Steven Gilbert’s Job Success Formula

In a 2008 commencement speech at the Wharton School, long-time executive Steven Gilbert summed up his years of job success with the following formula.

Quoted from Steven Gilbert.

Steven Gilbert

15 Rules of Job Success

1. Show up on time. You might think this to be humorous or facetious. But, as your career goes on, you will find there are a lot of people who cannot do this. Their plane is always late, they pick up the phone before the big meeting, they can’t meet a deadline. 90% of meetings start late. When your colleagues and bosses know that you will show up when promised, they will have confidence in you, and begin to trust you.

2. Do what you are asked to do. Don’t do what you think ought to be required. Don’t add pages of data to prove your point. Summarize the data so your boss doesn’t have to.  Don’t change the assignment. Give your boss what he asked for, and life will be simple. You can add exhibits for recreational reading, but only the first two pages will be read.

3. When asked a direct question, answer, “Yes”, ‘No”, or “I don’t know but will find out”. Don’t tell a story. Don’t obfuscate. Don’t repeat the question you were just asked.  Don’t fill the air with information of interest only to you. Answer first. Tell the story second, if you must. You would be shocked at how few people can do this. Always make full disclosure.

4. Handle every piece of paper only once. Paper left on your desk will grow, even without food or water. Looking at the same piece of paper multiple times is wasteful, counter-productive, and cuts down on your recreation time.

5. Make your boss look good. Eventually, this will work. Organizations always know who really does the work. Empty suits can’t hide forever. If you make your boss look bad, you might have to try this at your next job.

6. If it isn’t in writing, it doesn’t exist. Without an email or a piece of paper, nothing anyone says to you means anything.  Promises are broken all the time in business, and memories are extraordinarily selective.

7. Everyone works hard, don’t complain or point out how hard you are working. No one cares. They all have their own issues. Your best bet is to act like a duck, looking calm and composed on the surface, but pedaling furiously under the water.

8. Honesty is the best policy. Not just because it is, but also because when things get complicated, you won’t be able to remember all the lies you told. If you are always honest, only your memory for the truth is at issue.

9. Being nice is more profitable than being nasty. It takes much less energy to be nice. People want to work with you. You will be happier and so will your colleagues.

10. Speed is important. Most people will value a quick “no” more than a lengthy “maybe”. Responding quickly is much appreciated.  Run to the problem first.

11. Work smart, not just hard. Don’t confuse speed with torque. Sitting at your desk all night is not the same thing as making progress. Figure out, each day, what you need to do to succeed. Determine what you need from a meeting; don’t just blindly enter the room like a lamb.

12. Be realistic. No one is going to make you CEO while the ink on your MBA is still drying. Even for the best, it takes a few years before people are comfortable that you can do all the things you think you can.

13. Don’t be afraid to be bold. You can, and certainly will, be able to get another job. Don’t be afraid to find the door if you don’t like what is going on. The sign on the door of opportunity reads PUSH.  Don’t be afraid to suggest a new line of business. Don’t be afraid to stand up for your vision. As Ayn Rand said  “Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men’s stupidity, but your talent to their reason.”

14. You have more than one job. You can never be happier than your least happy child. You may have to be a husband, wife, father,  mother, a son, a daughter, a nurse or a nursemaid during your lifetime. If you fail at any of these jobs, success in the others will be meaningless.

15. You don’t have to cure cancer to be a success.  Being a good citizen, a good parent, a good friend, a productive and charitable member of society is all most of us can hope for. And remarkably few achieve.

This list is from an article that quotes the terrific commencement speech in full. It's an inspiring read called The 10 Biggest Business Myths & Gilbert’s Secret Rules of Business Success.

And if you liked this article, you'll enjoy 6 Bad Things It’s OK to Say to Your Good Boss.

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About the Author Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

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2 comments
Jacob Share
Barmano says

Now there’s a wise man. Worthy material to post on your cubical wall.

I think you could add to #9 for those that work in big companies: be generous and kind to coworkers (up AND down the corporate ladder), and don’t gossip! Because you never know who might become your boss in the next re-org!

~ Dave

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Jacob Share
Kate says

I love the fact that “there are no rules” is built into every list of rules.

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