Employee Development: Unleash Your Superpowers at Work

by Dan Kessler

Start wearing a cape around the office and you’ll probably draw a few stares. Fortunately, there are other ways to show off your superpowers at work. Here’s how:

Know your superpowers

Tell me about your superpowers. It’s one of my favorite interview questions. Understand what those are. Take off your humility hat for a minute and try to get into a more boastful mindset.

  • What separates you from the pack?
  • What special skills have you spent extra time developing?
  • What can you offer that others can’t?

Not sure? Ask your friends, your colleagues, your managers. You might be surprised at what comes back.

Then it’s about finding the roles, companies, and opportunities where you can use them. You’re never going to be in a job where you can use your superpowers 100 percent of the time. (If you can, more power to you!) But be sure to put yourself in a situation where you can put them to work.

How to use your superpowers to exceed expectations

Now that you know your superpowers, use them to drive performance. The first step is to align with your manager and your team on the specific expectations for your role. It’s surprising how rarely that actually happens. You can only exceed expectations if you know what the expectations are. And don’t assume your manager will set those for you. Be proactive in suggesting what they might be — and then check-in on them regularly.

Failing to get clarity on expectations is a threat to every superhero. But once they’re established, it’s pretty easy to exceed them. Communicate regularly and do what you say you’re going to do. And when you can’t do something — or you’re blocked or stuck — communicate that too and then work through it.

Will a “bad boss” be your kryptonite?

In comic books, every superhero has an arch enemy. But in the work world, that conflict is almost always unnecessary. Some people complain their enemy is a “bad boss.” But is that really the case or is it an illusion? Most people, including bosses, are trying to do the best they can given their situation.

While there might be some bad actors in your company — and one of those might even be your manager — he or she probably is working through challenges, too.

If you perceive your boss is “bad,” reflect on why you feel that way. Consider what role honestly, you can play in making the best of a difficult relationship. If you’re doing things right and managing that, most likely someone will notice.

After all, everyone loves a superhero.