“Are you willing to ask the hard questions that might just help your boss, your team, or your colleagues achieve higher levels of greatness?”— Misti Burmeister
Whether we’re talking about ex lovers or former employers, we all like to think we’ll be missed when we’re gone.
Of course, we know there are plenty of other talented fish in the sea to fill our positions when we move onto new jobs, but we still want to know others consider us valuable and that our shoes will be tough to fill.
I recently had a conversation with Jack about his pending departure from his employer of 10 years. Now that he’s put in his notice, he can’t understand why his boss doesn’t seem to care.
“I don’t want to leave,” Jack told me. “I’m just tired of not feeling appreciated. Now my boss wants to throw me a going-away party, but he’s doing nothing to keep me.”
Hoping his boss might try to convince him to stay, Jack told him, “You know, I’m not leaving because I want to.” But his boss didn’t get the hint.
When I asked why Jack thinks his boss isn’t working harder to keep him, he said, “I don’t know, but their attitude toward me leaving is a clear indication I made the right decision.”
Perhaps Jack is right. On the other hand, he might have gotten the response he wanted from his boss if had he refocused his energy on increasing the value he had to offer, rather than trying to coerce his boss into patting him on the back.
That same evening, my phone rang at 8 p.m. It was my editor, Taylor Mallory Holland – one of my favorite people and certainly the best editor I’ve ever known.
More than my editor, Taylor is a close friend. She lives in Georgia, so we’ve only met in person once, but I feel closer to her than people I’ve known for decades.
Over the five years we’ve worked together, I’ve come to fully trust Taylor. I know she cares about my message, and about me.
So when she called to say she was taking a new job and would need to help me find a new editor, I was crushed.
I know there are plenty of talented editors out there. But it’s not just Taylor’s work that I love. It’s the heart she puts into her work. It’s that little extra she contributes without ever needing permission.
So while Jack’s boss wants to throw him a party to say goodbye, I want to throw Taylor a million dollars to keep her.
If you want to become the kind of employee bosses hate to see go, and to deliver the kind of results that keep people talking about your greatness forever, consider the following tips, inspired by Taylor:
- Empathize. Expressing myself through writing requires a tremendous amount of vulnerability, and like most writers, I occasionally doubt the value of my art. Taylor always tells me the truth, and she has been the best cheerleader I could have ever asked for.
Regardless of position, status, or earnings, we all battle our own fears and insecurities. Find ways to do what Taylor has done for me – to leave people feeling inspired, supported, and brave enough to share their best work with the world.
Do you empathize with the courage it takes for people to share the work that’s closest to their hearts? Do you leave others feeling brave?
- Get Vulnerable. Taylor doesn’t just listen when I open up to her or express self-doubt; she also trusts me with her own stories and insecurities. When I share an embarrassing experience, she shares one just as humiliating. And when I tell her about people who’ve left me feeling bad about myself, she gets angry and defensive on my behalf.
Sharing your own stories and fears helps to lighten the load for those around you. Taylor is masterful at this.
Do you open yourself up to hearing other people’s struggles, and are you willing to share your own?
- Deliver Bigger: Everyone likes the idea of “under-promising and over-delivering,” but few do it. Truthfully, I’m a work in progress in this area. Fortunately, I have people like Taylor showing me the way. Without being asked, Taylor started linking new blog posts to old ones, adding relevant research to my writing, and helping me see the greater impact of my work.
Those who deliver bigger look for gaps and find ways to fill them, without the constant need for permission or appreciation. It is their pleasure to fill the void, as they know the difference a little extra support makes.
Are you giving more than what’s expected or requested of you? Do you look for the gaps and fill them, without asking for permission?
- Be curious. Many people simply show up at work, do their jobs, send a bill (or collect a paycheck), and demand “security.” Remarkable ones have an insatiable desire to understand “why” and to see the bigger picture. When I’m in the mix of writing, coaching, speaking, creating products, and the like, Taylor stops the noise with her penetrating questions. It has never been enough for her to simply edit my material. She has a vested interest in helping me improve not only my writing, but also my thinking.
Are you willing to ask the hard questions that might just help your boss, your team, or your colleagues achieve higher levels of greatness?
- Cheer. When you’re running a marathon, it’s hard to get excited about mile 10. In fact, you probably don’t even remember running past that spot … until someone in the stands yells out your name and helps you see how far you’ve already come.
Taylor has done this for me almost every week. I open my emails from her in anticipation of her comments on my progress as a writer. Sometimes she highlights a sentence or paragraph, and comments, “This is excellent writing – great work!”
Do you cheer your team, boss, co-workers, and clients on? Do you notice and call out what makes them so great?
Do these things, and I promise your boss will cry when you leave … and probably your co-workers too.
While I always send Taylor thank-you cards along with every check, I wonder if she really knows how unique her contribution to my life has been. (Well, she does now. Thank you, Taylor!)
Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations and Hidden Heroes