What makes a truly memorable, stand-out employee? Is it their creativity or positive attitude? Do they have insanely exceptional time-management skills?
Most high-quality, talented workers possess a multitude of valuable soft skills. So, how can you stand out from the crowd? What if there was a single, simple way to be a better employee? What if I told you there was? There’s one technique you can use that, with focused effort, will not only impress your manager, colleagues, and superiors, but showcase your experience in a positive light and demonstrate your ability to adopt more responsibilities.
The secret sauce? Whenever approaching your boss or colleague with a problem, question, or tricky situation, always come equipped with a proposed solution. Think about it: Would go to a wedding or birthday party empty-handed? Hopefully not. You want to embrace this same mindset when speaking to your boss about a work-related issue. While brainstorming solutions takes a bit of work on your end, it’ll go a long way in establishing your value and credibility as an employee.
When you bring a possible solution to the table, it demonstrates that you have a forward-thinking mindset and are invested in strengthening your problem-solving skills. Additionally, it minimizes the burden your manager has to shoulder because they no longer have to address the issue from scratch.
Saving your boss time and energy is like handing them the keys to a brand new car (cue Vanna White). After all, they are extremely busy. To be clear, this approach is not only advantageous for your manager, but it also displays your willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty, essentially building a case for why you’d be qualified for a promotion or leadership role in the future. By adopting this practice, you’ll gain experience working through complicated scenarios and accumulate useful skills you can incorporate into your daily responsibilities to boost productivity and outcomes.
If you’re worried about your answer being ‘stupid’ or incorrect – don’t be. No one is right 100% of the time and making mistakes is how you learn. Keep your idea or solution simple and don’t be afraid to use this technique in Slack conversations, team meetings, email correspondence regarding projects, etc.
To give you a visual of how you’d employ this tactic, here are a few examples:
You need to approach your manager about a client issue that just arose:
Swap This: "The [client] was thoroughly unhappy with our proposed timeline."
For This: "The [client] expressed disappointment with our proposed timeline. As a solution, I believe we could potentially meet their expected deadline by streamlining the feedback process and cutting down the number of back-and-forth communication we have for approvals. To do this, we need to get the team together internally to ensure we’re all on the same page, and if everyone agrees, we also need to make sure the client sets aside the appropriate time to give us a quick turnaround on the approvals."
You’re forwarding your boss a proposal from a new vendor:
Swap This: "See below proposal from [company]. Let me know your thoughts."
For This: "Just received the below proposal from [company]. I looked it over and think the pricing is on par with market value and the service would benefit us greatly because [list reasons]. I’d like to suggest having her revise the language to include [additional factor]. I think if we move forward, we should negotiate waiving the implementation fee because we are a first-time customer. Look forward to hearing your input."
You want to approach your boss about process inefficiencies on your cross-functional team:
Swap This: "I can’t stand how long it takes [team] to turn around work. It’s frustrating because these projects seem to drag on forever."
For This: "I wanted to speak to you about improving efficiency for these projects. There appears to be information slipping through the cracks, creating unnecessary hurdles due to a lack of communication between teams. What do you think about scheduling short, 10-minute meetings each week, where each team provides a quick update, so everyone is on the same page? This will give us a good opportunity to quickly address any hiccups that may arise rather than waiting until they’ve escalated into a bigger issue. Also, we should consider establishing a Slack group, so we all have an easy way to communicate, ask questions, and share updates. What are your thoughts?"
By taking the initiative and showing your boss that you have the ability to think strategically, you will begin setting yourself apart from other employees. Even if you’re a self-proclaimed introvert or struggle with confidence, using this exercise will win you some big brownie points and praise from your manager. What's more, the positive feedback will wind up driving your confidence to new heights.