Outstanding Performance Overview

Today is Wednesday, so this post is on outstanding performance.

All outstanding performers have at least three things in common:

  1. Outstanding performers set and achieve goals.
  2. Outstanding performers are organized.
  3. Outstanding performers are detail oriented and execute well.

In this post, I’ll delve into each of these three in more detail.

Goals

Outstanding performance begins with S.M.A.R.T. goals.  These goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results Oriented and Time Specified.

  • Specific – Your goals should be targeted, nor broad and general.  They should be unambiguous and explicit. 
  • Measurable – you should be able to tell quickly and easily if you’ve met your goal.  Develop a set of criteria that will be indicative of success or failure in meeting each of your goals.
  • Achievable – Set goals that are challenging, but not incredibly difficult to achieve.  A challenging goal is motivating, an impossible one is demotivating.
  • Results Oriented – Focus on results, avoid in the activity trap.  Your goals should focus on the results you want to achieve, not the activities you will undertake to get there.  For example, “improved presentation skills” is a result; “participating in a presentation skills training program” is an activity.  It’s possible to complete activities and not achieve the desired result.
  • Time Specified – Set deadlines for achieving your goals. Well developed goals come with time limits.

Once you have developed a set of S.M.A.R.T. goals, you need to work them.  Here are some ideas for accomplishing your goals and becoming an outstanding performer.

  • Write your goals.  People who take the time to write their goals accomplish them more frequently that people who don’t.
  • Keep your goals with you – in your wallet, on a clipboard, on your screen saver.  In this way, they’ll be a constant reminder of what you are going to achieve. 
  • List at least one reason you want to achieve each goal.  These reasons will help you stay focused when you get tired and frustrated and begin asking yourself questions like “why am I working so hard on this?”
  • Share your goals with people with whom you are close.  These folks can be a big help in achieving your goals.  Goals become more real when you share them with others.  Goals that you don’t share, are merely aspirations. 
  • Talk about your goals at social and networking functions.  The help you need to achieve one or more of your goals can come from some surprising places.  You never know who might be the one person who can offer the assistance it tales for you to get over the top on one or more of your goals.
  • Focus on your goals several times a day.  Ask yourself “is what I’m doing right now helping me achieve one of my goals?”  If the answer is “no” – stop what you’re doing and do something that will help you reach your goals. 
  • Stay balanced by creating goals in all areas of your life: career, business, personal, family, hobbies health.  These goals will help guide you to where you want to go.
  • Make sure your goals are congruent with one another.  Conflicting goals create undue stress.  If you have a work or career goal that is going to take up 60 to 80 hours a week of your time, it will be pretty difficult to realize a goal of running a marathon.  You simply won’t have time to train.
  • Consider what you might have to forgo or give up to reach your goals.  This could be things like family or hobby time.  Ask yourself questions like: “is this goal important enough for me to give up time with my kids, or my weekly yoga class”.

Organization

Outstanding performers are well organized.  They manage time well.  They have an organized work space.  They manage stress well.  They use personal organizing tools that work for them. 

Here are some ideas for getting organized to become an outstanding performer.  These are all ideas that I use and work for me, but to be successful, you need to create a unique personal organization system based on your needs and preferences.  Modify this advice to fit your personal needs and situation.

  • Create a prioritized to do list for the next day before going home at night.  In this way, you’ll be ready to get right to work in the morning.
  • Here are some great ideas I got on managing a to do list from The Office Professional newsletter:
  • Keep your to do list unified and easy to access.  Avoid the post it note syndrome – writing down various tasks you need to accomplish on stick notes that you post on your computer or bulletin board.  Sticky notes get lost and attached to all kinds of things.  Create a written to-do list that shows all of your tasks in one place, so you can see at a glance what you have on your plate.
  • Record everything you need to do.  It’s difficult to prioritize and organize your time when you don’t have an accurate and complete picture of all that you need to do.  Record every task, large or small.  Break large tasks, those that might take weeks or months to accomplish, into smaller doable steps you can complete in a day.
  • Use a system to prioritize your list.  The ABC method is the most common way to do this.  “A” tasks are urgent and must be done immediately (writing daily blog posts is an “A” task for me).  “B” tasks are important but don’t have to be done everyday or the same day (things that make my “B” task list usually have an end of the week deadline).  “C” tasks are things that need to be done, but not within a week.  Another way of prioritizing your list is to put a deadline next to each item.  I use a combination approach.  I create a deadline for every task and then I prioritize for each day.
  • Separate the most important tasks from the master list.  Create a short list of tasks everyday.  Take the three most important tasks on your prioritized master list and enter them into your daily planner where you’ll be sure to see them often during the course of the day.
  • Focus on your top three priorities.  Focus on your top three priorities every day.  Short of a real emergency, don’t let anything distract you from those priorities. 
  • Carry a spiral notebook with you.  Use it to take notes on conversations and to capture thoughts and ideas.  You never know when inspiration will hit.  I keep my notebook by the bed, as I often get very good ideas in the moments before I fall asleep.
  • Eliminate clutter.  When in doubt, throw it out.  Don’t hang on to a lot of stuff you’ll never use or read.  This is a tough one for me.  I have to make a conscious effort to reduce clutter.
  • Break large projects into smaller chunks.  They are not so overwhelming that way.  Set mini milestones for these projects.  I always begin large projects at the end of the day.  That way, when I return in the morning, I have some momentum, and I get right to work, back where I left off the previous evening.
  • Determine your peak energy times.  Schedule “high brain” tasks then, and “low brain” tasks when your energy is the lowest.  My peak energy times are early and mid morning (6:00 – 11:00), and late afternoon (3:00 – 6:00).  This is when I am most alert and can get a lot of work done.  I do my best thinking and writing then.  I have an energy lull midday, so I eat lunch, run errands and catch up on phone calls and e mails.  What are your peak and down times?
  • Keep a tickler file to remind you of deadlines.  This will help you get things done on time.  Also, you’ll be able to follow up with people who owe you something.  Things won’t slip through the cracks.
  • Use waiting and commuting time to keep up with your reading.  Carry a folder of things you need to read.  You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to keep up on your reading this way.
  • Listen to professional development recorded material – books on tape, cds, podcasts – during drive time.  This is a great passive learning tool.

