By BABATUNDE OLADELE, Lagos
The vicissitudes of work throw different things at us. Some get to the workplace and find their rhythm or get direction for their lives, others enter and begin to struggle and only just getting by. But, one thing is certain, the world of work only rewards the star performers and they are the ones who find the most fulfilment from the self-application process of work. Nigerian professionals, renowned for their determination to succeed, are among the most productive in the world. But there are more they can add to their game.
Below are some 12 steps that will elevate you to the status of a star performer.
1. Know yourself
Know yourself. Know your strengths, limits, talents, gifts, deficiencies. Know where you will thrive and flourish; know where you will struggle and not be able to cope. All of us are not supposed to work anywhere; so, once you understand yourself, it makes career choices and decisions easier. For instance, if you work in a setup where your job descriptions do not match your strengths, you will struggle and will not find joy in your work. The kind of satisfaction that comes from doing what you are naturally cut out for will elude you.
Even though research has revealed that most Nigerian workforce work mainly for the pay and not out of interest, you still owe yourself the duty of making a choice as to where you want to work, such that going to work will not be something you dread every day.
2. Confirm expectations and requirements
If you desire to turn in a five-star performance in any role, you must know what specific tasks are required of you at work. You should know what you are supposed to do on a regular, daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis to fulfil your role. This will help to have a complete picture of what you ought to do with minimal omission.
3. Ascertain the scope and coverage of your responsibilities
How long do you need to do what you are doing? How far do you need to go? What scope do you need to cover in your professional responsibilities? Having a grasp of this will help you not to dissipate energy in the wrong direction or do much where you are supposed to do little.
What am I expected to do? For how long am I expected to do them? How many of those am I required to turn in daily? These are questions star performers ask before they hit the ground running.
4. Identify result and productivity metrics
Star performers are always conscious of their productivity quotient. If you wish to be numbered among them, then you need to adopt a result-driven mindset like they have. You need to be clear as to what constitutes productivity for you. You are permitted to do as many things as you want, but it is not all the things you do that constitute productivity. You should know how your results will be appraised so as to align yourself to do what you are supposed to do as against what catches your fancy.
5. Set goals and objectives
Having known what you are expected to do, what scope you are required to cover, and the metrics of your appraisal; you should then set goals for yourself: These are the things I’m going to accomplish, based on what I know.
You need to set personal goals; star performers are goal-driven. They focus on the end result but do not lose sight of the process. They align with the process that will take them to their result, not activities that will take them away from it. Even if you are not given a goal by your employers or line manager, you need to have your own performance goals.
6. Count the cost
What will it take to accomplish the goals you have set for yourself or the ones set for you by your managers? What will it take to cover the scope? What will it take to meet the expectations or requirements delivered to you? What are the things you need to do to achieve all these? Asking such pertinent questions will help you determine what needs to give in order for you to achieve your objectives.
7. Set your priorities
What are your priorities? You have been told what you are supposed to do, you know how far you are supposed to go, you know what scope you are supposed to cover, and you know what will be used to assess your performance. Armed with all this knowledge, you also need to know which task to do first of all you are supposed to do; which one should come second, which one should come third, which one should be the last.
Setting priorities before you start will help to know the order you are supposed to eat your frogs.
8. Manage your time
Star performers are excellent time managers. They are strict in the way they spend time as well as to what extent they allow others who are not germane to their result to encroach on their time and space. Because they know the ephemeral nature of time, they endeavour to make every moment count. They reduce loafing to the barest minimum and input substance that will count later on in their time.
A very good tool that has helped star performers improve their productivity is the award-winning TAMS, a homegrown time-management focused human resource management application that measures punctuality at duty posts as well as overall contributions to organisational success. Trusted by over a thousand organizations in Nigeria and West Africa, TAMS also celebrates star performers with gifts and vacation packages.
After you set your priorities and you are able to optimise time, you have to learn to focus on what you ought to do. As simple as that sounds, it is one of the most difficult things to do. It is not easy to maintain a laser focus on a task for a prolonged spell and not be distracted.
There are noises all around us, even in your own mind, there psychological noises contending for your attention. But you must be able to sieve through them and centre on what needs to be done at any point in time. That is one of the tricks of star performers.
10. Manage people and your environment
To be productive you also need to manage the people around you. You have to learn to say, ‘No’ or promise a rain check on extraneous requests.
You need to manage your environment too, there are some environments that aid productivity, and there are those that inhibit it. You have to position yourself in an environment that allows you to be productive. For instance, the way you are seated or how you organise your table and workspace can either facilitate or slow down your work pace.
11. Review your work
Top performers have reviews ingrained in their system. After completing a task, they look at it again and ask themselves questions: Is this the best I can come up with or can I do better? They also review their day asking such questions as; how has my day been? What did I get right, what did I do wrong?
You have to review your own performance before being assessed by your superiors. You should also review your day, week, month, quarter and year. This helps you to know what you have accomplished so that you can report it and get the confidence boost to do more. It also helps you to know what is outstanding so you can pursue them.
All the highlighted pointers that make a star performer are indicators of discipline. After you have taken note of all the points, if you are not disciplined enough to put them into practice, they will all filter away. Motivation gets you started, but self-discipline keeps you going even when you don’t feel like it.
How many excuse-makers do you know that turned out to be successful? Nobody claps for what you plan or intend to do. You only get applauded for what you have done, and it takes discipline to get difficult things done because you have to take tough decisions and be rigorous in your thinking. It is not even easy to think through a process, it takes discipline. And that is one of the hallmarks of star performers.
-Babatunde Oladele is an expert in content, brand and reputation management and a team leader at TRW Consult, a Lagos-based new generation marketing communications agency.