8 Attributes That Still Make Superstars in Business

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Patrice Tlhopane Motsepe, a South African mining magnate. He is the founder and executive chairman of African Rainbow Mineralsas with interests in gold, ferrous metals, base metals, and platinum.

By Martin Zwilling

Superstars in business are the ones who get things done, not the ones who work the most hours or are always busy. Whether it is in a start-up or a large enterprise, everyone can name those few individuals who stand out as unstoppable, and always seem to be in the forefront of results. Yet if you think about it, it’s not always clear how they do it, or what it takes to be like them.

For example, in the entrepreneur world there are people like Elon Musk, who has demonstrated not only innovative ideas, but also impressive results in SpaceX, Tesla Motors TSLA -2.21%, and Hyperloop. In the enterprise environment, Jack Welch led GE through 600 acquisitions in emerging markets, to a market value of $280 billion. We all know examples on a smaller scale in every organization.

As an advisor and mentor to entrepreneurs, I have seen beginners who quickly accelerate their proficiency and adopt the mindset, skills, rules, and emotional principles to become superstars. Thus I’m convinced that you don’t have to be born with the right stuff in your DNA, but you do have to learn to follow and practice a basic set of principles, including the following:

  1. Measure yourself and others on results. Having more dreams, ideas, meetings, and tasks may be a necessary, but not sufficient base to be a superstar. These actions have to be translated into results, and completed in a superlative and timely manner. In all business organizations, superstars are recognized as the ones who get things done.

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  1. Hone intuition and experiences into decision rules. The power to think in real time and move quickly to results is often referred to as “street-smarts,” “rules of thumb,” or “gut reactions.” These accelerate your productivity, but must be continually updated from positive experiences, prior failures, and active listening. Superstars never stop learning.
  2. Strive to simplify complex situations. Every major breakthrough in technology and business looks simple after the fact. Superstars are not intimidated by technical acronyms and complex processes, and they strive to reduce the complexity to the underlying principle. This allows more thorough understanding of the path to results.
  3. Focus on urgent priorities more than emergencies. Everyone has the challenge of proactively prioritizing their time, or being randomly whiplashed by the crisis of the moment. Superstars tend to think ahead, make overt decisions on how and where to apply their efforts, and never make excuses like “I’m too busy” while generating results.
  4. Use root cause analysis to avoid working on symptoms. Many team members work hard and spend company resources to mollify unhappy customers, but most never really tackle the underlying problem of product quality, missing process, or distribution failure. Superstars are relentless in finding and motivating the best people to fix the root problem.
  5. Build a support network but do your homework before using it. Superstars are not afraid to seek guidance from experts or people with more experience. Yet they respect this valuable resource so much that they never use it lightly, always doing their own research first. The result is a quick network response when asked, and both sides win.
  6. Vanquish the fear of failure and procrastination that delays action. It takes courage and conviction to overcome new business challenges. Passion for the business and recognition that change is good is the best way to conquer fear. One of the best antidotes to procrastination is setting up a personal reward system for results, not tasks.
  7. Recognize that no risk or action means no gain. In business, taking no risk or action is a recipe for failure, as a person, and as a company. Superstars weigh the differing risks of different alternatives, make a smart decision, and proceed to action. Taking smart risks leads to better productivity and better results sooner.

In my experience, the required attributes do not include any advanced academic credentials or super intelligence. To be a superstar, an entrepreneur or business professional has to have a high level of personal confidence, a good work ethic, and get high satisfaction from new learning and achieving results. What’s holding you back from being a superstar in your business?


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