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Rules for Professional Adulting

The first rule of Fight Club may be that you don’t talk about Fight Club but the second rule (also don’t talk about Fight Club, I believe) should have been something about chewing with your mouth open. Dear lord, stop the insanity!

Coming up through the ranks, I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes. The good news (for me) is that I’m a quick study and I rarely made the same mistakes twice. Mistakes are good like that. We learn and get better with each one. Some of us are lucky enough to learn from great teachers and bosses as well. I was taught some invaluable lessons along the way and I kept a bit of a list.

I call this list the “things to do when you work for a horrible narcissist”. Thankfully employees still laugh when they hear that, which means it’s not true or it’s so true that I now have “yes men”, which would be pretty cool also. (absolutely boss!) Thanks guys.

Anyway, enjoy the list and let me know if you agree, disagree or have anything to add.

-Scott

  1. Ask questions when stuck, not when starting. There are always going to be questions and questions are good. Just make sure that you aren’t asking to pass the work of finding the answer to someone else.
  2. Write things down. No one likes repeating themselves and mistakes that are the result of “I forgot” are never excusable.
  3. Have a keen attention to detail and double-check what you are working on before sending. Silly or obvious mistakes are an embarrassing waste of time and should be caught before providing work as “complete”.
  4. Understand the request. Know the difference between “just do what is asked” and “apply your own style/thoughts to what was requested”. This falls on the requestor more than the requestee but there is some ownership for the requestee in listening to what is being requested. Clarify at the time of the request if unclear.
  5. Communicate as communicated to. Email is a horrible communication tool but if you get a question via email, reply via email. If you get a call, return the call. Complaints, on the other hand, always deserve in person (or telephone) communication, regardless of how the complaint came in.
  6. Give useful updates but don’t over-update. If given a task to complete, give updates when progress has been made, not for every step of the process. Over updating comes off as needy and self-gratifying. You want a “good job”? Get the task done on time and accurately. Grown-ups don’t get “atta boys” for showing up.
  7. Listen. If you are plotting your response while someone is talking to you, you’re doing it wrong. Your opinion is important, so is theirs. Listen and have effective communication.
  8. Be helpful, not pushy. If you are asked to help a client or coworker and you agree, help them as they request. “Hey, can you help me move the sofa” is not an open invite for you to share interior decorating ideas. If your help comes with strings, no one wants your help.
  9. Arrive for meetings on time and be present in the meeting. If you are taking notes on a laptop or expecting a call, let the other attendees know that before the meeting starts. Perusing emails and/or taking calls during a meeting is rude and dismissive to everyone else in the meeting. It goes without saying but scanning your social media account while someone is talking is completely unacceptable. It’s an obvious activity and everyone knows what’s happening. Don’t do it.
  10. Respect others time and boundaries. If a door is closed and you don’t have an emergency, wait or (email) request a meeting for your topic. Please don’t interrupt, don’t linger and don’t assume importance. If you have a work emergency, knock and wait to be addressed. Assume the same if the door is not closed or there isn’t a door. We’re all busy. Ask if “now is a good time” before starting in with your topic and be prepared for now to not be a good time. If it’s an actual emergency (fire, flood, etc.), just barge in and say it.
  11. Know your audience. All professional contacts deserve to be communicated with, respectfully and professionally, regardless of your perceived relationship with them. Avoid colloquialisms, nicknames or informal terms (dude, man, etc.) whenever communicating, especially by email or written letter. Take time to gather your thoughts before communicating and choose your words carefully. Also, executives won’t have the patience for quirky or cute. An attempt at levity may come off as disrespect. Address appropriately and get to the point.
  12. Your business is your business. Everyone you talk to has a problem or personal issue. Whatever problem you have, however unfortunate, is your problem. If you have to leave, leave. If you need time off, take it. Just don’t share your problem around the office like you’re the only person who has one. This goes for your beliefs, opinions and complaints as well. We all have stuff. Keep your stuff to your self.
  13. It’s not what you do, it’s what others see you do. Communicate early and often so whomever is waiting on you, knows that you are working to help them. Genuinely care about what you are doing and put in the extra effort when the situation warrants it. Your lack of interest and/or effort are far more visible than you realize.
  14. It matters. For the most part, people want to feel important and appreciated. Taking an extra minute to call a client or give a final review on a proposal will go a long way to helping someone feel appreciated. pick your cliché: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Always stand when shaking someone’s hand. Treat others as you wish to be treated. Take time to be a human being and it will matter. The loyalty of clients and effective relationships created will show you it matters.
  15. You are not smarter than everyone. You may be smarter than some, maybe even most, but not everyone. Be patient and be open to hearing other’s ideas. You’ll be surprised at how smart other people are and how much smarter you can be.

What works for you when managing or being managed. What makes you more or less effective? Let’s keep the conversation going by replying below.

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