“Get noticed and rewarded”
How often have you griped, “How come the guy down the hall got the promotion?”…Why’d she get the award? I worked just as hard.” Are your co-workers smarter, more creative, ambitious, outgoing or confident than you? Do they just know how to suck up to the boss? Why aren’t you a shining star?
Being a brain may land you on Jeopardy, but it doesn’t necessarily create a star producer. Nor does being a social schmoozer or workaholic. Armchair psychologists who thought the answer was found in brain capacity or personality are wrong as can be, says John Kelley, consultant and teacher at Carnegie Mellon University’s business school.
After ten years of research at companies like Bell Labs and 3M to figure out what distinguishes star producers from average performers, he has unlocked the productivity mystery. The stars he studied aren’t geniuses, demigods or rare and exotic life forms–even though much of American business culture has perpetuated that myth, he says in his book How To Be A Star At Work (Times Books.)
They are more like us than we care to realize. And you too can work productivity circles around Harvard MBAs and MIT PhD.s and poise yourself to be one of your companies most valued assets. It’s a matter of behavior patterns, day-to-day work strategies and results, he says. In other words, he concludes after studying these star workers, it’s not what they had in their heads that made them stand out from the pack, it was how thy used what they had. Stars are made, not born.
Why is this so important? “In today’s brainpower-driven global economy, all companies are looking for higher productivity to fuel growth,” says Mr. Kelley. Downsizing has left gaping productivity holes in the workforce and “creating long-term revenue and profit growth is proving much more difficult…” Your future and the companies you work for, depend on understanding star productivity.
So what do you have to do to be a star? Change the way you do your work and ways you work with others. He offers nine strategies that bring added productivity (results–not just more effort.) For example, the first one is:
Initiative. This means blazing trails in areas that go beyond your regular work, not just for initiative’s sake, but because it really adds value.
Look at Peter from Bell Labs who began as an hourly worker climbing telephone poles. “When confronted with an unusual or recurring problem he didn’t just do a quick fix. Instead, he would trace the problem back to its root cause, searching for one global solution rather than repeated local solutions by the repair staff throughout the country. His initiative and diagnostic skills were noticed by field engineers, who began consulting him…”
Before long, he was offered a job to troubleshoot system-wide problems. Today he leads teams of PhD.s and master’s-degree-level workers. His IQ, problem-solving skills and personality are not better or worse than theirs; his secret is in how he uses his talents, says Mr. Kelley.
Becoming a star performer won’t happen overnight. It grows over time. He says people tell him bits and pieces of new skills accumulate, much like a snowball as it rolls down a hill. The more you roll, the more you pick up. They see incremental benefits of ten percent immediately. It takes about six months to incorporate these strategies into your daily routine and see significant productivity change.
There are also plenty of personal reasons for being more productive. The richest rewards go to the star producers, says Mr. Kelley. But besides the obvious financial benefits, star producers write their own ticket. They have more job options, are highly admired and therefore sought out by others, and get the plum work assignments which makes work more satisfying.
And by adopting star performer work skills that include self management, you’ll find you have more time to devote to the creative parts of your job, rather than being bogged down by the routine stuff. Plus, you can have a life outside of work.