“How Do I Stand Out?” and Other Typical Questions

A student question at a B school has stayed with me for sometime now, “How do I stand out in a office that has 100s if not 1000s of employees.” Lately I get the feeling that people ask questions for which they already have the answers (myself included). Maybe we expect a more profound / complicated answer, but in most cases the most obvious answers are the right ones.

Had the student thought a little longer, he would’ve figured out that how an employee stands out is the same as how a student stands out in college (or any other field) — it is based on performance (good or bad). It really is that straightforward.

Consistently superior performance always separates itself from mediocrity or inconsistency over time (you cannot fool all the people all the time). Equally unappreciated is the fact that one doesn’t need a manager to rate anyone’s performance either, just like a teacher need not necessarily have to hand me my grade for me to know how I’ve fared in the course (he validates my knowledge).

So we come back to the student, his actual question should have been, “Am I consistently delivering superior performance?”, and the answer can be found by a quick look into the mirror. The deeper question is are we asking him?