Most of us have had that coworker that seemed to be a perfect fit for the company or team. She always had the right answers. He seemed to know what needed to be done before the company leaders even did. And that “sixth sense” and insight was rewarded with responsibility, autonomy, accolades, and advancement.
“When employees bring those qualities, they’re perceived as leaders in the company, no matter what position they hold,” says Katharine Halpin, CEO and founding principal of The Halpin Companies, Inc., a leadership consultancy in Phoenix, Arizona. “They take ownership for problem solving and dissolving conflict. They naturally have this sort of alignment with the company.”
The good news is that becoming a super-employee isn’t some rarified secret. It’s a combination of skill set and mindset that you can begin to develop for yourself by focusing on these five key habits.
It’s hard to be a super-employee if the company’s needs are very different from your abilities, talents, and values, Halpin says. In addition, a 2015 research report by the Cicero Group found that one of the most important factors in employees consistently producing great work was recognition. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said that being recognized by a manager or by the company was the most important driver in great work. So, choosing to work where your work is valued is important.
Super-employees are studying the preferences and goals of their direct supervisors, their supervisors’ supervisors, and the company at large, says Gayle Lantz, founder of WorkMatters, Inc., a leadership consultancy in Birmingham, Alabama. They may be striving to participate in projects and meetings that aren’t part of their jobs, but which give them access and information to what company leaders think and need.
“They’re doing things above and beyond what other employees are doing, and they’re showing interest. They’re motivated and showing they want to learn what it’s like to be at the top,” she says.
Exceptional performers are able to maintain dual focus on both the task at hand, as well as how it fits into the bigger picture, Lantz says. If they don’t understand something, they get the information they need to make its importance clearer.
When you start looking at everyday tasks from both perspectives and truly understand what you need to do and why it needs to be done, you become more strategic and begin to anticipate what needs to be done–sometimes before others know what needs to be done, she says. In addition, you’re better able to prioritize so that your activities and energy are focused where they are of most value to the company, Halpin adds.
Keeping some open time in the day, such as scheduling time between meetings and blocks of time for simply thinking or working on projects that require concentration, can also supercharge performance, Halpin says. Super-employees are vigilant about scheduling everything from daily meetings to big projects to ensure that they have the best possible chance at a successful outcome.
“Sometimes, it’s just very practical actions–getting to places early, not rushing from meeting to meeting if you can help it–to give yourself time to do what you need to do. That may be thinking about the purpose of your next meeting, or getting a snack or drink so you’re not hungry or thirsty,” she says. Being harried, distracted, hungry, or otherwise uncomfortable because you’re too rushed is not going to allow you to do your best work and be most insightful, she adds.
High performers are in tune with the people around them and can sense when they need something. They possess soft skills like empathy and are able to relate well to other people because they take the effort to try to understand them, Lantz says.
“A large part of any business is helping people work together well. Super-employees make that a top priority. They look at relationships as something that’s critical to success in the business–not just doing the work,” she says.