Are you in the top 20% of your office ? - Executips


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Are you in the top 20% of your office ?

To be able to dance like a DI ( dance instructor ) is one of my dreams. One night, a DI revealed to me that he started with only three steps of cha-cha. He was a rookie when he first entered a ballroom and  was intimidated by the other DIs whose “ feet were kicking in the air. “ I realized that even these spectacular performers were not as great in the beginning.

We all go through a test before we earn respect for our work.  Don’t mind the more senior officemates who look down on the noobs. It’s only a matter of time for you to rise above them. For example, a younger creative person who used to report to me  one day became my boss !

But how high can we really go ?

I once attended a talk by John Maxwell, world famous leadership guru. He said that people are either ducks or eagles. He was sure that no matter how you train and encourage them, ducks will always be ducks and good only for duck duties. So he suggested that we “hire eagles and let them soar. “

In 1896, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto discovered that 80% of Italian lands were owned by 20% of the population. He also observed that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.

Today, believers of the “Pareto Principle” are convinced that 20% of employees contribute 80% of the business, 20% of the employees produce 80% of the company’s best works and so on.  The "80-20 rule" estimates that an office’s elite is roughly 20% of its population.

In the book Good to Great, John Collins wrote that “good is the enemy of great,” ( which was also expressed by the Philosopher Voltaire about 2 centuries earlier. ) Collins lamented that in any category of things and people there are only a few great ones because we are easily satisfied by a lot of  the good.

I do not know if I am in the top 20% of our company. In my profession, maybe I'm just good and not great. I cannot give you any advice on how to be great. But I will encourage you to prove to yourself that you're an eagle, not a duck. 

To improve your standing in the office, here are some things that I suggest you remember :

1.     Choose a career that you are really good at and so passionate about. Without the natural gift and the interest, you are in the wrong job.

2.     Dedicate your job to somebody or something. They will give meaning to your work and keep you motivated even when discouraging events happen.

3.     Keep on learning. Keep on building your arsenal. If you only know what you know after 3 years, you are already stagnating.

4.     Idolize the best guys in the office. Study how they think and do things.

5.     If the boss gives you a special assignment, don’t refuse even if you have to stay up late a few nights or work on some weekends. These are opportunities to learn and also to show your boss what good things you can do.

The most successful career persons I know worked with zeal. They always took the extra mile to make their output unique and special.  They refused to be daunted by challenges. They remind me of a quote from the legendary Michael Jordan : “ Heart is what separates the good from the great. “

Maxwell doubted that a duck can turn into an eagle. But I learned a few nights ago that the DI was so passionate about his work, he practiced with fervor and transformed himself from a caterpillar into a butterfly.

If you have concerns about your job or if you wish to suggest a topic, you may email me at

I would assume that you’re giving me permission to publish your email ( if chosen) and my reply. Your identity will not be disclosed.

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