“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails, explore, dream, discover. “ Mark Twain
Last month I wrote in my leadership column about high performance teams. After writing it I began to think about the question, “If I want to be part of a high-performance team, what do I need to bring to the team?”
Where does the personal drive to excel come from? Some say that certain people are born with a greater sense of competitiveness and desire to excel. Some say that the family environment helps foster a value of high performance. The root would seem to have components of both.
My coach training tells me that our motivation for changing behavior comes from wanting something different than what we have. Put another way, we are motivated to change when where we are is different from where we want to be. The gap between what we want and where we are determines the level of motivation. Our desire to excel can have its roots in more than one place. In the end, where it comes from is not all that important. What is important is how it influences our choices.
Beyond the desire to excel, I have reflected on what are some of the key building blocks to being a high performer. Here is my current state of thinking.
- Credibility. Our credibility comes from the demonstration of our knowledge, our skill, and/or our ability to produce the desired results. From our earliest years we are mastering the world around us. The earliest attempts involve proving to ourselves our ability. As we grow, we begin to ‘prove to others’ what we know and what we can do. That dynamic really doesn’t change through school, and then to our work.
- Accountability. Be self-responsible and self-accountable. Do your job. Hold others accountable for theirs. Being accountable also increases your credibility.
- Behavior counts. While what we know and can do is often viewed as most important, who we are, and how we present ourselves in the world is not only important, but becomes more important over time if we are in leadership. Key behavior components:
- Self-awareness. The better your self-awareness, the better you can relate and create relationship. This is hard work.
- Trustworthy. Do what you say you will do, and do it when you say you will do it.
- The ability to ‘fit’ and ‘affiliate.’ Our ability to ‘fit’ in a job, a department, an organization is critical, particularly in the beginning. Much of that is related to our ability to ‘affiliate’ – having the emotional intelligence to create and maintain relationships, work well with others, solve problems, deal with reality, deal with stress, . If what we know and can do is not matched by our ability to fit and affiliate, we will not advance.
- Encourage. A key component, people who encourage create a more positive environment in which to work. People in this atmosphere often are more engaged, doing better work, often going above and beyond. People who encourage help others to feel supported and valued, key aspects to higher engagement and performance.
- Investing in others’ success. This is an area that you might be tempted to overlook when thinking about your own development. The very best of the top performers that I know are people that are interested in organizational success, and in helping others be successful. The ability to excel at your own work, and help others achieve success will distinguish you as a high performer.
- Communication. Learn to write and speak clearly. Be clear about what you are trying to achieve in your message, and evaluate what you write and speak from that vantage point. Find a good writing handbook. Find someone to read your work, or listen to you, and help you hone your message. As you advance, you will be challenged by who to communicate with, how often, and what about. Regardless of how large your ‘audience’ grows to, never forget the first lesson about clarity.
- Role Model and Teacher. This is a role that high performers ‘migrate’ into as they advance. Those people who are deliberate in their desire to be a role model (show up every day on time, do excellent work) gets you noticed. Being ‘noticed’ often will expose you to greater opportunity.
You start with a kernel inside. That kernel is about your desire to do well, to be the very best you can be. Will you nurture that kernel? Will you sail away from the safe harbors in life – explore, dream, discover, become the best version of you?
These six areas are not the only areas we could list to help you achieve. For me, they represent key areas of focus. Understand that the very decision you make around the version of yourself you choose to become, will set the tone for most other things in your life. Being the best version of yourself takes being ‘awake and aware,’ drive, discipline, determination, and persistence. The reward – greater satisfaction and opportunity; more satisfying relationships; the opportunity to earn more; being a person of ‘substance'; experiencing greater joy in life; an increased chance that you will fulfill your purpose; the chance to work with other high performing people.
What are you choosing for yourself? Are you pleased with who you are becoming?
To a better you…