By | Abhijit Bhaduri | Founder, Abhijit Bhaduri & Associates
Every organization tries to hire the best candidate for the job. During succession planning discussions, only a handful of these hires get classified as stars. Every high potential employee does not live up to the expectations. This is what was puzzling Bell Labs.
They had no problem hiring the brightest engineers from the top universities. Yet, most of them became only average performers. They never lived up to their potential. Robert Kelley was given the task to figure out what separates the star engineer from the average hire.
Kelley used several techniques from paper-and-pencil tests, direct observation, work diaries, focus groups, and individual interviews, to sophisticated statistical tools.
Kelley and his team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University discovered 9 characteristics that star engineers shared. These 9 work strategies can be equally useful for you to know.
9 Strategies to be a Star Employee
- Show initiative: Go beyond the job description. Do your core job well and also do some more. Stick to tasks tenaciously and ensure completion. Undertaking extra efforts for the benefit of co-workers.
- Knowing who knows what: This goes beyond networking to further your own agenda. Star employees have a deep understanding of tacit knowledge that lies tucked away in different parts of the firm. Knowing who knows what can significantly speed up things.
- Create a portfolio of skills: Building a set of skills and experiences that the organization can leverage is a common characteristic of star employees. They are naturally sought after.
- Pattern Recognition: Ask, “How do my customers think about this? What do my competitors think? How about my colleagues? What about top management or the shareholders?” These questions will help you look at the issues from multiple lenses. This helps in recognizing patterns ahead of others.
- Help the leader and the organization to succeed: The star can alert the leader to potential trouble-spots or opportunities. Doing this consistently helps build trust.
- Teamwork as joint-ownership: Stars take ownership of the project outcomes. They will work to positively influence the group-dynamics so that people work well together.
- Leadership spelt with a small “l”: Leadership does not have to do with a grand strategy, vision and mega success. Stars view leadership as small day-to-day actions that moves the project towards success. They use expertise and influence to unite people. They try to understand the needs, skills and aspirations of co-workers and help facilitate those.
- Having organizational savvy: Being able to navigate the politics of organizations is an important skill. Most people have an aversion to the word “politics” or being seen as political. Competing for scarce resources makes people political. So learning to navigate the organizational bye-lanes is an important skill that star performers have.
- Skilled communicators: Communicating a complex message in a simple manner is a skill. Star employees know how to craft the message that will be understood by the audience. Being able to adapt the message to the medium and the audience is what star employees have perfected.
While each of us is capable of doing most of the 9 work strategies that research shows, doing it consistently is what makes someone a star.