Some jobs come with a role description and the duties you perform do not change much from day to day. In such a position, you know exactly what is expected of you and what to do in order to do well. However, most jobs are a bit more ambiguous and the path to success a little less prescribed. Nobody is there holding your hand through the steps or handing you a cheat sheet and in many cases one doesn’t exist.
First, a quick distinction between the behaviors and the outcomes as it is related to job performance. Behaviors are what you do while outcomes are what get done. Behaviors are the only component of job performance that are within 100% of your own control. So this is where I will focus.
Outcomes, while good and necessary, differ depending on what work you do. They are the result your actions, but they are also very much influenced by factors outside of your control. For example, meeting a certain dollar amount for a sales target is an outcome. Whether you are a good salesperson or not, the market demands and product quality exert an influence on what is possible and how easy or difficult it is to achieve.
Actively seeking to become a better performer, then, involves behavior. For almost any job out there, there are eight universal categories of behavior that influence the outcome of your work:
Job-specific competence – the level of technical knowledge required for the position and how well you complete tasks related to the major aspects of the job. How well you do exactly what you were hired to do. For example, writing code if you are a programmer.
General work competence – how well you do other related tasks. This is the type of work that everyone is responsible for in your organization, your work unit, or your profession. For example, customer service or proficiency in Microsoft Office.
Personal effort – demonstrating effort on a frequent, consistent, and substantive basis. This includes both effort in doing and thinking. For example, when overloaded with work, you expend extra effort rather than automatically passing it on to others. Alternatively, when confronted with a difficult problem, you proactively seek solutions before giving up and asking for help. Related: see #3 and #6 on this list.
Personal discipline – keeping a schedule and organized work day. This can range from such basics as coming to work on time and avoiding personal altercations to more advanced techniques such as respecting deadlines and managing time effectively.
Communication – written communication such as writing clear and concise emails; oral communication such as making a point at the weekly meeting; formal communication such as presenting the results of a survey to a board; or informal communication such as discussing a project with your boss.
Teamwork – performance that is a result of a group effort rather than simply your individual effort; activities requiring collaboration or cooperation with others. Specific behaviors could include keeping a group focused, encouraging participation, acting as a good role model, and offering assistance.
Management – typical management duties are setting goals to support a strategy, planning projects, organizing, delegating work, adhering to a budget, meeting deadlines, training employees, and keeping everyone informed and on the same page.
Leadership – in practice, this one can get confused with management sometimes and might be neglected if you are not naturally great in this area. Examples of leadership are striving for innovation, influencing others, motivating others, acting as a role model and serving as a coach.
Take a look at the above list and determine where you can make changes. But… if this list is at all intimidating, remember this: “only the mediocre are always at their best.”