consistently well over time. They are easy to do. But they do take discipline and require a mindset shift.