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Becoming an Organizational Superstar

On her blog and in an “Information Week” column, author Penelope Trunk (The Brazen Careerist) offers five steps to being a workplace superstar. They are all very provocative ideas, with a helpful message in there somewhere between the lines (with the exception of “start a side business” — this may be good for your career and your life, but it won’t necessarily make you a superstar at work).

I’d like to suggest five additional ways to shine brightly in the workplace, particularly for twenty- and thirty-somethings, but also for anyone looking for a path to accomplishment, accolades, control over your life, and value:

1. Build Yourself. You cannot spend enough time seeking mastery of not only your technical skills, but your personality/behavioral/leadership skills as well. Find out how the most effective leaders you know behave and treat people, and work exceedingly hard to become just like them.

2. Build the People Around You. Do you make everyone around you great at what they do? Coach, teach, encourage — that’s what a true superstar does.

3. Never Take Any Job You Are Not Matched For — one whose problems and challenges you don’t have a deep passion for and enjoyment of. You will suck at it or, at best, be mediocre and waste precious time in your one turn at bat on this planet.

4. Fight for Margin. Margin is the space between your limits — physical, time, financial and emotional — and your life’s workload. Superstars have margin, lots of it. They have the energy to work hard, the time to think, the financial security to say “screw you” if need be, and the relationships that give support. Also, all the great things you will do in your career will flow from margin — building yourself, building other people, and building a business.

5. Be Truthful. The biggest enemy faced by senior executives and CEOs is that no one wants to tell them the truth. There are two types of people who are useless in the workplace: those that can’t (or won’t) tell the truth, and those that can’t (or won’t) listen to the truth. Want to be a superstar? Be someone your leaders can count on for frank and candid insight, advice and feedback, offered genuinely and without agenda.

Superstars are superstars because the things they are good at are very rare. My experience is that these five things are among the rarest behaviors in any organization.

Reader Comments (3)

Outstanding, outstanding, outstanding post! As an HR consultant working with search committees and hiring managers, I could not have said it better. This - in a nutshell - is what every organization is looking for.

Thursday, September 27, 2007 at 4:17PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Career Encourager

I have been following the Brazen Careerist blog over the past many days. All very interesting comments. I think you have nailed "Fight for Margin" right on. I can't stress "build yourself" enough. I have known several individuals who built careers worthy of those with degrees and years of experience. In other words, they were 'self built professionals.' These people are few and far between. They took classes, put themselves through specific training (on their own time, and NOT the company's), and were driven in order to be capable of specific positions. They are now my role models!

Sunday, September 30, 2007 at 9:28AM | Unregistered Commenterredjello

Thanks, Joan! Lack of margin is the number one threat to the growth and development of leadership skills in the vast majority of managers I work with. And "build yourself," as you mention, is Law Number One.

Thanks for dropping by.

Sunday, September 30, 2007 at 5:03PM | Registered CommenterJoe Fusco

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