Authors and Consultants | GP Strategies Corporation

Top Performer Perspective: Reflections


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Several years ago, we were privileged to attend a workshop by Harvey Coleman, a former IBM engineer turned career coach. In his workshop, Coleman expanded on thoughts from his book: Empowering Yourself: The Organizational Game Revealed. Some of his points were definitely counterintuitive, yet they rang true with us.

As we pause to reflect on commonalities of the various perspectives exhibited by top performers, let’s start with one of Coleman’s (very) counterintuitive assertions.

In his model of what it takes to get ahead—to advance in your career—Coleman states that only 10 percent of your career advancement is due to your technical competence. Let that sink in for a minute. Restated, fully 90 percent of your success depends on factors other than your technical accomplishments.

If you look more deeply into Coleman’s work, you’ll find that he is not making a case to ignore technical prowess. Indeed, he says that excellent technical know-how is what gets you into what he calls the game in the first place. Everyone is expected to deliver excellent technical performance—that’s the price of admission.

Note that we’ve added a qualifier to Coleman’s assertion. We say technical performance rather than just performance. We think Coleman would agree with us that many other factors go into the notion of performance. But performers set themselves up for failure if they focus only on producing excellence in the technical aspects of their jobs. Whether those jobs are customer service, engineering, finance, or some other field, technical excellence is the price of admission. It’s expected.

Now the hard work begins.


Question to ponders:

  • How broad is your definition of performance? Do you overemphasize technical performance at the expense of other areas?



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