You can measure the success of your work based on the impact it had on your organisation. I am a strong proponent of the theory that if you are good at what you do , you are always at the helm of what your organisation considers important.
The corollary for those who want to understand where they need to take their career is — keep track of where the key people in your organisation are focussing their time. That is where you need to be.
Please don’t take this literally and try to use subversive means to reach a place where you don’t belong. If you are good at what you do and you are looking for direction , this is probably a good rule of thumb. It requires you to understand who are the movers and shakers within your organisation & why they are where they are today. If the person doesn’t deserve to be where they are — stop following that lead. Its just going to lead you down a dark path.
So how does all of this relate to working at a small company ? 5 years ago , I made a switch from being a developer at a 10,000+ company to being a Senior Business Analyst in the Product management team of 220 member company. The experience has been an eye opener.
In a small organisation , the effort you have to make to understand the key revenue strategies , target markets , sales cycles & people dynamics is small. With just a bit of inquisitiveness , you can gather all of this. This means you will never be in a discussion where you don’t know where a management decision is coming from or why an individual is pushing hard for something. You are always prepared.
Coming back to impact. Impact is about what you say , what you do and how it affects the environment around you. If you make a suggestion for a change and it is implemented , that’s impact. If your hard work is resulting in taking customers live on your product , that’s impact. If you can speak to somebody way higher up in the management chain and influence their decisions ,that’s impact.
If you are making an impact & its a small organisation , you will get noticed. When you get noticed, you are placed in areas of higher impact.5 years ago when I was new to the company , I was placed in the team that was delivering solutions to the only multi-million dollar customer we had at the time. I was raw & new to product management but I was excited about what I was doing. With a little help and lot of guidance from the people around me , I delivered. I built trust with the delivery team, engineering and QA and carved out a place for myself.
In 3 months , I travelled on an assignment to Australia to work with the client. I was nervous and frankly — I thought it was too early for me to to be exposed to a high profile client.
Here is the thing — Other people sometimes judge your abilities better then you do. If you give it a shot , you Ll surprise yourself.
The customers were delighted with the hard work and commitment we showed over the next few months. They send out their feedback to the teams offshore.Impact.
In the following months , we signed another million dollar deal , I was put in charge of building and delivering one of the core modules in the product.A teammate owned the another module.We delivered another two releases which took the customer live and helped us subsequently nail another million dollar deal in the same region. Again , we delivered and achieved another go-live.
Notice a pattern here ? There were other projects and product lines — all of them were important but none of them were hitting the revenues like we did. As we signed more deals and each time , we were at the forefront. All of this translated to something for us as individuals. Visibility & ability to make more impact.
Its simple really , the more meaningful things you work on , more meaningful things will get attached to you. Its a habit. When something challenging comes along — they organisation will automatically pick you and the rewards will follow.
Few things I learnt :
- Work hard and always make an impact through work
- Talk to everybody — no matter what they do. Every single person including the housekeeping lady and watchman can help you learn something new and interesting.
- Understand where the company makes its money & who the responsibility of execution sits on.
- If you are expecting someone to be tough in a meeting , don’t wait for the meeting to hear it. Pre-empt it and get their buy-in beforehand.
- Some people just want credit — no matter if they are responsible for the work or not. If they are in a position of power , let them take the credit as long as it achieves your objective. Don’t get too attached with small victories , its the bigger ones in the long run that matter.
- Be accommodative — You will never know when you make a mistake. People will go easy on you when you do because you showed them the same kindness.
- In the end — every human just wants one thing , respect as an individual. Give people their due , you will find nobody ever treats you badly. You’ll be surprised at the results.
- Everybody cannot be pleased all the time. It’s OK. People will be jealous when you do well , take it in your stride and pat yourself on the back. Its a sign that you are doing well. If you’ve done no harm intentionally , there is no reason to feel bad.