Are You a Superhero Employee?

I’ve always loved superheroes and the superhero comics.    As a kid, my favorite hero was Popeye the Sailor Man.  I had a metal Popeye lunchbox.  I might have stolen it from my brother, but since he was 10 years older, I’m going with the story that he had out grown it and passed it down to me.  Even if you don’t believe that Popeye belongs in the category of superhero, please stick with me.

Why was I drawn to Popeye?  It surely wasn’t for the spinach!  I loved that he always took up for the underdog.  He saved his friends.  He worked out and ate his spinach so he was ready to strike into action at a moment’s notice.  He always smiled his crooked smile and laughed his silly chuckle.  Popeye the Sailor Man was committed to doing what was right.  Do you want to be a superhero?

I accidentally followed in my father’s footsteps and worked for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It wasn’t my goal in life to follow him, but I did, a lot actually.  After a disastrous three-day stint at McDonald’s, I followed Dad to the TG&Y Stores.  He was a store manager years before and I was a checker and front desk clerk.  A few years later, I followed him into the housing industry leading me to HUD.  Early in my career, he told me that it was very rare to see someone exceed as a technician when they did not perform well as a clerical employee.  Likewise, it was rare to have an excellent manager rise from a mediocre technician.

Several years after I began my career at HUD, a colleague from another office told me that my only job was to make my boss look good.  She said I needed to keep my head down, nose to the grindstone, and do even better than what was expected.  Sometimes that was a hard pill to swallow.  Sometimes it felt like I was never going to garner the recognition that I so desperately thought I had earned.  Being a superhero employee is HARD, with a capital H!

Do you want to be the best?  Do you want to rise to the top of your game?  If so, you need to be a superhero.  I love a quote I heard during an interview of Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors.  “Do every job you’re in like you’re going to do it for the rest of your life, and demonstrate ownership of it.”  That is an eloquent way of sharing similar lessons from my dad and my friend.  Ms. Barra never dreamed of being the first female CEO of a major American automotive manufacturing company.  She dreamed of doing each job she was assigned to the best of her abilities.

Each day, we need to put on our superhero capes, or suits, and seize the day.  We never know who will be watching us, just waiting to catch us doing something awesome, so we can be elevated to the next level.  Are you up for the challenge of being a superhero at the office?  Being a superhero is only for those committed to excellence.  Many say they want to be a superhero, be the best, but they don’t do what it takes to make it there.  You can’t take shortcuts.  You have to eat your spinach.  If you dream of being the Superhero Boss, you must start by being the Superhero Employee.

  1. Build others up.
  2. Commit to being excellent.
  3. Take ownership of the job you’ve been assigned.

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