The best way to stand out from the pack at work is to take the initiative. Don’t wait to be told a problem needs a solution: if you can see a problem, a solution is already suggesting itself, and taking the time to put together some answers for a manager makes you look for more competent, invested and worthwhile than someone who will simply report the problem and then leave it for others to solve.
Taking the initiative in this way marks you out for advancement, extra responsibilities and possibly even promotion – it’s a managerial way to think – even if your solution isn’t the one that’s used on any particular occasion.
There’s no real end to the sort of issue you can apply this thinking to. If you see that your team is lacking in skills that would improve their performance (whether that’s a programming skill, experience with some new software or agile ways of working), presenting some research to your manager about the benefits to the business of investing in these skills, as well as some costings for instructors and the price of a London training room for hire for the duration will be a persuasive pitch and show that you’re thinking of the good of the business, not just of yourself.
As with so much in life, timing is everything: drowning your manager with your suggestions, however thoughtful, marks you down as difficult to deal with, rather than someone who stands up and takes the initiative.
Think about it as like buying a present: you don’t want to bombard someone with gifts (that’s creepy). Pick a time when it would be especially welcome, and present a well thought through solution, suggestion or proposal that would address an issue that really touches your team. To the extent that you can, without disrupting your colleagues or preventing you from doing your regularly scheduled work.
If your proposal isn’t well founded, then you will simply be wasting people’s time and have squandered the effort you put in. You won’t be growing the reputation you really want to. Similarly, if what you’re proposing doesn’t actually meet the needs of your team, then what you’re actually doing is interfering in other people’s work, which is not an attractive quality.
Using your common sense about what people will find useful and valuable is vital to help make sure you are communicating what you want to: that you are an intelligent, proactive team member, who doesn’t just see problems: they see the seeds of opportunity.