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How to Become a Star Performer at Work

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The first question my boss asked me was, “What makes our best guys perform so well?”

I thought it was a rhetorical question, so I waited for him to continue. After all, what did I know? I’d just started two days earlier.

It turns out the answer was so obvious I didn’t even think about it. There is no secret recipe, no magic formula. What makes “our guys” so successful is the same thing that makes all people successful: they just want it. And they want it bad.

That motivation and passion are linked to success is no secret. Inc. talks about how listening to your heart is fundamental to make decisions. Steve Jobs said, “If you don’t love it, you’re gonna fail.” And Richard Branson shares that his beliefs and convictions were what drove him to success at the beginning of his career. Forbes even says the number one reason why people fail is that they “just don’t believe it.”

In other words, the verdict is in, and everyone agrees: motivation before anything else.

Heart before brain

Strong motivation is crucial to having a shot at success—and yet, surprisingly, people rarely focus on it at work. The reason they don’t is simple: companies reward your brain, not your heart.

The salary increase you get at the end of the year will reflect how many deals you closed, how many customers you answered, how many contracts you processed. Not how motivated you are.

Here’s the painful truth: companies won’t look after your motivation. You may be lucky and have a manager who does (if you do, stick to her like glue). But generally speaking, it’s up to you to find your own motivation and keep it up. And make no mistake: without strong motivation, your chances to be great at what you do are pretty slim.

So, how can you motivate yourself?

Over the years, in one form or another, I’ve suggested the same three things to people with motivation issues. I know these tactics work because I follow them as well, and they’ve kept me going for a while now. Just try them out and stick to them. Chances are, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and you’ll keep your career on track.

1. Write down your “why” (and go personal)

This is the most important point for motivation. To perform better, you need to know why you want to do what you do. Here’s the trick: a strong “why” is always personal.

“I want to become rich” is not good enough. High performers may earn very well, but that’s the consequence of being the best at what they do. Dig deep into yourself and go personal.

One of the best sales guys I’ve met glued his “why” in big bold letters to his work desk. It says, “I want to retire my dad.” That’s a powerful “why.” Every day, he remembers why he should be just a little better than the day before.

2. Hang out with the right people

In my first year of high school, I flunked three subjects (first in my family to do so—I made history). I was angry and frustrated because I worked as hard as any of my classmates, but the results just didn’t seem to come. My teachers suggested that my parents send me to a less demanding school. After giving some thought to it, my parents decided I should stay in the same school and just repeat the whole year.

I was put in a new classroom with new classmates. They were fun, challenging, smart, and I just loved being with them. Nobody celebrated a C like my old classmates did. Instead, my new classmates aspired to be better than they had been the week before

That’s when I realized that if you hang out with people who want to be better, you end up wanting to be better, too.

In a few weeks, my grades were in the A range, and they stayed that way until I got my Ph.D. several years later. That’s the power of the group. Hang out with the right people.

3. Glue your future to your bathroom mirror

Dave Logan, author of The Three Laws of Performance, says that everybody’s future is already written, and it answers the question “What’s likely to happen if nothing unexpected comes along?” Answer that question on a Post-It note and glue it to the mirror in your bathroom. You should remember what your default future looks like every morning. Then, if you don’t like it, change it.

Let’s hear it from all those who are trying to perform better. What makes you push yourself to the next level? What’s your “why”?

Alex Dogliotti is the European Director of Learning and Development of ReachLocal, Inc. He blogs about being unique at work at Stuckaholic. Feel free to connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • http://www.intentionalcareer.com/ Henrieta Riesco

    Totally agree – what makes one successful is that he “Just wants it” – desire, drive, aspiration, passion – all of it fuels us to overcome the obstacles.
    I usually ask the “why?” in the way of finishing up the sentence “I want to do it so that I can …” what? I want to get that job so that I can pay my debt. I want to pay my debt so that I can feel free. I want to feel free so that I can…

    • http://twitter.com/stuckaholic Alex Dogliotti

      That’s good. Hey have you ever listened to Simon Sinek talking about the ‘why’ on TED? If you haven’t, you must watch it. You’re gonna love it, I promise.

      It’s a classic, here’s the link:

      http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html

      • http://www.intentionalcareer.com/ Henrieta Riesco

        Nice talk, thanks for sharing. I often do exercises like “I want to do X so that I can …” with my clients. Digging into the purpose is like pealing the onions. And ones we know the bottom line, we may find many Xs to fulfill it :-)

  • amy

    Nice to know success is for guys.

  • http://spiritnewsdaily.com/ Donovan Moore

    No try. only do.

  • http://curvesnangles.wordpress.com/ Karen J

    Alex ~ Number 2 is THE most important point I’ve seen all morning (and I’ve been reading articles -new and old- here on BC a lot).

    The environment (both physical and interpersonal) that I surround myself with influences my attitude and reactions in more ways than most people can believe.

  • jrandom421

    None of this matters if you don’t deliver the results that matter to your boss.