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8 steps to turn your potential into high performance (review)

This review first ran in the Aug. 18 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.eight steps

Eight Steps to High Performance

By Marc Effron

Harvard Business Review Press

$39

There will always be someone who’s smarter than you.

And there’ll be someone who’s been blessed with better genes and looks, a more winning personality and a life of privilege thanks to mom and dad or their grandparents.

You can feel cheated. You can be resentful. You can feel sorry for the hand you’ve been dealt.

Or you can outperform pretty much everyone else by focusing on what Marc Effron calls our flexible 50 per cent.

Our unchangeable fixed 50 per cent includes our intelligence, core personality and socioeconomic background.

Our changeable flexible 50 per cent is all about how we set goals, behave, develop, network, present ourselves and manage our sleep. Your fixed 50 will only take you so far. It’s your flexible 50 that turns potential into high performance.

When it comes to becoming a high performer, there’s no shortage of well-meaning advice from books, bosses, family, friends and the Internet.

“Our quest for high performance is often guided by trial and error, as we do what we think is right and then hope for the best results,” says Effron, founder and president of the Talent Strategy Group.

Instead, Effron has identified eight science-based steps to becoming a high performer:

  • Set big goals and adopt a fewer, bigger mindset. “High performers want to meaningfully overachieve in the areas that matter most to the company – they promise big and deliver big.”
  • Behave to perform. “High performers work hard to identify the most productive behaviors, learn new behaviors where needed, and stop showing the less helpful ones.”
  • Grow yourself faster. Adhere to the 70 / 20 / 10 rule. Seventy per cent of your professional growth will come from your work experiences, 20 per cent will come from interactions with others and 10 per cent will come from formal education. To grow faster, identify which work experiences matter most to your organization and do as many of them as quickly as you can. Get both feedback and what Effron calls feedforward.
  • Build networks both inside and outside of work. “Those who connect more effectively have higher performance because they’re able to get more insights, favours and answers from more people.”
  • Maximize your fit. You’re more likely to succeed when your capabilities align with the needs of your organization. “It’s this fit, not just individual brilliance, that science says helps predict strong performance.” Know that as the needs of your organization change, so too must your capabilities.
  • Fake it. “A high performer needs to understand and display the few most powerful behaviors needed at that moment. Since you have a preferred way of behaving, you’re faking it any time you consciously display a behavior that doesn’t agree with your preferences.”
  • Commit your body. Science shows sleep matters most to our performance, exercise matters a little and diet has no measurable effect. Pay attention to both the quality and the quantity of sleep. Six to seven hours of shuteye is the sweetspot.
  • Avoid distractions. Steer clear of the too-good-to-be true performance fads that defy common sense and promise easy fixes. Effron advises against focusing on your strengths and says that science shows emotional intelligence doesn’t predict leadership success, a growth mindset is great for children and power posing is possibly the dumbest management fad to ever grace a TED Talk stage.

You can start taking these eight performance-boosting steps at any time, whether you’re at the front or back end of a career that’s on an upward trajectory or has stalled out and left you in a rut.

“The eight steps are straightforward, but they are not easy,” says Effron.  “Achieving them will take meaningful effort and personal sacrifice. High performance is a choice. Focus on what you can change and ignore the rest.”

@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and lives in Hamilton.

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