If you want to be a top performer, I’d suggest you master two things.
In my consulting work, I’ve had the pleasure of working with clients across a variety of industries and locations around the world. Whether I am working with a professional services firm in Malaysia, a manufacturing facility in the United Kingdom, or a healthcare business in the United States, I’ve noticed that the top performers master two key skills.
These are the leaders who mast both map and compass.
Not sure what I mean? Let me explain…
Some leaders amass tremendous knowledge about a given organization or type of work. They’ve been in the business for a long-time or have worked in the general industry for decades. These people have paid their dues and climbed the ladder. They’ve “been there and done that” many times in the past. As a result, they are good with a map.
Others may have less experience, but are ferocious learners. They learn big lessons from even the smallest of experiences. These leaders are constantly reading about their craft. They ask good questions to gain better insight. They put themselves into new, often challenging situations to quickly gain exposure. What these leaders lack in quantity of time is made up for in quality of experience. They too are good with a map.
So, what does being good with a map get them?
Well, when challenges arise the organization turns to leaders who can read the map. Map readers can plot just the right course. They can guide a team around an obstacle or an organization into the best position to seize an opportunity.
Map readers are wonderful; but arguably insufficient.
In addition to drawing from experience, making connections, and using a map, a great leader also must master the compass. This is the ability to set a course and navigate an organization through new terrain. A leader who knows how to use a compass is able to keep the organization moving and people on track through unfamiliar experiences.
People who master the compass know where they are going.
They don’t get bogged down wishing for things of the past that are no longer available or fretting because something outside their control is holding them back. Compass users ask the types of questions that stop people in their tracks, make comments that bring immediate clarity, or inspire others to achieve something once thought impossible. It is like they have the unique ability to push a truth button.
Take a moment to consider yourself.
Are you good with a map, a compass, or both?
Here a few thoughts to get good with both:
Improving Your Map Reading Skills:
Embrace a learning mindset. Take the time to conduct critiques, ‘hot washes’, and after-action-reviews to glean new insights.
Look for opportunities to expose yourself to new situations. Volunteer for the next tough project that will cause you to work really hard but learn a great deal along the way.
Keep a journal to capture experiences and right reflections on what you gained from a given situation.
Read. Even if you don’t like to read, do it anyway!
Improving Your Compass Using Skills:
Gain clarity on the goals for your team and organization.
Write a contribution statement for your own efforts. What is it that you will uniquely bring to your role?
Make time to regularly reflect on the first two bullets. Doing so, will help keep things in perspective.
Find a mentor who can both teach and challenge you.
Patrick Leddin, Ph.D., PMP
Professor, Vanderbilt University
Also by Patrick Leddin a fast-paced and useful team development book: Oliver’s Spot – The 5 Ps Leading Team to Top Results is available now.
The true measure of the value of any business leader and manager is performance.
- Brian Tracy