The Strategist

Seven ways to become a true professional

02/01/2019 - 10:13

Why do some people work much better than others? This is a deceptively simple question asked by professionals in different fields of activity.

Our perception of success is based on conviction that everything depends on talent. But are all these statements fair? Some performance experts disagree with the idea that it's all about talent. They argue that it is equally or even more important to make consistent efforts to achieve success. Proponents of this “hard work” paradigm argue that in the long run, people take the lead due to their stubborn character and overcoming obstacles. Supporters of another option say that people achieve more when they do more: they take on more tasks and organize more business meetings. Hard work is the key to success, they say.

Talent, diligence, and also luck, undoubtedly, explain why some succeed and others do not. However, these qualities do not explain the differences in productivity among equally talented and hardworking people.

According to the author of the book “Great at work”, piles of “How to be efficient” tips overall create a very vague picture. It seems that each author tried to offer some kind of their own solution. Decide on priorities. Delegate tasks. Keep a calendar. Don’t get distracted . Set clear goals. And so on and so forth…

During a unique study, Morten Hansen studied existing ways to improve performance, selected key ideas and tested them on five thousand people. He assessed how traditional and well-advertised approaches, such as diligence, ability to determine priorities or search for true vocation, correlate with real career success of the respondents - doctors, managers, ordinary employees of companies and builders.

As a result, he identified seven practices of “smart” productive work that everyone can apply to achieve the best results.

7 ways to work smart

The main riddle of high performance can be solved by seven methods of “smart work”. 

When you work smartly:

- You define your main priorities and make substantial efforts to work in selected areas (method of work scaling);

- You focus on creating value, and not just on achieving these goals (goal setting);

- You refuse mindless repetition in favor of learning the most effective techniques (quality training);

- You are looking for an opportunity to do what meets your desires and understanding of the meaning (intrinsic motivation);

- You cleverly apply tactics of influence to seek support of others (promotion of ideas);

- You refuse useless meetings and ensure that those that you still attend are held in lively discussions (hard teamwork);

- You carefully choose which collaboration you will participate in, and refuse any unproductive cooperation projects (disciplined collaboration).

The first four factors relate to working by yourself, and the other three help work with others.

These seven methods turn the familiar idea of how you should work upside down. We believe that people work better if they choose priorities better. This is true, but the best workers do something else. Once they focus on specific priorities, they become obsessed with their task. It was their huge dedication when working on priorities that led to outstanding results. The best manufacturers did less and better: less fuss, more concentrated efforts. This discovery contradicts the usual opinion, which states that the main thing is to choose priorities.

Masters of their craft do not just work rationally in the usual sense of the word. They use more sophisticated methods. For example, they did less work, but got hung up on their tasks, or found jobs where they could combine their passion with creating value. The seven methods embody the idea of selectivity. Wherever possible, the best workers carefully select priorities, tasks, collaborations, meetings, committees, analysis, consumers, new ideas, procedures and interactions.

Based on “Great at Work. How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More” by Morten Hansen

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