We'd all like to shine at work and land that promotion we feel we deserve. But when it comes to standing out, we've heard the same advice over and over: take initiative, help others, get involved.
It's time to freshen up that list. We uncovered 15 surprising and unconventional strategies you can use to take your reputation from lackluster to brilliant:
1. Be productive, not busy. Understanding the difference between these two things is crucial to any employee's success at work. Productivity guru Tim Ferriss emphasizes that long hours aren't a good barometer of effort. Results are.
2. Don't set goals. Use systems. A goal is a single thing you want to achieve, like running a marathon. A system is how you plan to reach that goal — i.e., your weekly training schedule. Entrepreneur James Clear says goals ultimately hold you back, while systems lead to real results and make you more successful in the long term.
3. Confront issues head on. Telling your boss a project fell apart or you made a mistake won't get any easier the longer you wait. Ferriss says tackling tough issues head on allows you to take the leap and move forward.
4. Learn to say "no." When we take on too many tasks and stretch ourselves thin, we're no longer helping anyone — ourselves or our companies, writes inventor Stephen Key. Knowing how to say "no" will open up frank and more productive discussions. It also shows your ability to prioritize and set boundaries.
5. Be a good story teller. Jeremy Zimmer, CEO of United Talent Agency, says the first thing he asks a prospective hire to do is tell him a story. "If we're selling something, we have to be able to communicate it in an elegant, intelligent way," he explains.
6. Speak first or last in meetings. Research shows that it's not just how you say something, but when you say it that matters. We remember things best if they come at the beginning or end of a list. What gets stuck in the middle often is forgotten.
7. Be consistently average. Cartoonist Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comics, says he didn't succeed because he was the most artistic person, the smartest, or even the funniest. He just had a good combination of solid and complimentary skills. Being decent at a lot of interesting things can actually make you outstanding.
8. Stay a step ahead of your critics. To really sell an idea to a customer, colleague, or boss, you need to be prepared for any questions and doubts they might have. That's why Bob Pittman, CEO of Clear Channel Communications, says to always anticipate your dissenters.
9. Have buffers in your schedule. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner says one of his time management secrets is to schedule empty blocks of time. He aims for 60 to 120 unscheduled minutes a day, which he uses to take a breather and catch up on other projects.
10. Allot less time to do everything. One productivity theory is that people take as much time to do something as they're given. So if you give yourself less time to accomplish a task, you'll get it done faster and have time to spare.