When your company’s employees work together as a team, they multiply their effectiveness. A study of high-tech workers in a California laboratory showed that the star performers outperformed their mid-range co-workers by a margin of 8 to 1. When researchers looked for the reasons, they found that the star performers were more adept at working with others. They identified nine work strategies that paid off for these knowledge workers. They can work equally well for you. Here are the strategies:
Give more than you have to.
The people who get ahead are the people who are willing to reach out for additional responsibility. They perform beyond their job descriptions, volunteering for additional activities and promoting new ideas.
Exchange knowledge with fellow workers.
In today’s competitive world, nobody knows everything there is to know about the business. We have to share our knowledge and expertise with others. Just as importantly, we have to be able to tap the expertise of the people we work with.
The researchers discovered an interesting difference between the top producers and the middle performers at the California laboratory.
The top producers established relationships with their fellow workers before they needed the expertise. Then, when they needed help, they knew whom to call. Their co-workers were willing to share what they knew, because they knew the favor would be returned.
The middle performers waited until they needed the expertise before they went looking for it. This cost them time, because they had to earn the trust of their fellow workers before they could benefit from the expertise.
Learn to manage yourself.
Productive salespeople don’t need a manager looking over their shoulders every moment of the day. They know what needs to be done, and they do it without being told. They regulate their own work commitments, manage their own time, monitor their performance levels, and take responsibility for their own career growth.
Be a team player.
The most valuable people in any organization are team players who look for ways to coordinate their efforts with the efforts of others. When they’re working with a group, they shoulder their share of the responsibility for the group effort. They work to achieve the goals of the group, and are willing to exert their efforts where they do the most to advance toward those goals.
Be a leader.
No one can make you a leader by bestowing a title on you. Some of the most effective leaders have no titles as such. They are leaders simply because people are willing to follow them. They are good at helping their groups achieve consensus on common goals and at developing plans for achieving these goals.
Be a follower.
There’s a difference between a follower and an underling. Followers look for ways to help their leaders achieve their objectives. Underlings wait for their leaders to give them specific orders and instructions. Followers think for themselves, but share their thinking with the group. Underlings would rather let someone else do the thinking.
People who have perspective see the big picture. They understand how their jobs relate to their company’s overall mission. They also look at their work from the standpoint of others. Salespeople with perspective can put themselves in the shoes of the customer with a quality problem. Staffers can put themselves in the shoes of managers and managers can see things the way staffers see them. This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with everything the other person says; it just means that you are capable of understanding things from others’ perspectives.
Be a communicator.
Successful salespeople are able to present their ideas clearly and forcefully, either orally or in writing. They don’t keep information and ideas to themselves, but generously share them with their co-workers.
Know the organization.
Every organization has its competing interests. Successful people understand these interests. They know that what might be ideal for their department or work center might be counterproductive for the organization as a whole. They cooperate for the greater good, do their part to resolve conflicts, and concentrate on getting things done.
Middle performers as well as top performers tended to follow these strategies. But they differed in the way they ranked them in importance, and they differed in the way they defined certain qualities.
The top performers were more interested in the strategies that stress performance. The middle performers placed greater importance on strategies that impressed management.
To middle performers, taking the initiative meant doing the ordinary things without being asked. To top performers, initiative meant doing the extraordinary — and helping their fellow workers to achieve the extraordinary.
Extraordinary performers who hog the limelight are likely to inspire jealousy and contention instead of admiration. The truly great superstars are those who are willing to share the glory with their teammates.
Henry Aaron, major-league baseball’s all-time home-run leader, was an accomplished team player. He once said that if he came to bat in the ninth inning and his team had an eight-run lead, he’d go for the home run. If he came to bat with the bases empty, two outs, and his team in desperate need of a score, he would also aim for the fences. But with the crucial run in scoring position and one man out, he would go for percentages, knowing that he was far more likely to score the runner with a controlled swing that resulted in a ground-ball single than with a powerful swing that could end in a strike-out or a pop fly.
Michael Jordan, the great National Basketball Association superstar, showed his team spirit in the 1992 NBA playoffs when, after a stunning individual performance in which his team lost, he began feeding the ball to his teammates. Jordan’s personal score fell considerably, but his team won.
This principle applies in your work as well. When the people in any organization compete with one another for glory, only the competition wins. When they cooperate internally, they become more competitive externally — and the entire organization wins.
When you cooperate with your fellow workers, everyone is pulling for you to win. When you compete against them, they’re all pulling for you to lose.