Keep track of accomplishments

“The palest ink is better than the best memory.” — Chinese proverb

This pithy maxim is very true, especially in corporate environments. It always makes sense to keep a running track of your work, especially milestones and achievements. Situations when this is the most useful:

1. When preparing weekly project status reports.

2. Getting ready for the annual performance reviews, so that you do not have to spend hours trying to recall everything that you did in the last year or going through every email communication from the past year. The list can also help in filling up gaps in the manager’s list of your work during such reviews.

3. When updating your resume from time-to-time so that you do not miss a mention of your smallest yet critical and impactful contributions.

4. When you want to perform a status check on your career from time to time (daily, weekly, monthly, semi-annually, annually). This list can provide insightful evidence and answer questions such as “where do I spend the most of my time”, “are my achievements in the right direction”, “is this where I want my career to go” and so on.

If you are managing other people, this list extends into keeping track of their work as well. Anyone who works for you will be pleasantly surprised if during performance review, you point out a small but important contribution that he or she did not think about. I have found that this habit makes the whole review process much faster, easier and more accurate.

It is a good habit to cultivate, both for the manager and the managed.

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What’s in a name?

At a presentation I recently attended, one of the presenters was explaining the work of his colleague. He frequently referred to the other person by everything but his name. Examples: “So what this guy has done is yada yada yada.”, “He has taken this and this and combined into that”. By the end of the presentation, the audience did not even know the name of this person he was referring to; and the poor guy was standing right besides him all the time.

Lesson: Always remember that everyone has a name. When talking about others, refer to them by name rather than saying “he” or “she” or “this guy”, at least when the person is present during the conversation. It offers dignity to the person and makes him/her feel important and above all, a human being.

Always do it with enthusiasm

In the corporate world, or even at home, if you HAVE to end up peforming some task or on a project regardless of how you feel about it, then try doing it cheerfully and with enthusiasm. Doing something while complaining about it at the same time is a no-win situation. If you are not successful, then the result may be linked to you not wanting it to do in the first place, no matter how hard you tried. And even if you accomplish in completing the task successfully, it may still leave a bad feeling around because you worked at it with a sad face all the time. Doing it with enthusiasm, on the other hand, has its own benefits:

1. Sucesss will be linked to your enthusiasm, zeal and spirit.

2. You will establish your image as someone who simply gets things done.

3. You may end up completing it sooner than planned, because you so much wanted to get rid of it.

4. You may start liking what you are doing along the way and maybe the work was not bad at all to begin with.

5. You will have the leverage of showing preference for working on more interesting stuff soon after you get done.

In the corporate world, the general rule is that you get to work on bigger and better things only when you demonstrate success at what you are doing right now.

Hare and tortoise

We all know about the story of hare and tortoise. Yesterday I was thinking about an analogy in the corporate world. Lets say you got recognized for your hard work this past year by upper management. Everyone in the group is admiring you for the achievement. At that point, you can leverage your position of advantage in two opposite ways:

1. Rest on your laurels and keep doing the same tasks. It can lead to either you becoming easy-going at what you have been doing (because suddenly you think you are better than what you were a day ago), and/or it can lead to others catching up on you (and very soon they will..it is just a matter of time in this corporate rat race) and one day you will again become part of the crowd. Your name may get a mention in corporate circles or parties as someone who once got recognized for the hard work. Management will shower favors upon you for some time, but those will eventually stop.

2. Use your position at this point to demand greater responsibility (but not necessarily more work) so that you get another opportunity to prove yourself, and it could even be in a different area of work than what you do at present. This will eventually lead to your own professional growth and will continue enhancing your positive reputation.

It is obvious to consciously choose #2.