When I worked as an "individual contributor," I always received very good ratings, recommendations and comments from my managers. I thought I was just doing my job.
But, when I became a manager, I found out that my definition of "doing my job" was quite different than most other people's definition of doing my job. Here are three things that will make your manager worship you.
You prototype your work
Too many of us get a task from their manager they think they understand and then happily turn in the work one week later -- only to find out it is nothing close to what the manager wanted.
To be fair, often the manager doesn't know what the output of the work needs to look like, but not prototyping your work means neither of you get to correct expectations.
Great employees do a portion of the work to completion (say five slides of a 50-slide presentation...), take it to their manager and ask if this is the right stuff for the task or project. Is it the right level of detail for the audience? Is it the right format? Does it have too many bullet points and not enough pictures?
Taking a completed example of the work to the manager will clear up tons of misunderstood expectations. And your personal brand will be "proactive" rather than "never gets everything right."
You deliver quality work on time
We're all interconnected in the work we do. When I'm done with something, it needs to go on to the next step for that person (your manager) to do their part. Then, perhaps, it goes further when your manager is done with the work as well.
Now you don't deliver your work on time -- even if you've done the prototyping of your work -- and you then force everyone else along this chain of deliverables to change their expectations about how much time they have to do their work. Now they have to work longer hours to honor their time commitment. Now they don't get to do the last quality check on their work because they didn't have the time.
Getting the work done on time means your personal brand is "you can count on me to get the work done" rather than "never does anything on time so build in an extra week if you don't want to go crazy."
You deliver bad news early
Most people wait way too long before delivering bad news or asking for help when they don't think they can get done with their work. Sometimes it's an "I can do this" attitude that blinds the person to the reality of the time. Sometimes it is an unwillingness to ask for help because it will make the person look weak (what's your biggest weakness??). Sometimes it is an unwillingness to give your manager a heads-up if something bad happens such as another manager bad-mouthing the department and that person's manager going to talk to your manager about it.
Good managers want bad news early. They want it early because then there is still time to fix it and deliver stuff on time. They want it early because when you "dig up your own mud," you can initiate actions to fix the problem. Then when asked about the problem, the manager can say they already know about it and have done these X steps to go fix it. And they get the reputation of proactive and on top of their business.
Bad managers don't want to hear bad news and will label you with a "negative" attitude when all you are doing is trying to make sure you get your stuff done on time and with quality. So you'll need to know your manager here on delivering bad news.
With good managers, delivering bad news early means your personal brand is "proactive" and "wants to get the work done on time by eliminating roadblocks." With good managers, delivering bad news late means your personal brand is "unable to communicate bad news" and "doesn't understand the work well enough to know when the project is in trouble."
Wouldn't it be a lot more fun if your manager worshiped your work?