Regardless of what you do on the job and when you’re pursuing a new job or career role, quality obviously matters. You certainly wouldn’t knowingly give less than your best to the situation. In fact, if you’re seriously invested in your job success or career advancement, you’re probably making a strong effort to excel in terms of quality performance. Is there something else you should be doing? Quite possibly.
If what you contribute makes your colleagues look like winners, not just you, that’s worth something. Even better might be if you can add value that makes your boss look like a champ. Now I’m not suggesting that you become a shrinking violet and meekly let everyone else take the full credit for what you worked hard to contribute. However, you can boost others without sacrificing yourself if you do it right.
In fact, that’s pretty much the point of a recent article titled “Stop Emphasizing the Quality of Your Work and Do This Instead,” by Ben Drake. As Drake puts it, “no one cares about the quality of your work; people care about the quality of their own work….What matters to others (users, clients, citizens, friends, families, employees) is their quality. If what you do doesn’t make them better at what they do, you’re useless to them. This is extremely important to understand in the professional world. If you can’t provide value, they’ll forget your name 30 minutes after they meet you.”
I’m not sure I go 100% with his statement that no one cares about the quality of your work, but I think the point is that they care most about your work being high quality when/if it affects them one way or another (good or bad). That might sound a bit self-serving, but it’s basically just human nature.
To start with, you need to focus consistently on providing value to others–your boss, co-workers, and so on. But, as Drake says, “don’t ask others how you can improve. Instead, ask others what they need from you to help them improve,” achieve their main goals, etc.
I can think of a number of illustrations of this point. For example, if your boss has a big meeting coming up and you know he/she wants it to go off as smoothly as possible to impress the senior execs from corporate headquarters in the UK, what can you do to help make sure that happens? Come up with some ideas and “float” them in a one-on-one meeting with your boss to see how one or more of them might produce desirable results.
This approach plays equally well in a job interview. According to Drake, it’s best if you “don’t talk about your quality. Talk about what you can do for them, not what you’ve done in the past. Provide the vision of how they can be better with you on the team.”
I talk about this a lot with clients when I’m doing interview coaching as well as when I’m creating a professional resume for them. It’s important that you have stories to tell to underscore what you can bring to the party that will benefit the company. “I am the greatest” worked for Muhammad Ali; it’s not necessarily the best way for you to come across!