Execution

Knowledge is power.  It can help you reach your goals.  That’s why it’s important to become both a well informed person and a well informed business person.  Watch the news.  Stay up to date via the internet.  Read national papers like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.  Read your local paper and local business paper.  Read technical and business journals.  Become someone who is in the know. 

Stay up to date on what’s happening in your industry.  Read industry publications.  Get to know the issues facing your company, your company’s competitors and your industry.  Learn and understand the competitive environment of your company.  Become an expert on your company’s competitors – their products and their strengths and weaknesses.

Develop the technical skills you need to do your job well.  Keep them up to date.  Take classes – on line, at a local adult education center, a community college – anyplace that helps you keep your skills up.  As I write this, I am participating in a teleseminar series and working with a mentor to assist me in becoming better at marketing myself on line. 

Here are some ideas to help you become an outstanding performer.

In The Six Fundamentals of Success, Stuart Levine makes a great suggestion – create your own performance dashboard:

  • “How do you know if you’re on track to meet your goals?  You need a system to assure that you get there.  Think of a car’s dashboard.  There are gauges and indicators that tell you whether critical functions are working.  Do you have enough gas?  How hot is the engine?  How fast are you traveling?  This information snapshot is designed to monitor your car’s performance and help you make necessary repairs before the car breaks down.  Design a dashboard for your job performance as well.  Use it to see if you’re getting where you want to be…Monitor the information you need to make sure you’re making progress toward your target.  If you’re falling behind, step on the gas or reevaluate the route you’re taking.”

Work hard.  I know that sounds so simple that you might wonder why I include it here.  Hard work however, is one of the most often overlooked (and under practiced) keys to success.  Make sure that the work you do and the product you produce is high quality.  Pay attention of all of the aspects of your job. Don’t get caught in the “tyranny of the or”.  Instead focus on the “genius of the and”.

I can almost hear you saying, “tyranny of the or, genius of the and…what the heck are you talking about here?”  Let me explain.  Several years ago, I was consulting with a wood working manufacturer.  This particular company manufactured stair parts.  Turned balusters were one of their big products.  A turned baluster is a vertical support on a stair.  It is usually shaped by a lathe.  You’ve seen them many times.

This particular plant was having some serious quality problems.  After spending some time on the floor, I was able to pinpoint the problem.  Blanks were loaded on to a lathe that turned 20 of them at one time.  The equipment was old.  As a result, it tended to vibrate quite a bit.  After a while, these vibrations caused the lathe to create out of spec balusters.  Usually, these balusters were turned off center, and were unusable.  It wasn’t even possible to rework them.  They were simply scrap — a waste of operator time, raw materials and utilities.

I asked the lathe operator if he had any ideas why this was happening.  He said, "yeah, these machines are old.  We set them up at the beginning of every shift and after lunch, but they vibrate out of spec before we set them up again." 

When I asked him, why he didn’t stop the machines and recalibrate them when he saw they were beginning to vibrate out of spec, he said, "I can’t do that.  I have to produce so many of these a day.  If I stop to reset the lathe, I won’t make my production quota".

"But you’re producing scrap", I said.  "That’s not my problem.  I worry about production, not quality", he replied.

This is a perfect example of the "tyranny of the or".   In effect, the lathe operator was really saying, "What do you want, production or quality?"  Sales people sometimes say, "What do you want me to do, call on customers or fill out call reports?"  The answer to these questions, of course is "Both”.  Outstanding performers focus on productivity and quality; sales calls and completed call reports.

This is "the genius of the and".  For example, the lathe operator needs to meet production targets and meet quality standards and do it safely and do all this in a manner that complies with all the regulations that govern manufacturing.

Outstanding performers aren’t governed by the tyranny of the or.  Instead, they employ the genius of the and to ensure that they address and satisfy all of the priorities associated with their job.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website www.BudBilanich.com for more common sense.  Check out my other blog: www.CommonSenseGuy.com for common sense advice on leading people and running a small business.

I’ll see you around the web, and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.

Bud

PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand – my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to www.FirstGiving.com/TheCommonSenseGuy to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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