But remarkable employees also spend a little time helping themselves succeed, both for "selfish" reasons and because their success creates success for others.
Want to stand out from the crowd? Want to stand out based on go, not show? Here are some great ways:
1. Be first, but with a purpose.
Many people try to be the first to arrive each day. That's great, but what do you actually do with that time? Organize your thoughts? Get a jump on your email?
Instead of taking care of your stuff, do something visibly worthwhile for the company. Take care of unresolved problems from the day before. Set things up so it's easier for other employees to hit the ground running when they come in. Chip away at an ongoing project others ignore.
Meeting standards, however lofty those standards may be, won't help you stand out.
So go above the norm. Be the leader known for turning around struggling employees. Be the shipping manager who makes a few deliveries a week to personally check in with customers. Be the VP who promotes from within. Be known as the employee who responds quicker, acts faster, or always follows up.
Excelling at an assigned project is expected. Excelling at a side project -- especially one you created -- helps you stand out.
For example, years ago I decided to create a Web-based employee handbook my then-employer could put on the company Intranet. I worked on it at home on my own time. Some managers liked it but the HR manager didn’t, so it died an inglorious death.
I was disappointed but the company wasn't "out" anything, and soon after I was selected for a high visibility company-wide process improvement team because my little project had made me "that guy."
Try it. For example, experiment on a new process or service with a particular customer in mind. The customer will appreciate how you tried, without being asked, to better meet their needs... and you'll never be forgotten.
4. Put your effort where your mouth is.
Lots of people take verbal stands. Few take a stand and put actual effort behind their opinions.
Say you think a project has gone off the rails; instead of just pointing out its flaws so you can show everyone how smart you are, jump in and help fix it.
Just make sure your personal interests don't overshadow professional accomplishments. Being "the guy who does triathlons" is fine, but being "the guy who is always training and traveling to triathlons so we can never reach him when we need him" is not.
Let people know a little about you; a few personal details add color and depth to your professional image. (Plus it makes you a lot more likeable.)