The Biggest Mistake You’re Making At Work

One of the most important teaching moments in my career came at a time when I felt confident that I was already on top of the world. I was 23 years old and I was running operations for the Pentagon’s Ministry of Defense Advisors training program. I was overseeing male-dominant team, and they were all more than twice my age. It was an intense experience: I was traveling to military bases all over the country and keeping absurd hours, but even in the middle of the conflict in Afghanistan, I was thrilled to be preparing civilians for the frontline of the war on terror and always managed to keep my wits about me.

1. Get to know your colleagues…authentically.

As the Afghan official taught me, authentic connection is the key. Prior to working for the Pentagon, I was networking in earnest, hoping to get clear on what I wanted to do with my life. I met with 200 people in two months for networking coffees… I hustled. I thought I was being smart in my approach, and this belief was reinforced when I landed the Pentagon position. Fast forward a year, and I was once again trying to get clear on my life purpose. This time, I kept the Afghan’s mantra in mind as I filled my calendar with coffee meetings and networking events. Regardless of what type of business we’re engaged in, all work is driven by human need, desire, or interest. Therefore, connecting on a human level is critical.What this comes down to is not about impressing the other person, it’s about connecting with the other person. Check yourself — are you focused too much on you? Take that as an invitation to switch gears and focus on serving others… Sure enough, I noticed that the people who followed up with me and who recommended me for positions weren’t necessarily the individuals with the most senior titles or the vacancies that needed to be filled immediately — they were the people I got along with really well.

2. Be a team player.

Another great way of establishing likeability is by ignoring the office hierarchy that brings out pettiness in others. Your willingness to do whatever is needed to get the job done is a surefire way to establish yourself as a comrade among your colleagues. That means manning the phones on a hectic day, making the midnight coffee run, or helping an overworked teammate tackle their workload, even if your paycheck and title suggest such jobs are “beneath” you. This approach guarantees that the work gets done; but more importantly, it’s the most straightforward way of showing your colleagues that you don’t consider yourself to be too good for them, or for the work you’re collectively trying to accomplish.

3. Celebrate your colleagues’ talents.

We all want to be acknowledged for our skills and attributes, especially in the workplace. Even if you aren’t the boss, showing your colleagues that you notice their unique brilliance is a surefire way to establish likeability, camaraderie, and trust. If you see that someone is exceptionally good at something, offer to take some work off their plate so you can free them up to make better use of their skill set. When it’s appropriate to do so, use group meetings to give them shout-outs for their particular contributions. This makes it clear that you are not attempting to compete or undermine your coworkers, and in turn, they will trust and respect you for shining the spotlight on a job well done, even when your performance is not the one being celebrated.

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