As a project engineer, I've learned a lot about how things work in the corporate world.
I don't dare claim to be the best or most productive employee around, but I've observed the practices of the most outstanding workers, and I've tried to emulate those practices.
I'm still in the learning process myself!
As an employee, you're part of a performance. The primary aim of this performance is to delight your customers.
So whenever you're at work, you're on stage.
This means that people are watching—both your customers and your colleagues (who are also your fellow performers).
Here are 20 ways for you to be a better worker and to put on a great show:
1. Say "thank you."
Most people don't express much gratitude at work. Don't be "most people."
2. Ask your boss what you can do to make his or her life easier.
Most bosses won't tell you directly, so you'll have to ask.
3. Set daily goals and prioritize them.
If you don't do this, you'll likely end up reacting to the urgent matters that cry out for your attention, instead of focusing on the tasks that are most important.
4. Spend the last 15 minutes of each work day doing Point #3 (for the following work day).
This way, you'll hit the ground running when you start the new work day.
5. Don't check your email more than three times a day.
I know that this can be difficult to do, but reducing the number of times you check your email will allow you to have larger chunks of time to work on key tasks.
6. Have lunch with people from different departments at least once a week.
Besides allowing you to get to know more people and to understand your company better, this will also enable you to build relationships with people whom you'll almost certainly need help from in the future.
7. Give your boss regular updates.
Don't wait for your boss to ask you for an update before you provide him or her with one.
8. Give credit to your colleagues.
This is especially meaningful if you do it in a public setting, whether it's in an email or during a meeting.
9. Don't communicate so that you can be understood. Communicate so that you cannot be misunderstood.
A lot of time at work is wasted because of unclear communication. Communicating so that you cannot be misunderstood often involves stating what you mean, as well as stating precisely what you do not mean.
10. When you make a phone call, ask the other party if it's a good time for him or her to talk.
People appreciate this act of courtesy. I know I do!
11. Treat everyone with honour.
My wise mother once said to me, "Respect needs to be earned, but honour is an attitude of the heart. Not everyone will earn your respect, but everyone deserves to be shown honour." No matter how low- or high-ranking someone is, treat him or her with honour.
12. Go to your boss with options and recommendations instead of questions.
If you're not sure what the best course of action is, do this instead of going to your boss and asking, "What should I do?" He or she will greatly appreciate it.
13. Folder your emails.
Don't rely on the "search" function to find old emails. Putting your emails in proper folders will save you time and future frustration.
14. Bcc yourself on emails that require a reply.
When action is required from the email recipient, Bcc yourself on the email and flag it. Periodically track whether or not the other party has responded. If you don't receive a reply after a few days, follow up and ask, "I'm just checking to make sure that you received this email?" Doing this will ensure that no important tasks slip through the cracks.
15. Meet people face to face when possible.
Face-to-face meetings are far more personal than phone calls or emails, and they definitely help to build better relationships.
16. Backup your files regularly.
You never know when your hard disk will crash. Backup your files regularly to prevent a catastrophe.
17. Ask for feedback.
All of us have blind spots. Asking for feedback—from your boss, colleagues or employees who report to you—is a sure way to continually improve.
18. Keep a list of things that you've learned.
This list can include technical or generic things. Review this list periodically to consolidate your learning.
19. Arrive early.
Arrive early to work and to meetings. People notice—and besides, it's the right thing to do.
20. Don't complain.
Your colleagues will thank you for being a positive influence in the company, rather than a negative one. There are more than enough negative people around!
I'm not the most experienced worker, but I've come to understand that becoming a better worker is really about becoming a better person.
A better worker pursues excellence, cares for others and makes them feel special, and focuses on getting results.
Let's not waste this wonderful opportunity in our jobs to become people of greater character and competence.
As a by-product, you might just get that promotion.
Daniel Wong is the author of "The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success". He is an Education & Personal Excellence coach and speaker. He offers a mentoring programme to help students to maximize their education and to find happiness and success. He writes regularly at www.daniel-wong.com. Download his FREE e-book, "The Unhappiness Manifesto: Do You Make These 150 Mistakes In The Pursuit Of Happiness?", here. Download his other FREE e-book, "Singapore Scholarship Guide: The $500,000 Decision", here. Together with his team of experts, he conducts The Exam ExcellenceTM (TEE) Programme.