5 tips for becoming an office all-star … from a ‘corporate oddity’ who beat the odds

With the business world moving faster and becoming more competitive than ever, the need for new and creative leadership is rapidly growing. As a result, an influx of new employees has penetrated the corporate landscape. Frequently these employees are thrust into management positions untrained and ill equipped for leadership.

Below are five tips for standing out in the office, all of which have benefited me and the executives I’ve modeled myself after — because being a leader isn’t about who is forced to follow you, it’s about who fights to be on your team.

Be kind

In business you are either moving forward or being left behind. While others are focused on gaining political capital and achieving social prominence, I suggest that you focus on being kind.

I often hear that nice guys finish last, but I also know that the best team always wins. I would rather invest heavily in being kind to others — giving support where it is due and offering encouragement when needed — than spend time worrying about gaining political capital. Invest in personal capital through your actions and political capital will follow.

Give credit where it’s due

Throughout our lives, we have been conditioned to seek others’ praise. On our Little League Baseball teams, we sought the glory of winning the neighborhood pennant, and as adults we hope to be promoted to the corner office. While putting in the hard work to reach these personal landmarks is commendable, the feeling of accomplishment tends to be fleeting and unfulfilling. Fulfillment is found in deeds dedicated to others. Accept credit for the time you’ve put in, but heap praise upon those who assisted you in realizing your goals. Giving credit where it’s due not only lends you credibility, it also shows people you’re sincere. This helps you build a dedicated team, a dedicated team points to success, and success as a team gives way to a fulfilling work life.

Make decisions

Since we are looking at the general corporate landscape, it’s important to acknowledge that there are decision-makers and those who merely fancy themselves as decision-makers. Those who fancy themselves as decision-makers often fail to accept the responsibility that comes with an executive title. The decision-maker is not only willing to accept responsibility, he or she also thrives on both success and failure. Rather than avoiding the issues and the tough questions, hoping bad situations resolve themselves, the decision-maker considers his or her options, decides on a solution, and acts upon it. This simple, and seemingly obvious, observation is one that many people fail to acknowledge or choose to ignore, thus handing over power to people who aren’t good decision-makers. There is no place in the business world for stagnant indecision. Be a decision-maker, connect with other decision-makers, and make decisions together.



Take risks

A leader is expected to innovate, create, and propel your company forward. The only way to do this is to take risks. Leaders will regularly avoid risk when business is good in order to pad a résumé (who doesn’t want to be able to show massive revenue increases year over year?) and enjoy the cool breezes of profit paradise.

Sadly, for these individuals, massive growth is not sustainable unless they get vigorous, dynamic, and risk-ready. At the end of a growth period, when survival depends on people who’ve become risk-averse, we see and experience massive personnel changes within companies. Meanwhile, decision-makers willing to take risks are poised to climb the corporate ladder. Never become complacent on the job; always look for excitement and change.

Trust your instincts

Data matters, but your instincts do, too. Data is useful for exposing patterns and trends, supporting business models, and providing a business direction. What may be more important is what data can’t do, and that’s show emotion. Passion, excitement, and a love for the game are why we all got into business. Those who have a passion for their industry will always be ahead of the curve — sometimes so far ahead that the rest of the world (even your current consumer base) is not even close to reaching the destination you’ve reached. Data cannot predict the next logical step when the next step for the industry is dictated by cutting-edge consumers with the same hunger you have — a hunger that may not reveal a next logical step at all. Innovation is created by passion, excitement, and a love for the game. Your gut will guide your next steps when data won’t.

The leaders I have modeled myself after in business are extraordinary because they have gone above and beyond by following these five tips. Whether you’re a CEO at a Fortune 500 company or taking your first job at a local deli, be confident in yourself, trust your instincts, and treat others well. Your bold but kind efforts won’t go unnoticed. Soon you’ll find people joining your adventures in the office, and more importantly, in life.

A former body modification artist and small business owner, Joshua Coburn has transitioned to corporate America as the promotions specialist at Brownells, Inc. He speaks at junior highs and high schools, youth and church groups, and colleges on subjects ranging from body modification and tattoo culture to career planning, self-confidence, peer pressure, and self-actualization. He is the author of Inspiration on Demand and Through the EYES of an Abstract Mind.