Having enough in the tank to be a top performer

Have you ever started a new job raring to go, just knowing you are going to set the standard for top performers? The question is, how do you sustain top performance? What are some of the keys to keep enough proverbial “gas in the tank” to perform at your best every day? Knowing yourself including what drives you, learning everything you can about your new job and new company, asking questions and requesting feedback are five keys to succeeding in any new position, especially when starting a position with a new company.


Standin’ on the corner

Having enough gas in the tank is both a metaphor and necessarily reality. I am truly passionate about music as well as the weekend getaway. As a relatively new Arizonan, exploring all Arizona has to offer excites me. Being a lifelong fan of The Eagles, and driven by the song lyrics from the song “Take It Easy”, I felt the urge for a pilgrimage to Winslow, Arizona, so I could “stand on the corner.” It seemed like such a fine sight to see!

What was intended to be an innocent afternoon exploring Arizona turned quite perilous. Instead of being prepared, I jumped in car, energized to see Winslow, and set off. What I didn’t think about was whether or not I had enough gas in the tank to get back to my homebase just outside Phoenix. For anyone who has traveled to Winslow, you know that it’s a very small town surrounded by a whole lot of nothing. Conspicuously absent are gas stations. About 50 miles into my trek back home (read: too far to turn back) I glanced down at my gas gauge to realize it was right smack in the middle of the E! Not near or even on top of the E, but right in the middle. This is usually indicative of a virtually dry gas tank.

Panic inevitably set in. I had been driving for at least thirty minutes and saw no signs of life other than a sun-blocking forest of trees. Though it smelled wonderfully of pine because the windows were now down in a futile attempt to save gas, I was thinking about my fate. My mind raced with thoughts of an impending lengthy hike in search of a gas station. As the sun threatened to set in the west, I put the car in neutral traveling down hill and tried to gain enough momentum to get back up the next hill, using as little fuel as possible. Gas - and time - was running out.

After turning a corner in what seemed to be in the middle of Mirkwood Forest (a tip of the hat to JRR Tolkien fans) a turn of the century-looking gas station popped up. No convenience store, car wash or digital credit card readers at this place seemingly stuck in 1940. It was just a small stop in the middle of a deserted forest that happened to have gas. And I was happier to see it than the proverbial girl in the flatbed Ford.


Five keys to being a top performer

We may lose and we may win but why rely on luck when it comes to your career success? A better plan is to be prepared and ensure that you wildly succeed! Here are five things you can do to make sure that happens.

  1. Know yourself - In previous blogs, I lamented the fact that I had spent half a career in positions that weren’t cut out for me. If I knew then what I know now, I could have cut that learning curve significantly and chosen a career that was more in line with the things that drive me to wake up every morning. Tools such as DISC, which identify how we do what we do, and Driving Forces which explain the why we do what we do, are invaluable in helping people identify their perfect career options.
  2. Know your new company - How much do you know about the new company where you are about to start working? Are they an industry leader or an up-and-coming start up? Perhaps they’ve been around awhile and are undergoing a turnaround or realignment, of sorts. A great resource to check out to help you learn about starting off on the right foot is Michael D. Watkins’ book, The First 90 Days. Talk to people already working for that company and get some inside information. Reach out to your soon-to-be boss and establish a relationship before day one to ensure a successful start.
  3. Understand your new position - Having a thorough understanding of your new position will help you identify where you are likely to excel and what things you may need to shore up before your first day. Another great reason to establish an early relationship with your boss, he or she can help answer some of these questions. An important question to ask is who may be a potential mentor for you to work with as you transition into this new company?
  4. Ask questions - If you avoid only one mistake, avoid assuming you know everything you need to know about your new situation. You don’t know a lot; and that’s okay! Asking questions will not only clear up the gray area, it will show your new company and new co-workers that you are invested in your new position. Ask away! The only dumb question is the one that isn’t asked. 
  5. Request feedback - There are many different roads to travel to get to the same destination. And the destination you are seeking is success. You may feel like you are doing well, maybe even excelling. But the only way you will know for sure is by requesting feedback. Different people have different perspectives. You stand to gain so much valuable insight by asking for feedback. Perception is reality and you want to ensure that you are perceived positively by your co-workers, your new boss and your new company. And this can be accomplished simply by requesting - and utilizing - valuable feedback provided by co-workers. 

Getting feedback from as many sources as possible is encouraged as it will give you a variety of ideas and opinions. If you are lucky enough to align yourself with a mentor who can help you learn the ropes and navigate the organization, all the better. This person can be an incredibly valuable resource that helps you succeed quickly. Once you know yourself and your company, align yourself with a mentor and ask questions and accept feedback, you are well on your way to success in your new position. Just be sure to fill the tank before you head out on day one of your new job.

Written By Dave Clark