In a tough job market — and with employees doing more than ever on the job — getting your current job right with your manager is important. It is your manager, after all, that signs off on your review, helps or hurts your ability for promotions, and, in some cases, can decide to lay you off.
So how do you make your manager love your work? Own your results.
Sounds simple. It’s not. Here are five ways to help own your results.
Define the success criteria for the task or project
This is the most underrated step for getting the job right. If your manager can’t tell you what success looks like, you won’t either. And if you don’t understand what success looks like, but your manager does but does not tell you, there is an immediate disconnect with your results.
You have to ask, especially early in the relationship with a manager, what work would make this task completion a success. It feels dumb to do it. But without asking, you won’t know, your manager will assume and so will your coworkers and everyone will have a definition different from yours in their head. Cubicle Warriors can’t win without understanding the expectations.
Think of never asking what success looks like on your repetitive tasks. By never asking, you end up doing the task consistently, repetitively, wrong. If you did ask what success looks like the first five or so times on a repetitive task, you’d get closer and closer to the ideal. And you would do the task consistently, repetitively, right.
Which would you rather have on your performance review?
You need to prototype your work
Here’s the secret: even when your manager tells you the success criteria for the task or project, they often don’t understand that what they are asking for isn’t what they want.
Take you preparing a presentation, for example. The manager wants a presentation that shows how the department is meeting their goals. You know the goals; no problem. You get a week to do the work and at the end of the week you proudly walk into your manager’s office with your slick, bullet-point PowerPoint thinking you’ve nailed it. Then your manager tells you it’s all wrong.
You see, your manager didn’t really want it done in PowerPoint. It should have been in Word. And even though bullet points are nice, your manager wanted charts to show goal attainment. And not those ugly charts, but those new, slick 3-D bar charts because your manager knows his or her manager likes that kind of stuff.
So you failed. Even though you thought you succeeded.
Much better to have walked into your manager’s office one day after getting the task and show your manager your bullet-pointed PowerPoint with no charts for showing attainment on one complete goal — a prototype of the completed work. You graciously ask if this is really what the manager was looking for because it fit the “success” criteria. Now your manager sees something tangible and adds in all these other criteria for success, criteria in the manager’s head — or not — but not communicated to you.
And you have the time to change it while collaboratively working with your manager. Cubicle Warriors prototype their work so they don’t have a crisis that needs fixing when delivering critical work.
You need the maximum control over your work
It is tough to own your results when you don’t have control over your work. Is the work you deliver dependent on someone completing something for you before you can start? You need to ensure that the work happens on time for you to do your deliverable.
Rarely does anyone have 100% control over their work. But focusing on maximizing your control over your deliverable will give you a better chance of doing the work well.
You need to provide bad news early
If you don’t think you can complete the work on time, you need to tell your manager why. It could be priorities that conflict, the work being a bigger project than either you or your manager thought, or it could be that you are not getting the cooperation you need to do your part.
Good managers want to hear bad news early — because there is still time to turn the bad news into good news. Telling your manager you think you need three more days to get done with something allows you and the manager to collaboratively go over the work and see if tasks or resources can be rearranged if needed. But telling your manager you didn’t get done with your work the day it is due is just asking for trouble.
Now, there are some bad managers out there who just don’t want to hear your problems about getting stuff done; they just want you to do it no matter what. That kind of passive-aggressive behavior is out there and giving bad news early isn’t necessarily a good thing with those types of managers (yes, I’ve had managers just like this…). But then, they wouldn’t be managers that love your work no matter what you do, so these tips wouldn’t apply anyway.
You need good reporting systems to show progress
Cubicle Warriors know that the big difference between their performance and everyone else are their accomplishments. Accomplishments are shown through numbers and results. So reporting systems that show these numbers and results are critical to set up and use during the work process.
If the work is set up through success criteria, you need to use some measure as to meeting the success criteria as you go along doing the work or you won’t determine your progress. If you are working on goals, you need a method to determine your progress meeting your goals so you can tell if you are on track to meet them or if you should have a “bad news early” discussion with your manager.
Without good reporting systems, whether personal or corporate, to report progress on your work, you won’t know if you are on track or not.
Owning results takes work
Many people hear “owning your results” and think it is just stepping up and saying to themselves that “I did the work, so I own the results.”
You can do that — but it abdicates your role in affecting the results. Cubicle Warriors implement these five steps in their work to maximize their chance of producing the best results for their manager — and career.
How well do you own your results?