What’s Your Motto?
I have been in the IT consulting industry for fifteen years, and I clearly remember the advice of my very first manager–“It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to beg for permission.” As a twenty-two year old in my first job out of college, I really didn’t know what this meant in the professional world. As I got more experience under my belt and started moving up the ranks, I began to fully grasp what my manager meant and it became a motto by which I started to live. While there can be negative applications to my motto, I use it in the positive sense. I do what I think is the right thing to do, and if it turns out I was wrong, then I learn from it. I have found that I learn the most from mistakes. Having this motto has helped me be able to move forward in projects and get things done in a timely manner instead of getting stuck in a bottleneck waiting for someone to give me permission to do something that I know is right. And nine times out of ten, I don’t have to ask for forgiveness.
Along the way in my career, I have picked up other great advice and have come up with my own advice. Whether you are a twenty-two year old starting your first job or a seasoned veteran, I hope you are able to borrow some of these phrases and even pass along your favorites to others.
“Progress over Perfection”
I am a recovering perfectionist (as coined by Kenway’s CEO, Brian King). You will probably still never receive anything from me with typos or grammar mistakes (hopefully I didn’t just jinx myself!), but I am learning to review my work twice instead of ten times before sending it out. I have learned that it’s sometimes better to get a deliverable out for review (by your team, NOT your client!) without it being 100% polished. This allows you to get feedback earlier and saves time in the end. I have by no means perfected the “Progress over Perfection” mentality (no pun intended), but I am working on it, often finding myself reciting, “progress over perfection, progress over perfection…” to myself on at least a monthly basis.
“Use Your Resources”
This is one that I discovered on my own and am happy to pass along. I cannot tell you how valuable it has been to learn how to use your resources – whether it’s people or technology. First and foremost, build relationships with people! When you have a strong relationship with someone, they are more likely to go the extra mile for you. These connections can go a long way, both in your external network and your internal company. You always hear the phrase “it’s all who you know,” well, in many cases, this is true even within a company. I remember a situation in which I needed to get something published to an internal portal, and I had just missed the deadline. I had a good relationship with the team manager, and when I called him up, he said, “I like you, Stacy. Don’t worry, I will take care of you.” And my work was published right away. To compliment your network, also be willing to do research. Whether that be the internet, internal company sites, training, etc., invest time to learn. Even if something doesn’t help you now, it may help you down the line.
“Don’t Reinvent the Wheel”
Are you creating a deliverable right now? Did you start it from scratch? I guarantee that there is something that already exists that you could have leveraged. Whether I am creating a status report, project plan, requirements document, or communications plan, there is always something I can use as a baseline. Whether it’s within your organization, on the internet, or from past projects on which you have worked, there is something somewhere. You may even want to ask people in other organizations if they have created something similar to what you are doing (hint, hint – use your resources!). Many times I have found that I like to take components from multiple examples and put them together to make my own deliverable. Case in point – I just put together a new format for status reporting for my client. I borrowed my favorite parts from status reports used on other projects to make my own. Now someone from my team is going to use this same format for one of his other projects. That reminds me of another point—when you create something, make sure to share it with others! The only way you find something is because somebody left it to be found.
“Think Before You Give Feedback”
This is a new one I picked up from a colleague at our recent company meeting. It ties into “Progress over Perfection,” because he is a recovering perfectionist as well. How many times have you been asked to review something, which you translated to mean, “I better mark this up with my comments”? Ask yourself, “Is the time invested going to be worth it based on the value realized?” If you take two hours to bring a deliverable from a C+ to an A, then it’s worth it. But if the deliverable was already an A, it’s ok to review and just say, “Great job.” Just because someone asks you for feedback doesn’t mean you have to change everything and put your spin on it. It’s ok to return the deliverable without any red ink on it at all!
These are my mottos in my day-to-day professional life. If you know of any others I can add to my repertoire, please let me know! Email me us at firstname.lastname@example.org.