On her blog and in an “Information Week” column, author Penelope Trunk (The Brazen Careerist) offers five steps to being a workplace superstar. They are all very provocative ideas, with a helpful message in there somewhere between the lines (with the exception of “start a side business” — this may be good for your career and your life, but it won’t necessarily make you a superstar at work).
I’d like to suggest five additional ways to shine brightly in the workplace, particularly for twenty- and thirty-somethings, but also for anyone looking for a path to accomplishment, accolades, control over your life, and value:
1. Build Yourself. You cannot spend enough time seeking mastery of not only your technical skills, but your personality/behavioral/leadership skills as well. Find out how the most effective leaders you know behave and treat people, and work exceedingly hard to become just like them.
2. Build the People Around You. Do you make everyone around you great at what they do? Coach, teach, encourage — that’s what a true superstar does.
3. Never Take Any Job You Are Not Matched For — one whose problems and challenges you don’t have a deep passion for and enjoyment of. You will suck at it or, at best, be mediocre and waste precious time in your one turn at bat on this planet.
4. Fight for Margin. Margin is the space between your limits — physical, time, financial and emotional — and your life’s workload. Superstars have margin, lots of it. They have the energy to work hard, the time to think, the financial security to say “screw you” if need be, and the relationships that give support. Also, all the great things you will do in your career will flow from margin — building yourself, building other people, and building a business.
5. Be Truthful. The biggest enemy faced by senior executives and CEOs is that no one wants to tell them the truth. There are two types of people who are useless in the workplace: those that can’t (or won’t) tell the truth, and those that can’t (or won’t) listen to the truth. Want to be a superstar? Be someone your leaders can count on for frank and candid insight, advice and feedback, offered genuinely and without agenda.
Superstars are superstars because the things they are good at are very rare. My experience is that these five things are among the rarest behaviors in any organization.