Pay attention to detail
There's a distinct difference between getting something done so an assignment can be checked off and doing something with an eye for detail.
Think about getting your car washed. You can drive though a quick car wash to rinse off the dirt, or you can have your vehicle "detailed." If you've never had your vehicle detailed, the difference is amazing. It's hard to be anything else but impressed by how clean your car is.
Employees are much more valuable than cars, but human nature is what it is. All other things being equal, the average boss will be more impressed by an employee who pays attention to key details over someone who merely checks off a box and says "task complete."
Roger, a supervisor of five, recently told me about his frustrations with Ann, one of his employees.
"She a real go-getter and concerned about our company's success, but sometimes she gets working too fast and doesn't pay attention to detail. As a result, there have been times I've had to re-assign people for six or seven hours to fix a problem the occurred because of her oversights on very simple details. That gets expensive real fast."
No doubt Ann would impress Roger more if she paid more attention to detail.
Think ahead and anticipate what must be done. Then, without waiting to be told, do it.
Naturally, a balance must exist. You won't find many bosses impressed by employees who must be told what to do and when to do it every step of the way. However, you won't find too many bosses impressed by someone who thinks ahead too far and then creates problems by taking too much initiative. Communication, coordination, and cooperation are essential.
One example of an employee taking good initiative is Kristy, who recently received a promotion to a newly-created supervisory position. Kristy reports to the director of her department, who (in my opinion) was negligent by not creating a job description and training plan for Kristy's first weeks in her new position.
When Kristy's first day as a supervisory came, the director showed her around and made some customary introductions. Then he said "I guess from here you'll just need to ask me questions."
Again, this is horrible transition-management on the director's part, but to Kristy's credit, she was prepared. She had taken the initiative to think through myriad situations she might face, and had two pages of questions typed up and ready to go.
When the director said "you'll just need to ask me questions," Kristy opened a folder and produced them! This spawned a three-hour conversation, and Kristy got her questions answered.
And yes, her boss was impressed.
Help others when needed
I was going to title this section "Show Team Spirit," but I fear that term has become too cliche'. In other words, the phrase has become so common that we simply read over it and fail to grasp its meaning anymore.
Perhaps more practical and to the point is "help others where needed." Make no mistake, this attribute requires a bit of initiative (see above), but it's a different trait altogether.
It's one thing to be caring, but it's something more to be useful. Don't misunderstand, caring about others is vital prerequisite to team spirit. It's just that being useful is acting on that concern, and therefore adding value to the team's effort.
Something as simple as holding a door open for someone demonstrates the basic tone, but to really make an impact, we can take it much deeper. In other words, it's easy to notice when someone has their hands full, so holding a door for someone is a no-brainer. But if we get outside the focus of our own work we can often see opportunities to assist others and make a greater impact.
How we go about assisting others will vary depending on the person and the type of help we're offering, but the point is that the whole team benefits when we do it. And, when the boss sees that we're able to see a bigger picture and lend a hand outside of our normal responsibilities, it makes a good impression.