Doing these six things consistently is not always easy. Sometimes we take our work too seriously (breaking Discipline #6)...or not seriously enough (Discipline #1). Sometimes the boss gives employees a mixed signal. She tells her new charges, “We have a very flexible work environment!” and then glares at them when they’re not at their desks by 8 AM. These are the nuances of office culture that have to be worked out by continuing to clarify expectations with your boss. Being “on time” at some workplaces means being in by 8 AM, while at others, it means logging into a conference call on time. Figure out how these disciplines apply to your office culture, and then apply them.
Andy Armanino became a partner at Armanino McKenna at age 29 and the managing partner at age 39. Last month in front of a crowd of college students, I asked him how he did it. He pointed to the list of Six Disciplines, and said, “A lot of it is written right there.”
Without fail, when I ask college students how many months they think it takes before they return something to their company’s bottom line, their answers average “three months.” The CEO wants her new hires to know that it takes four times as long. Many new hires overestimate their value to their organization in their first few months. Don’t get me wrong: companies are glad to have you. But it’s also important to realize that to be technically excellent at work requires time, experience, and failure. It takes about a year before you hit your stride at most organizations.
The first rule of Improv is to say “Yes, and…” to whatever presents itself in the moment. The same is true at work. Bosses don’t really want “job description” employees. You know the type, the ones who won’t do additional work because, “It’s not in my job description.” Your boss wants people who - when asked to take on an additional project - will say, “Yes!” and then add even more value. For example, if your boss asks you to create a database of clients from the last two years, add the amount of each contract and sort in descending order, so the top clients (by dollar amount) are listed first.
Yes, your boss wants to know what you think about work, the clients, and the company. But your boss doesn’t want a human suggestion box, AKA a whiner. As a new hire, you see all kinds of things that could be improved. Maybe the Career page of the website stinks, or your former workplace used high-efficiency lights or a better software package. The point is, when identifying problems you have a choice: (a) research and organize optional solutions for each problem, or (b) shut up.
Your boss wants you to know that she can’t read your mind. If you’re feeling ill coming to work because you can’t face another day sharing the office with so-and-so, tell your boss. If you’d prefer to take less salary to have an extra week off from work, speak up. This goes both ways: you can’t read your boss’s mind either, so make sure that you ask for details, parameters, timelines, and examples to help guide your work.
Now, go. Conquer. Blow your boss’s hair back with your savvy brilliance.