The start of a New Year for most means time to wax nostalgically on the previous year and set out to embark on the New Year with all kinds of well-meant resolutions for the future. I, like many others, have set audacious goals for myself with every intention of following through and like many others have fallen victim to lack of focus, laziness, crazy schedules, and any other excuse I can think of to distract myself from the real issue. The real issue is that I and most like me define an end-state, but fail to consider the steps that it will take to achieve that end. The classic example of this is weight loss. I have made three separate attempts at losing weight over the course of the last 4 years or so. Each year I would wake up on January 1st and say, “This is the year I will lose 50 pounds”! I’d start strong, often going to the gym every day for two solid weeks; although in all honesty it was probably more like one week. And… Stop.
Why?! Why was I in this rut of set weight-loss goal; fail? Year after year this same scenario would play out. It baffled me. At work I had no problem finding success but when it came to weight-loss, I just couldn’t hack it.
A mentor-friend once told me that with age comes experience (I often retorted that he was only half correct); though my age has led to me to this experience. Set a long-term strategy (such as weight loss), but pay attention to and pick short-term achievable goals that will lead you to your strategy. So in this scenario my strategy is: Lose 50 pounds. My initial achievable goal was: Go to the gym twice per week for 4 weeks. There it is, simple, measureable, and achievable. At the end of four weeks, pick a new goal.
Long story short, I did ultimately achieve my stated strategy and lost the weight. Like fitness, your success in the workplace is very similar. You can’t just set a goal of “Become President of the Company” without picking tangible and measurable interim steps to lead you on the path. In this article I will highlight four things you can do TODAY that will set you on the path to Rock Stardom.
Importantly, like fitness these four things must be practiced, honed, and practiced again until you become so proficient at them that you are, in point of fact, a Rock Star. Just like your muscles need time to adjust to any new workout schedule, your new Rock Star persona will need time to develop the required endurance, know-how, smarts, and networking ability necessary to take your game to the next level. These steps will also prepare you to “step up” and be a Rock Star when your company or organization needs it most!
Find a problem and solve it
Finding a problem or opportunity for improvement and addressing it effectively is one of my favorite activities. It’s a skill that anyone can develop and all it takes is a little bit of listening, a little hustle, and a desire to get something done. Often you won’t need to look much further than your organizations water cooler to find hints as to where to look for these problems. That said; many organizations struggle with inter-department ownership compounded by matrix assigned resources (most large technical organizations) leaving most folks with little understanding of how they can make life better aside from completing their assigned tasks.
This exercise is all about honing your skill at working outside of those bounds, and to get something done. Do the majority of this work on your own time and do not let your day job suffer as a result of this “extra credit”. Most importantly, work your tail off to not be held back by reasons why “it can’t be done” especially if “it’s not your job”, “not your departments responsibility”, or you already have “too much work”.
Reps: 1 per quarter
Work late on something
This exercise is designed to increase your “work endurance” and practice for the times when you will need poise and focus in the worst of conditions or at the most critical of moments. Pick a project or task that you are working on and work on it as focused as you can until late at night. I’m not talking about 8 P.M. or even 10 P.M, but two or three o’clock in the morning. Set your alarm for normal time the next day (or same day for those paying attention) and go to work. Real workplace Rock Stars have the calm, focus, and endurance to work these long hours when the time comes.
Reps: 1 per month
Practice talking to strangers
This exercise is rather fun. Strike up a conversation with a random stranger (try to pick ones that appear as business-people, otherwise it tends to be a bit awkward). Focus on the following key pieces of information:
1.) Their name
2.) Your name
3.) A quick summary about what you do (hone your summary until it’s 30 to 60 seconds, tight, and concise)
4.) A quick summary about what they do
5.) (Advanced) Pick a current event, discuss it briefly
Keep the quick, casual conversation engaging and enjoyable. Stop if you come across as a stalker J. Seriously though, any business Rock Star should be able to spend time in meaningful conversation with a complete stranger. It WILL make you more calm, cool, and confident whenever this situation occurs.
Reps: 2 per week until comfortable, then 1 per week/month as needed
Recently I read a very startling statistic about business people in America. Most, as in higher than 80%, spend less than 20 minutes PER WEEK reading and keeping up with trends in their fields. This is probably one of the single biggest areas you can improve immediately. Think about that, if you read articles, blogs, magazines, or books pertaining to your industry for say 20 minutes per day, you are already significantly ahead of most of your peers (statistically anyways). The assignment is this, should you choose to accept it.
1.) Find two industry blogs and keep up on them
2.) Find one industry magazine and read it
3.) Find one industry book and read it
Plan to target at minimum 20 minutes per day to immerse yourself in your field and be prepared to talk about them and cite facts that you have learned. Share what you’ve learned freely!
Reps: 5 per week of 20 minutes
So there you have it. The above Rock Star workout program may not be for everyone. This is not a one size fits all approach, as not everyone is cut out to be a Rock Star. That said, if you begin to follow the exercises I outline above I guarantee you will be well on your way.
What are your thoughts? Are there practices that you have incorporated that you want to share? Happy new year!