28/04/2010

By William Montgomery, CEO of TEN

Success does not begin with radically changing the way you work or acquiring new skills: the first step is to take what you already do to the highest level. However trivial it may seem, if you can do a task more smartly than you did before, and than those around you are doing, others start to see you as a relative success — and you’ll have started to think your way into that role.

Here are ten actions to help you get the most out of a job — any job — in result and reward terms:

1. Convince yourself it’s worth doing, so worth doing well
If it is purposeless, give it up; but most tasks are done because someone wants them: even when a task insults your abilities, there’s reward and security in doing it better than the rest — if you can’t flip a decent burger, why should they put you in charge of the stand?

2. Get absorbed in it
It may look to outsiders like just kicking a ball or chipping stone, but to footballers and sculptors it’s all that they’re about, and they hit top form when wholly focused on it; learn to care about every small improvement or new idea, reassured of its importance by knowing that others have an interest in the result.

3. Seek and savour positive feedback
Reactions and appraisals of your work will often focus on the negative, but don’t let this distract you from what you did right; if no-one else is praising you, look back at the high points, work out what makes them good and how you can get to them more often.

4. Treat setbacks as something to learn from
Don’t waste time denying the defeat: own up to it and discuss the implications with colleagues, first limiting the damage and then learning from events that led to it.

5. Don’t waste your time complaining
Even if a setback was avoidable and not your fault, don’t risk further grief complaining or blaming; focus instead on what you can do to solve the problem and prevent it recurring.

6. Re-assess the chances of a negative outcome and how bad it could be
The chances are that you’ve exaggerated the risk of a bad outcome, and visualised the consequences of failure as worse than they actually are; we’ve a tendency to let worst-case scenarios loom too large, and to think others will mock or punish our mistakes — they probably won’t even notice, as long as obvious mistakes have been avoided.

7. Don’t read early problems as signs of failure
If you are over-sensitive to things that could go wrong, you’re likely to see them when they’re not there, or over-play them when they are — remember the first signs of trouble are a chance to rectify early errors and make course corrections, not a signal to call the whole thing off.

8. Accept a degree of pain and deferred gratification
Top performers don’t always enjoy their achievement of excellence: it’s often painful, lonely and a harder life than those who’ve settled for less — these deprivations start to feel pleasant once people recognises they’re lifted to a standard that will leave the rest behind.

9. Look like a success, even if you don’t feel like one
If you’ve ever been labelled as unadventurous, uninspired or lacking leadership, don’t worry about acting out of character; what others see shapes expectation of what they will get — and they’re the ones who feel awkward once you do things that show they under-rated you.

10. Clamp down on vices
It may sound like virtuous preaching, but successful people take exercise, avoid tobacco, fatty food, or too much alcohol, and don’t overwork.

William Montgomery
CEO of TEN

Through his workshops, William Montgomery has helped hundreds of organisations and schools plus thousands of people to achieve their potential. To discuss your continuous improvement requirements, please call 0117 325 2010 or send a message to mail@askten.co.uk