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5 Surprising Counter-Intuitive High-Performance Habits That Will Change Your Life

Erin Urban
Nov 20, 2019 · 6 min read

How do ‘they’ do it? Elon Musk, for example, has shared some of his core values for being effective with his employees. The good news is — you don’t have to be Elon Musk, famous or even experienced to benefit from the 5 counter-intuitive habits of high-performance professionals.

It’s a pity that I had to learn the hard way. It took me valuable years to realize that almost everything I was doing was wrong!

I wanted to make sure that I was a shining example of a ‘hard worker’ so I never took the time to chat with my coworkers. I didn’t have time for idle gossip, I was too busy! I was convinced that coming in early, staying late and working on the weekends was what high-performance professionals invested to get ahead.

I wanted to be the best in whatever I did — so I strived for perfection. I would beat myself up for days if I made a mistake. I was sure that, if I could just overcome all of my weaknesses, that I would see the success I longed for! Little did I know that I was killing my career (and my peace of mind).

My Wake Up Call

Sometimes we need a swift kick in the rear to wake us up from career sabotage. What’s crazy: I was convinced that being a super professional, overachieving, uber-busy, perfectionist was what I was supposed to be to get ahead. I was didn’t understand why I never was considered for a leadership position. I was beating my head against a glass ceiling so hard my head hurt.

It took negative feedback on a 360-degree review to finally break through the fog. That, followed by the support of my mentor who (thankfully) saw potential in me saved my stagnating career … it also changed my life. I realized that:

  1. It doesn’t matter how much you know, it matters how well you connect with other people.

This story has a happy ending. After my wake up call, mentoring, and focused self-improvement: I was offered a leadership role in 9 months. Seems like record time doesn’t it? Here’s the thing … you will be amazed how powerful simple, yet significant, shifts in your behavioral habits really are.

1. Take Time to Chat

We’ve been told that idle chatter in the workplace is for lazy professionals. In actuality, taking time to get to know other people is essential for long-term career success. You don’t build networks in a vacuum. Collecting cards at a networking ‘event’ is not how you build relationships! Keeping your nose to the grindstone and never looking up is a fast way to get a reputation for stoic, stuck up or unapproachable.

If your coworkers don’t know who you are as a person, they are free to make plenty of assumptions. Instead of letting the rumor mill churn out gossip about you: take a few minutes each day to connect with someone. In less than 10 minutes a day, you can learn about others and develop a deep network. The most important place for you to build your professional relationships is where you are right now.

2. Work Less, Not More

High-performance professionals realize that working longer hours and keeping ‘busy’ is not the path to success. The ability to be effective and make your energy count towards an actionable goal is critical. We are only blessed with so much time in this life — use it wisely. Busy work doesn’t get you ahead, being intentionally productive will.

“Being busy is not the same as being productive.” — Tim Ferris

Most professionals are at their peak performance only a few hours out of each day. Observe when you get the most accomplished and leverage that time for creative production. Don’t succumb to the compulsion to answer every email. Email is a huge time and productivity killer! For example: I am most productive in the mornings, so I schedule my creative work before lunch. After lunch, I answer essential emails, have meetings, and complete administrative tasks.

3. Fail Forward Attitude

Instead of cringing at every mistake, high-performance professionals adopt a ‘fail forward’ attitude. Success is a process of learning through mistakes. While winning feels great — you don’t learn as much. High-performance professionals understand that the biggest breakthroughs often happen after their biggest failures.

“The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception and response to failure.” — John Maxwell

When you adopt a different perspective about failure, you will experience significantly less stress. In addition, your learning curve will shorten and you will be able to try new things with less fear. Many bright and capable people find themselves stuck because they are afraid to step outside of their comfort zone. If you want to experience success, become comfortable with being a little uncomfortable.

4. Don’t Focus on Weaknesses

We are all gifted with our own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. By focusing on your weaknesses, you cannot ever fully develop your strengths! Instead of trying to fill all of your gaps, surround yourself with people who are good at things you aren’t. That is the essence of a great team. High-performance professionals embrace their weaknesses so they can mitigate them — not so they can be excellent at everything.

“Basically, focusing on improving my weaknesses consumed a lot of my energy, time, and attention from excelling in my career.” — Omneya Salem

Spend 80% of your time developing your strengths and working in your strength zone. When you understand and leverage your naturally excellent abilities you are better able to enjoy success. You will be more productive and much happier when you operate from a position of strength. Make sure that your team understands your strengths so they don’t put you in a position where you cannot operate in your success zone.

5. Embrace Imperfection

Spending your time trying to achieve perfection is the fast track to insanity. Perfection is not obtainable. Those who are chronic overachievers tend to suffer from anxiety, depression, and stress-related illnesses. High-performance professionals embrace imperfection from a place of authenticity. Accepting who you are: the good, bad and indifferent is so critically important in your path to fulfillment!

“There’s no need for perfection to inspire others. Let others be inspired by how you deal with imperfection.” — Unknown

I suffered for years with a perfectionist attitude. Even my best was never good enough. It was miserable! While always trying to improve is a wonderful part of professional development — constantly striving for the unobtainable is counter-productive. I am a much more balanced and healthy person because I let go of the need to ‘prove’ myself. I will never be perfect and I love accepting who I am with authenticity!

5 High-Performance Habits

Set yourself free to chat at work, appreciate your mistakes, work less, don’t focus on your weaknesses, and embrace imperfection. When you follow these seemingly counter-intuitive 5 habits of high-performance professionals, with the right attitude of intentional productivity, you will see the professional development you’ve been longing for! Most importantly, you will stop sabotaging your career growth.

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Erin Urban

Written by

Career Growth Strategist | Forbes Coaches Council Member | Speaker | Elevate Your Career! | coacheurban.com | in/erinurban | iEQ & DISC Certified

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +773K people. Follow to join our community.

Erin Urban

Written by

Career Growth Strategist | Forbes Coaches Council Member | Speaker | Elevate Your Career! | coacheurban.com | in/erinurban | iEQ & DISC Certified

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +773K people. Follow to join our community.

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