Actions that Make Great Work

What makes great work? What does it really take to be successful and make an impact? We can easily overthink and overcomplicate it. I think the answer is pretty simple.

For as long as I can remember, I have focused on only three key actions. As I look back, I am pretty sure they were instilled in me while watching my dad run his construction business.

They helped to accelerate my success early in my career, to achieve more as a business owner and to have a greater impact in the work I do every day. And I’ve seen them do the same for my teams.

So, what are they? Here are three things successful people to do deliver work that stands out:

1. Take responsibility.

Successful people do their job. They do it well and do it accurately. And they take care in their work. This means being clear (and honest with themselves and others) about what they know and what they don’t as well as what direction they need and what direction they need to give others. If they need clarity or more information, they take the responsibility to get the answers to see it through. If they make a mistake, they own up to it and do what it takes to make it right.

Rarely does anyone work in complete isolation. Almost all great work is a collaboration. High performers outline where their responsibility begins, where someone else’s begins and the overlap. Effectively managing — and sometimes expanding — the overlap is where good work earns the title of great – or exceptional – work.

2. Work with sense of urgency.

Top performers establish a challenging, but achievable schedule. Then stay on task and stay on schedule. Their goal is to keep moving and not let a project (or themselves) lose momentum.

They think ahead and identify the decisions that need to be made and when they need to be made. They also understand their ripple effects so they can keep the project moving forward, knowing that not doing so can jeopardize timelines, outcomes and project success.

They work to avoid unnecessary delays and always work toward meeting the schedule, despite obstacles or redirects. If the schedule is ever no longer possible, they’re proactive in telling the necessary people and working with them to establish a schedule that meets everyone’s needs.

3. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Successful people seek first to understand and then to be understood. They ask good questions and don’t assume anything. What do they need to know? What is the best way to share it with them? How will they use it? When do they need it? I’ve found it very helpful if I put myself in the receiver’s shoes and think “If I were them, what would I want to know and when would I want to know it?”

Too often, we don’t spend enough time to understand how to deliver information in a manner that allows the other person to make a good decision. We all bring our own assumptions to the table that impact how we receive information and work. We don’t think about how the information we are delivering impacts the receiver, and how we can make our message more effective. The quality of your communication is defined by the receiver.

This one can be easy to miss. High performers constantly adjust their thinking and expectations based on the individual that they are serving and what they need to be communicating to them.

Getting Results

This may sound simple, but the success comes with execution. Many people usually do at least two of them. Those who are most successful — and the most enjoyable to work with — do all three. These three approaches are all tied together and if you master always delivering all three, you will do great work and have an impact. And you will find your work more enjoyable as well.