“Tommy goes above and beyond to get the job done!”
I feel as though I always see recommendations on LinkedIn or references from job seekers with that catch-all phrase for a high performer: above and beyond.
But outside of over used corporate jargon, what does that epithet really mean? Tommy could do the research I asked him to do and also create an interpretive dance to explain it to me. I just asked for the research, but the interpretive dance is certainly “above and beyond” what I asked him to do.
As per usual, I have over thought this simple phrase, and I have a hypothesis for it’s definition that I would like to pose to you.
Going above and beyond = Anticipating needs and filling them.
Think about it. Tommy is asked to assist his boss on a project. Tommy is asked to gather research on a specific topic and report back on that research to his boss.
For fun, let’s make the example more specific: the project is the launch of a new skincare product, and the research is on how the product launch should be communicated to all internal staff. Tommy’s boss gives him the names of a few people in the communications and marketing departments that he should talk to, and she asks Tommy to let her know how other teams are communicating information inside the company.
If Tommy is going above and beyond, he asks himself why his boss wants this information. He doesn’t have to think too hard to realize that his boss is asking how other people are communicating product launches internally because his boss will have to do the same thing!
Once he realizes why his boss wants this research, he needs to ask himself what he could do to help. The research will obviously help, but that means his boss will have to analyze the data and then formulate her own plan. Why couldn’t Tommy take a stab at that?
So Tommy does the research, but with a slightly different intent in his interviews. He’s not just listening for ideas and tactics that others have used; he’s also listening with the intent to create a recommendation for his boss.
At the end of the day, Tommy compiles the research, meets with his boss, hands his boss the research, and also shares what he thinks would be the best internal communication plan to execute based on what he’s learned. His boss is impressed by the initiative he’s taken, pokes whatever holes she can into Tommy’s proposal just to make sure it is sound, and then Tommy earns the moniker “employee who goes above and beyond” in his boss’ eyes.
How to Go Above and Beyond
So, based on the story above, my theory is simple. Going above and beyond on tasks you’ve been assigned to is as simple as anticipating the assignees needs and filling them.
- Ask yourself why this task has been assigned to someone. What greater strategy or need does it contribute to?
- Ask yourself what you can do to fulfill that need.
It doesn’t even need to be an assigned task! In another scenario, Tommy could think about his department’s highest priorities for the year and what his group needs to do to deliver on those. Once he’s identified needs, he can go about fulfilling them.
Alright everyone: Are you on board with my theory, or are there still more holes that need to be poked in it?