12 Things I’ve Learned About Work

While cleaning up my computer this week, I came across a word document that I’d written in 2005.  Titled “12 Things I’ve Learned About Work”, it was a listing of lessons that I’d learned from the first 20 years of my career.  I thought I’d share them with you because they represent advice that I’m still trying to live by (perhaps you are, too) and because I highly recommend this as a writing exercise to reflect on your own leadership and career journey.  Here we go:

1. Obsess about your calendar, and follow it with discipline

2. Write down what you want to accomplish each day or week

3. Take a personal interest in everyone you work with

4. Know the industry, company, and culture you live in

5. Know three things at all times about your role – vision, context, status

6. Study your boss so you can anticipate the next request

7. Make it a priority to stay up-to-date in your area of expertise

8. Do less, think more – spend time coming up with new ideas

9. Work backwards from the end game

10. Work hard to build and maintain a professional network outside the company

11. Always volunteer to help, no matter what it is

12. Know why you work

Many of these are self-explanatory and represent universal and timeless lessons.  Others hold special meaning for me, and I’d like to write a bit more about them (in particular – 5, 6, 8, 9, 11 and 12).  I’ll do that in subsequent columns…

So, what would be on your list of career lessons?  If you were advising a 22 year old coming out of college, about to start their first real job – what would you tell them?   And how can generating a list like this help you in your current role?  I believe there is value in jotting down your reflections, your own ideas about “what I know to be true”.  It can sharpen your focus, provide you with a teachable point of view, and energize your own attitude about work.  Try this exercise – I think you’ll enjoy the process.