Are You A “Star”?

By Jon Harrison

There are two different kinds of people that I’m sure you have encountered in the workplace, in your family or in your community. You have probably also seen examples of these kinds of people in the political, sports, entertainment and business arenas. The first kind are those who may be “nice” and likely non-confrontational, but don’t perform with excellence and don’t generate lasting results. The second kind are those who likely “get things done” and do drive results, but unfortunately behave in a way that is dysfunctional or even toxic.

The question is, which kind of person is “better”? 

Some people would say that surely the “nice” people are “better” because they aren’t outwardly disrespectful to others, and people genuinely like them. Consider this very common scenario, however. Blair is a coworker of yours, and while she is sweet and kind, she often misses deadlines (including being late for meetings) and makes errors that require you to “clean up” the situation, causing you to have to work extra hours and/or putting pressure on you to get your work done in the allotted time.  Everyone likes Blair, but is her “nice behavior” really enough? We don’t usually think of someone like Blair as “dysfunctional,” but her lack of “results” is damaging to the organization as a whole, perhaps to customers, but certainly to you and her other coworkers.

It could stand to reason that people who “get things done” are better because they move the organization forward in terms of results and don’t cause others to have to take on extra work, etc. Consider this very common scenario, however. Mike is a coworker of yours, and he always gets his work done on time, rarely makes errors, and is technically very competent, but he is outwardly disrespectful to you and others and is constantly negative about leadership and the company as a whole. Mike’s behavior would certainly be described as “dysfunctional” by most people, but the organization turns a blind eye to him because he “gets things done.”  However, Mike’s behavior is also damaging to the organization as a whole, perhaps to customers, and certainly to you and his other coworkers.  

My theory is that both Blair and Mike are equally damaging to the organization. 

In my professional experience, I wanted an organization filled with people who I called “stars.” “Stars” definitely “get things done,” but their behavior is also positive / professional and aligned with the stated values of the organization. “Results” and “values behaviors” are not mutually exclusive, but often are treated as such in organizations (and in the world as a whole). It is as if we’ve settled for one or the other, instead of raising the bar and striving for both. 

Let’s consider the political arena in my last example.  Some voters may prefer a “nice candidate” over another candidate who comes across as “harsh,” because the “nice” person seems more palatable to the masses. Others may prefer a “get-things-done” candidate regardless of how he / she behaves because “results matter.”  But, wouldn’t a candidate who is a “star” be the best option?  Don’t you want your spouse to be a “star”?  Don’t you want your child’s teacher to be a “star”? 

So, I am challenging you to not be a person who chooses to be known for only your “results” or  your “behavior,” but instead, strive to be a “star.”  If your organization hasn’t clearly defined expectations (meaning what “behaviors” and “results” are expected) then ask what those are in your case. If leadership won’t or can’t tell you, then you may be working at the wrong place. I strongly suggest you define them in your personal life as well.  The world needs more “stars” (and I certainly don’t mean the ones in Hollywood).  However, I challenge you to avoid the paralyzing thought process that it is someone else’s responsibility to “make” you a “star.”  It starts and ends with your commitment to being one, and to surround yourself with other “stars.” I tell CEOs and business owners that “stars want to work with stars” so if they are compromising in one or both of these areas, it will be hard for their organization to attract “stars.”

Finally, please remember that being a “star” doesn’t mean being perfect, but it means striving to achieve high personal (and organizational) expectations every day.  When “stars” fall short on occasion (which they do), they don’t blame others, but “look in the mirror” to learn from those situations and recommit to the original expectations.