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Go From Mediocre to Excellent at Work with These Attitude Adjustments

Go From Mediocre to Excellent at Work with These Attitude Adjustments

Resumes are usually sprinkled with the words excellent and superior; however, work performance evaluations can often be a checkerboard of the words satisfactory or mediocre. You could be starting on your first job, on your way to being vice president, signing up for an overseas assignment, or on the hiring side interviewing candidates. These situations all involve a skills-and-adaptability evaluation. How do you narrow the resume versus work performance gap? Try these seven steps and level up from mediocre to excellent.

1. Show up consistently and on time.

This seems basic, yet an online survey conducted by CareerBuilder showed 32% of workers have called in sick when they were not actually ill. Another 16% were late for work at least one time per week and 27% arrived late for work at least once a month. Make sure you are willing to commit your time when you apply for a job. Showing up consistently and on time gets noticed, thanks to the stark contrast from mediocre colleagues who don’t.

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2. Know the Work Culture and Adapt.

Organizational culture is a set of rules for working together and includes organization values, visions, and working language. It is made up of shared beliefs, attitudes, and underlying assumptions. Are you working in a tech company, a corporate office, a law firm, in the arts, or at a hospital? Is everyone on first-name basis or are titles and surnames expected to be used? Are you an expatriate working overseas? Do your homework and be observant about protocols and dress codes, especially if you meet with clients. Don’t settle for mediocre attire or casual behavior.

3. Understand that the work place is for work and behave accordingly.

Looking forward to your Friday night out with friends? Fine, but don’t make that an excuse to delay or interrupt your work with excited phone conversations or messages. Keen to confirm hotel reservations for a weekend holiday? Call during your lunch break. There’s work-life balance and then there’s obsessing with fun while at work. Be persistent with work focus. When you make an effort to be fully present, you avoid making mistakes and gain credibility. As a side benefit, you won’t get job-related phone calls after work and can be fully present having fun.

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4. Be a team player and learn to compromise.

When asked to give my opinion about a potential new team member who was a former colleague, I was quick to give a rundown of skills. Then came the follow-up question, “Yes, but do you think she will fit in with the team?” I had to pause before replying to that one.

Interpersonal skills outrank other skills. You could be a celebrated chef, but if your team is performing poorly in fear of your next pot-throwing tantrum, guess who gets shown the door. Yes, it’s the person who causes problems regularly and who may also happen to be overpaid. A team player is willing to compromise. He or she understands about sharing ideas and credit, about taking turns with talking and listening, and with being on and off duty. In team selection, a person who gets along well with others is chosen over the highly skilled but difficult individual, who drops to below mediocre in terms of desirability. Be a person who can work well in different teams.

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5. Communicate effectively; repeat and check.

Verbal communication ability is at the top of the list of 10 skills employers look for. This comes from a University of Kent summary of surveys by Microsoft, the BBC, and other organizations. The consequences from misunderstandings at work range from loss of revenue and damaged credibility, to fatal results in hospital or military settings. The most common source of miscommunication comes from what social psychologist Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson calls the “I’m Sure It Was Obvious” effect. We believe we are expressing ourselves clearly and obviously to others, but this is often not the case. Stop being mediocre; never assume. Say instructions clearly, ask the other person to repeat, and check that the task is being done as instructed. If you are on the receiving end of instructions, always ask questions, update on progress, and advise about job completion.

6. Do more than expected and don’t settle for mediocre.

Whether you are asked to compile a list of names, emails, and phone numbers, prepare a handover report, or organize a convention, go the extra mile. Instead of just submitting contact details, add websites too. Categorize them by industry, color code them, and present them alphabetically. Include recommendations in your handover report and tie them up with departmental goals. Suggest a theme for the convention and offer a list of relevant suppliers. Doing more than expected benefits the company. You also gain knowledge, develop new skills, and won’t ever be considered mediocre.

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7. Think with Innovation, Creativity, and Flexibility.

The Flux Report (2014) is a survey of 250 line managers and 100 HR decision makers for organizations with over 500 employees in the U.K. and Ireland. It lists these three attributes among employee skills that need to be developed to drive company growth. The report also states employees are expected to have multiple simultaneous careers by 2018, with more than half on temporary contracts or working as contractors or freelancers.

Now is the time to invest in yourself. Keep informed about industry trends, update your skill set, and apply these in improving your work. When you’re open to new ways of doing things, you will never be made “redundant” at work.

In any workforce, there are those who are perfectly content with satisfactory work ratings, and that’s totally fine. But if you want a work performance evaluation that matches your glowing resume, these attitude adjustments will get you those superlatives!

Featured photo credit: Dread Pirate Jeff via flickr.com

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Published on January 7, 2021

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.

If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.

Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off

You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.

When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.

Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.

In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.

Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.

3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented

Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:

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  1. Respect deadlines
  2. Understand the work-flow plan
  3. Build in time to mess up

1. Respect Deadlines

Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.

One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.

2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan

Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.

3. Build in Time to Mess Up

You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.

Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.

For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.

Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?

This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.

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Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.

Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.

Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.

When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.

12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail

Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.

1. Learn to Listen Well

You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.

2. Pay Attention to Social Cues

Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.[1]

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3. Follow Rules

Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.

4. Take Notes

Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.

5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now

When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.

As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.

6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work

If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.

7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well

English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.

8. Proofread Before You Hit Send

Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.

9. Minimize Distractions

It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.

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If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.

10. Take Breaks

It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.

11. Make Time for Reflection

At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?

12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List

This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.

Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.

Final Thoughts

Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.

When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.

More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail

Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

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