Book Review: 8 steps to High Performance by Marc Effron

extThis is the first ever book review on this blog. Not because I don’t read (I do, a lot) but because I find very few performance/HR related books that are worth talking about. Hence, you won’t be surprised to hear that when I received a signed copy of this book, I was happy yet a wee bit skeptical. After all, as Marc Effron says in his opening pages – “There is no shortage of advice out there on how to perform better and better than others, at work”. However, one of the eight steps caught my attention and I decided to let the book accompany me on a flight. Long story short – I chewed the book from beginning to end and just had to talk about it to everyone I met. It is only natural that after speaking about it for so long, I return here to write about it.

Life is unfair. Some people begin their career with a clear advantage. Your intelligence (measured in IQ) is inherited, so is your socio-economical background, height, appearance and core personality. As per Marc Effron, these together form 50% of the factors that predict success. Nevertheless, the other 50% is entirely in your control. It is this 50% that that the book hopes to address.

Marc, in his book, introduces us to eight steps backed by clear conclusive science that have proven to work. The one that caught my attention in particular was ‘Fake it’ and I will talk about why I skipped straight to that chapter when we get there. However, let’s talk briefly through the eight steps in the order presented in the book.

  1. Set Big Goals: Science proves that goals motivate us to work towards achieving them and the bigger the goals, the more motivated we are. However, we must be wary of the tendency to set too many goals as that dilutes focus. As we inch towards the New Year, figure what are the three big promises that you will make to your organization and to yourself. Push yourself to define the three most important things, make them large and chase after them. Marc also talks about the importance of regular coaching and feedforward statements. This section motivated me to sit down and create the first draft of my goals for 2019. It is never too early.
  1. Behave to Perform: This chapter focuses on understanding your core personality, how you typically behave and react and to spend time analyzing what behaviors are likely to make you a high performer. There are behaviors that the organization appreciates. It is important to find out what those are and analyze the derailers that may push you off track. Once you’ve done this, adapt to the organization needs and work towards hiding those derailers.
  1. Grow Yourself Faster: The faster you grow, the more likely you are to be a high performer. The key is to never stop learning and chasing experiences that challenge us. Marc encourages the reader to take on life-cycle experiences by leading in different parts of the company and in companies in different stages – a startup, a turnaround situation and a steady-state environment. He also encourages taking roles in different geographies and in environments where managerial skills are tested. It helps to draft a from/to sentence and list the experiences that will help you get to your destination.
  1. Connect: I fear I don’t do this enough and this book reminds me how important it is. Marc focuses on connecting with your boss, peers and more importantly the influential people in the field. Science shows that people with the largest and strongest networks have higher salaries, more promotions and greater satisfaction in their careers. Make this an essential part of your strategy and if required create a planning sheet to keep it on top of your to-do list.
  1. Maximize Your Fit: Organizations and the environment they exist in are under constant flux. It is easy for organizations to change quickly; however, it is much harder for an individual to change at the same pace. The ones who do inevitably end up on top of the stack. It is easier to evolve faster when you know which way your organization is headed. Understand where your company is headed and you will naturally be the best fit.
  1. Fake it: This is the one that caught my attention. We have grown up in an environment where we’ve been constantly been told to ‘come as you are’ or ‘be your authentic self’. Marc debunks this myth. This ties in with step 2 on ‘Behave to perform’ and pushes you to ‘fake it’ when needed. Promote your work for even though we’d like it to, work rarely speaks for itself. It needs it’s due advertising. Show ambition, be visible, manage up and make your boss very happy. This, of course, doesn’t come at the cost of doing great work. One can continue to do what they believe in and modify some behavioral traits in order to win the game. When it comes to being a high performer, ‘fake it till you make it’ holds true.
  1. Commit Your Body: You know a book is great when it tells you to sleep more. Your body plays a critical role in your performance and it is important to treat it right. Get the right hours of restful sleep, eat a balanced diet and keep your body active. However, of all the three factors, sleep plays the most important role and Marc dedicates this chapter to help you understand sleep better. When battling the lack of high quality sleep, ten-minute naps and caffeine might come to the rescue. Also fun fact – intense morning workouts are the best to boost daily performance.
  1. Avoid Distractions: This is without doubt my favorite section, as Marc doesn’t hold back while debunking the most popular performance myths that exist. He exposes some of my most hated myths as well as ones I believed in. If you were told to focus on your strengths, work on your EQ, practice for 10,000 hours or read a book a day, you’d probably need to read this. Of course, these are just the few he lights fire to. He also discredits power posing and reminds of the days when I’d pose like superman in the bathroom thinking it’s going to give me a shot of confidence. I know from experience – it doesn’t work.

“The eight steps are straightforward, but they are not easy,” says Effron.  “Achieving them will take meaningful effort and personal sacrifice. High performance is a choice. Focus on what you can change and ignore the rest.”

Irrespective of whether you agree with all eight steps or don’t, there is something for everyone in this book. This book should grace everyone’s bookshelf and never gather dust. I know I’ll return to this time and again to check if there’s something I’m missing as I chart the path through my career.

Happy reading!

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