Just this month, SAP Canada was named one of the 30 Best Employers in my home province of Québec, and our employees were named among the most engaged in the country. Having just marked my six-year anniversary working for SAP, that’s something to be very proud of. It sounds like a silly thing to celebrate, but I’ve come to recognize that some of my most formative years and greatest professional successes have taken place here.
While I am surrounded on a daily basis by colleagues far more creative, dynamic, and intelligent than myself, I have managed to make my own positive impressions as well. My successes have led to two placements in SAP’s High Potential program (more on that in a future blog post) and pages of detailed positive feedback by project managers, team leaders, and coworkers from development and the field.
With that said, I humbly submit the three attitudes I have found most helpful in my career:
- Be grateful. Nobody wakes up every day thinking they have the best job in the world. We all have bad days. The reality is that, as of March 2013, there were 12 million unemployed workers in the United States and almost 1.3 million in Canada. That’s a lot of people who would love to trade places with you, complaints and all. If you’re reading this blog on the SAP Community Network, chances are that you are college educated, living and working in a major urban center, and earning a competitive salary. In this day and age, that’s nothing to sneeze at. This isn’t to say you have nothing worth complaining about, but gratitude does not negate or ignore your circumstances: it’s just a healthy way to start the day. The attitude you wake up with and bring into the office will influence your productivity, your creativity, and the way your colleagues perceive you.
- Be humble. I’m at that interesting stage of my career in which I’ve accomplished a great deal and yet, to borrow and adapt from J.R.R. Tolkien, I feel like I don’t know half of my job half as well as I should like. In other words, I’ve learned enough to know there’s an awful lot I still don’t know! Rather than taking on the unnecessary pressure of omniscience, try treating every interaction as an opportunity to learn something new.
“I learn every day,” said SAP co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe in a recent interview with Reuters following news of the 99 percent employee approval rating enjoyed by him and co-CEO Bill McDermott. “If you’re not humble enough to accept that you need to learn all the time, then I don’t think you’ll ever be a great leader.”
John Baldoni of the Harvard Business Review advocates the practice of humility in the workplace as a way to encourage collaboration without fear of being “one-upped” or put down. Who knows – you might even learn something new in the process.
- Be assertive. I know what you’re thinking, but assertiveness by no means conflicts with humility – there’s a time to speak up, too. Regardless of your position or function in your organization, you possess a wealth of knowledge and experience unique from anyone else. The regular practice of being openly inquisitive and contributing to conversations can be a life-changing experience. Forbes’ Glen Llopis, in his Six Reasons Employees Must Speak Up to Thrive at Work, writes “Every week, your ability to speak-up consistently should create a new set of opportunities.” The trick to speaking up, as in so many things, is temperance. Too little and you go unnoticed. Too much and you become white noise. Look for strategic opportunities to ask meaningful questions or contribute the thoughts you’re most passionate about. Don’t just speak up for the sake of being noticed, or you might end up being noticed for the wrong thing!
Unlike vocational skills that vary from person to person, everyone can improve their attitude. The challenge I’ve found is that my attitude is temperamental, easily fluctuating depending on how much exercise, sleep, or food I get. Consequently, attitudes don’t improve in the same way as vocational skills which advance incrementally through education or training. Our attitudes have ups and downs – we’re only human. To improve our attitudes requires introspection, honesty with one’s self, and a daily recalibration.
In a company as internationally distinguished and diverse as SAP, our success as employees is limited only by the effort we’re willing to invest in ourselves and in the people around us. You will contribute to that success through sheer intelligence and aptitude, of that I have no question. But you can magnify your success, your colleagues’ success, and your company’s success by modeling healthy attitudes.
Louis Bridgman is a professional communicator and retail industry
observer. For the past six years, he has contributed to SAP retail
solutions by writing everything from software documentation and
training material to marketing collateral.