Q: I think I am great at my job, but I’m not in the top 1 percent of performers at my company. How can I refine my skills to become one of the best?
A: You sound like the type of person who hopes to perform at a peak level, who wants to get the most out of life, and who wants to continually raise the bar on your performance. If these statements are all accurate, it is fair to say that you are probably very interested in becoming what I like to call a master.
Related: 5 Deliberate Steps to Master a Skill
Several years ago I created a term called Return on Effort (ROE). ROE is about getting the best possible results from the most compressed amount of time and energy invested. Consistently achieving a high ROE involves the pursuit of not just great results, but extraordinary results. I’m talking about the kind of results that are eye-popping; the kind of results that you might have thought were impossible to achieve.
I teach the people I work with that there is a progression of satisfactory results that has three stages. Many people and organizations are satisfied with good results. Then there is a smaller percentage of people who want to accelerate their results, and they perform at a level of greatness. The third stage is one I call mastery. Most of my new customers are those performing at the great level and have a desire to achieve more. They want to perform at the mastery level. The shift to mastery involves a specific change in thinking.
What do you think of when you hear the word mastery? Most people think of being elite or being the best they can possibly be. Although those ideas are accurate, mastery involves much more than that. Let’s break this down a bit.
If you want to change what you do in order to achieve a better result, you must ultimately change what you believe about something.
There are three possibilities when it comes to acceptable results. As I shared before, good is where many successful businesses operate. Good companies are profitable and experience some growth. They have developed business practices that work for them and stick to them. They are typically conservative when it comes to change and their innovation level is about average. Organizations such as these are satisfied with whom and what they are. They have settled into a comfort zone and rarely take any action to disrupt it.
The second possibility is great. Great businesses start as good companies then dare to do things differently. They developed the ability to think more strategically and combined strategic thinking with the focus needed to create the strategies that propelled them to greater success. When businesses or people achieve greatness, they have difficulty grasping that there is yet a third possibility that awaits them: mastery. Their problem is they believe they have already achieved as much as possible. At that point, their greatness becomes a silent enemy and a roadblock to discovering the third possibility of achievement.
Related: Why You Should Always Keep Improving
To achieve mastery, there must be a very specific shift in thinking. This applies to individuals and organizations. Ask yourself, How is dramatic change ignited and what does it look like? I have been working with top-performing individuals and organizations for the past 25 years and have identified a specific profile of mastery. There are five essential characteristics of mastery, and all of them are the result of a specific way of thinking. As individuals and organizations begin to think and believe in some new principles, there is a consistent upward shift in superior results. The five foundational characteristics that produce the mastery profile are simple and easy to understand, but difficult to achieve.
- A compelling strategic vision and a deep motivation to achieve it. Clarity exists about why the vision must be achieved and its value and significance.
- An obsession with learning, growing and improving.
- The ability to think on a long-term basis and focus on outcomes, vision and execution.
- A desire to achieve perfection. Perfection is understood to be about always doing the right things at the right time and making no mistakes.
- The consistent ability to convert challenges into opportunities.
Most people today don’t care about doing the hard work required to function at the mastery level. Most people prefer creating and then maintaining a comfort zone around themselves. For those with this mindset, apathy rules and any meaningful change is a possible threat.
The thing that ultimately drives action is belief. It is very difficult to think and accept ideas that conflict with what you believe to be true. The truth you embrace shapes your opinions, your personality and most visibly, the things you actually do. The things you do communicate whom and what you are to others and what you do is driven by what you believe.
If you want to change what you do in order to achieve a better result, you must ultimately change what you believe about something. Start believing that you can adopt the five characteristics of a master. It is only when you change what you believe that you can change the way you think. When you change the way you think, you can make better choices. When you make better choices, you can achieve better results. When you continually improve your results, you eventually transition from good to great to master.
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This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.