Guest post with Deepak Thomas
Remy, a rat, yearns to be a great French chef, guided by Chef Gusteau’s motto “Anyone Can Cook”, and indeed becomes one, transcending every boundary in a rodent-phobic profession. In our own proverbial rat races, even if we haven’t felt autobiographical resonance with Remy’s pursuit of his dream in Pixar’s Ratatouille, you and I dream of impactful achievements and stellar recognition in our own professions, irrespective of whether you are a CEO, sous-chef, doctor or a chauffeur.
But a study says 7 out of 10 employees long for better recognition for their efforts at work. That’s a shocking figure. So statistically, there is a large probability that you and I might not cutting it at this exact point in time.
Instead of getting into definitions, I’ll just loosely correlate a superstar to someone whose impact to the company makes the opportunity cost of employment look minuscule. Superstars are leaders, irrespective of their seniority, roles or responsibilities. The title “leader” is cliché, but the responsibility of leadership is not.
How do we know where we stand? Whom do we benchmark ourselves to? Surely, not blindly to the top-rated performer at work.
“Always be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second-rate version of someone else.” – Judy Garland
Being a first-rate version of yourself requires you to have first-rate traits and be first-rate at certain disciplines. Traits are attributes and qualities, while disciplines are malleable skills. Great leaders have a bedrock of noticeable traits such as integrity, drive, self-confidence, endurance, and many more. What are the disciplines they excelled at in order to become the leaders and superstars they are today?
To look within, I found inspiration in understanding how companies become market leaders through competitive strategies. “The Discipline of Market Leaders” was published in 1995 by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema. The book may be outdated in that many of the companies cited may not exist or be relevant today, but its underlying concept detailed in this HBR articleis very much applicable for companies to formulate and embrace their competitive strategies. The authors articulate that: market leaders are champions in oneof three disciplines (operational excellence, product leadership and customer intimacy), while meeting industry standards in the other two.
What are parallels between market leading companies, and top performers in our workplaces? In my own observations, superstars and leaders are highly empathetic, consciously thoughtful, pertinent at decision-making, efficient at doing things (and getting things done), and extremely effective at bi-directional communication.
These patterns really boil down three very simple disciplines – THINK | TALK* | DO.
(*TALK is a representation of being able to express effectively, so it involves as much of empathy and listening skills as the act of talking.)
Let me elaborate through the animation below a few actions and activities we employ daily which constitute THINK | TALK | DO (or T | T | D in short).
Superstars use an optimal mix of these disciplines in order to inspire, perform & deliver.My true “light bulb” moment was when I correlated interdependenceof these disciplines with that of disciplines of market leaders as outlined by Treacy & Wiersema.
Workplace superstars pursue three distinct value disciplines – THINK | TALK | DO – and are champions in one discipline and good enough in the other two.
Have you ever faced any of these frustrations?
- I’m doing all the things I have been asked to do, but I’m still invisible to my boss!
- My business strategies have helped achieve a 75% CAGR revenue growth, how I wish my organization rightfully recognized me!
- Why aren’t investors willing to back my pitch when my competitors are getting funded?
None of us are inherently mediocre, ever. But these frustrations are signs of getting stuck in the forbidden box of mediocrity(as shown in the animation below) that I dare say many of us are comfortable residents of.
The secret sauceis in realizing that “good enough” does not equate to “average”.
Let’s look at some of the best personalities in their respective realms to understand this better:
- Steve Jobs has been generally credited as the ultimate visionary of our lifetime (thus far). In that sense, he was more than a champion THINKER. But also realize that he had first dismissedthe Think Different campaignas “advertising agency s#!t”. Even an astute marketeer like himself was not a champion in the TALK discipline, but he was definitely better than good enough in that aspect.
- Thomas Alva Edison held an 82-year old record for the highest number of (1093) patents until 2015. Edison’s inventions like the phonograph and incandescent bulb were fruits of consistent trial-and-error based applied research, not disruptive and wildly imaginative like inventions of alternating current or wireless communications from Nikola Tesla (who was once employed by Edison). Edison perhaps knew his own strengths and weaknesses too well, and kept at “sketching and tinkering” as diligently as he could. To me, Edison was a champion DOER, while being a really good (but not a champion) THINKER at creating incremental inventions.
- Madonna has been the best-selling female recording artist since 1983 according to Guinness World Records. Her success is least credited to her talents as a vocalist and musician. Rather, as Jamie Anderson and Martin Kupp mention in their article “Entrepreneurs on a Dance Floor” she is an outstanding strategist who intentionally positioned and self-promoted herself by understanding her audience and their changing times (remember Like a Virginfrom 1984?). She displayed an amazing combination of empathy and communication – clearly a champion in the TALK discipline.
The only intervention you and me might need would be an objective (and personal) evaluation to understand whether our THINK | TALK | DO disciplines have been “good enough”. The workplace superstar clearly understands the threshold point of his/her role, operates out of the forbidden box of mediocrity and is a champion in one of the T|T|D disciplines.
No one is born with excellence in any of three THINK | TALK | DO disciplines. We evolve day after day, knowingly or unknowingly, chipping off our rough edges one by one. When we have an empirical model at hand for self-actualization, realize what needs to be tuned, and be at it to become a better version of ourselves, that’s the journey to excellence.
Good luck in creating better versions of you!
Please let us know if this resonated with you. we would love to hear and learn from your comments and thoughts.
Deepak Thomas on LinkedIn.
Jamie Anderson on LinkedIn.