You know what I've realized in my tenure as a manager? The number one quality I appreciate most in a direct report is reliability. By reliable, I mean a person who says she is going to do something, and then actually does it in the agreed-upon manner.
You’d think this one would be kind of a no brainer for employees, especially when it comes to the boss who hands out the paychecks. But time and time again, in both my personal and professional life, I come across people who nod and smile when I ask them to help out with something, make promises they never intend to keep, or volunteer to assist with projects because it makes them look good.
As a result, I develop the dangerous expectation that I can stop worrying about that particular aspect of the project, that I can count on this person to take care of it. And imagine how disheartened I am when the deadline approaches (or worse, passes), and I either have to nag my report to complete the task and put it back on my own plate. I’ve fallen victim to my mother’s old warning: “if you let someone else’s lack of planning become your emergency, you’re a fool.”
A lot of the time, people who don’t keep their word aren’t doing it maliciously. They fully intend to get the task done, but they forget, get distracted with something else, or keep telling themselves they’ll get to it eventually. Nevertheless, it’s exactly these types of situations that make me a manager who delegates reluctantly. I know that if a project is in my hands, I can control how and when it gets done. But if I have to trust another person, it’s a different situation entirely.
I know that I’m not alone in this. If you want to be the kind of employee bosses love, do your job without being prodded, and once you agree to a task, don’t let it slide. Always meet your deadlines, and if something comes up that makes that impossible, give your manager plenty of heads up. Never underestimate the importance of being the person who brings peace of mind to the team, the person who makes it possible for the boss to ask once and then walk away confidently, knowing that the task in good, capable hands.