2010 Career Challenge: H = Hero

Everyone thinks it’s a great thing to be a hero at work. As you would imagine, it can be great when you’re the hero. It’s not so great when you’re the one who needs a hero.

Recently, I was speaking with a partner at a law firm who was working overtime to salvage one of their long-standing clients. This (very profitable) client was inches away from leaving the firm based on a pattern of poor customer service he had received from a new associate.

The final straw was when the associate promised to deliver an important file the client needed for a 4pm meeting. Not only did the associate miss the deadline, he didn’t even bother to call the client in advance!

Fast forward a few days… now the partner has to step in, absorb the blame, beg for forgiveness, and (hopefully) rectify the situation.

As a new employee, it’s obvious that you want those above you to provide guidance, coaching, and answer questions. What you definitely don’t want is to force them in to a situation like the one above where they have to fix something you’ve screwed up big time.

In other words, you don’t want a hero.

You don’t want to be that guy (or girl) who is at the center of a heated phone call from Client X to your boss, or worse, your boss’ boss.  How do you avoid this fate?


1.)    Have an excellent technical product. Make sure that everything (and I mean everything) you give a client represents the best thinking you and your team have to offer.

2.)    Couch an excellent product in excellent service. If you’re unable to meet a deadline, tell the client. If you make a promise, keep it. If you’ve delivered a product, call to follow-up.  If you haven’t heard from a client in a while, reach out. If the client sends you an email, respond before the end of the day.

I could go on and on about what is (and is not) excellent service, but I’ll save that for a future post. Just remember this: If you follow the rules above, you WILL NEVER need a hero at work.

And that will not only save the day…. it just might save your job.

Note: This is Part 8 in a series called the “2010 Career Challenge: Becoming a Rock Star from A to Z” by Emily Bennington and Skip Lineberg, co-authors of Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job.

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