I sat with a group of other consultants waiting for a training session to begin. The presenter, instead of clicking to his first PowerPoint slide and beginning to drone, turned to us and said, "I would like each of you to put your right hand up in the air as high as it will go." He then waited as we obediently raised our hands high.
"Do you have your hands raised as high as they will go?" the speaker asked
We all nodded.
"Great!" he said. "Now, I want you to raise your right hand a little higher."
Every hand in the room went up at least another inch or two.
Most people are not giving everything they can give to their efforts. In some situations, 80% effort is ok - it is enough to achieve the results you need, and there is no need to kill yourself to do more. However, A-players know when and where to stretch beyond merely acceptable performance to efforts that make them stand out from the pack and create distinctive value. Here are a few situations where you and your people can likely stand out and create more value by stretching just a little bit higher:
Understand that business is about relationships You can't get anything done if people don't like being around you. Human beings instinctively group themselves as "us" and "them." When highly-effective people come into a new group, they understand that they must win the right to be heard and respected by the existing members of the group.
Without an awareness of such basic human dynamics, otherwise knowledgeable and skilled people spin their wheels. Then they blame their lack of results on "those people" who wouldn't listen to their great ideas.
Seek to understand rather than seek to be understood
Some people feel they must demonstrate how knowledgeable they are by talking about their own ideas and making sure that everyone in the group understands how smart their strategies are. However, people who are great at leading and facilitating teams don't do this. Instead, they emphasize listening to and understanding what others in the group want to achieve.
A-players are confident but not cocky. They know they have the knowledge and skills to get the job done. So they put their focus on understanding what success looks like to the people around them, knowing that the easiest way to get ahead is to help others succeed.
Complete the last 20% well Architects will tell you that they often spend 20% of their time on the first 80% of a project - and then spend 80% of their time on the last 20% of a project. Most people are bored of a project by the last 20%, and they want to move onto other things. However, customers are far from bored during the last stage of projects. That is when they get (or at least are supposed to get) the results for which they paid.
A-players understand the importance of last impressions and make sure they finish projects well. That differentiates them from the majority of people who end projects with a whimper. It also creates satisfied customers who become repeat clients and enthusiastic referral sources.
Think, don't just do Last night I emailed my web designer Kym Costanzo a request for a small update to the website for my new book. She emailed me back and said, "I made the update you requested but was thinking that there might be a better way to do this. Here's my idea, let me know what you think." This is why I am a fan of Kym and her business (www.thewebscaper.com). She thinks about what I ask her to do while she does it, and she often comes back to me with better ways to accomplish my goals.
Like most of you, I am busy. I neither know nor care about the subtleties of website design and management. I know what I want to achieve - I want someone who has smart ideas and great execution about getting there. This is true of every job and service in every business.
Plan, Execute and Follow Up Business people spend a huge amount of time in meetings, and A-players know how to use them to move the ball forward. I assume most people know the steps to actually get results out of meetings, but I can ensure you that a minority of people actually follow them.
Prepare by determining what you want to achieve. Create an agenda that focuses on this goal. Send the agenda out before the meeting, ask for changes and updates to it before the session starts.
In the meeting, follow the agenda. Ask for commitments: Who is going to do this? By when? Have someone write these commitments down and email them to all participants within 24 hours of the meeting's completion. Hold people accountable to their commitments. Follow these steps and watch the productivity of said meetings improve.
Conclusion: Success is defined by spending your time on activities and efforts that have meaning and value. Don't try to reach a little higher on everything in your life - you won't make progress. Identify the priorities for your life and your business, and then push yourself and your people to reach a little higher in those areas. You will become more valuable and stand out in the process.
Eric Herrenkohl is President of Herrenkohl Consulting and the author of How to Hire A-Players www.howtohireaplayers.com.