They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but in the workplace it can also be the best way to grow. Developing as a professional demands a lot of time, hard work, and patience. But being successful at work doesn’t require reinventing the wheel. Identify employees who are excelling in their roles, and learn from their experience… they are clearly doing something right.
Follow these 6 steps to effectively learn from a top performer:
1. Build a relationship
It’s much harder to learn from someone without knowing them. If they work in another department or they don’t know you already, don’t hesitate to make an introduction. Explain why you’re interested in learning more about their career path and their experiences, and find out more about them on a personal level.
Listen to the way they speak: during meetings, note the role they take and how they conduct themselves. Listen to how they present themselves and the company when they’re speaking with clients or customers. How does their communication change when they work with their boss versus their peers or their direct reports?
Communication is central to success in every business. Pick up on effective communication skills, verbal and nonverbal, and try to use them daily.
3. Study their work
If possible, examine their work and how they do it. Watch if they’re heeding details others would normally ignore, or if they’re approaching obstacles differently. Carefully study their process, and imitate it step by step. Even if the work they do is different than your own, notice their organizational tricks and their time management skills.
Not every person’s system will work for someone else, but understanding their thought process and their discipline can still produce valuable takeaways.
4. Interview them
Invite the employee in question out for lunch or treat them to coffee; this is the perfect opportunity to pick their brain. Ask about their professional path, both in their career and at the organization. Ask what their goals are, and find out why they think they’ve become successful. Have they made sacrifices? Were there mistakes they learned a lot from?
There’s a lot to learn from shadowing or studying a successful employee, but getting their perspective on their own success adds insight into why they’re successful.
5. Seek feedback
Ask this top performer for their feedback on your performance. They may not necessarily be on the same team, but they could still have constructive criticism in terms of office attitude or habits. If they are on the same team, then their feedback is even more valuable. Crave the tough love… want to hear their feedback, especially if it’s harsh. If they’ve noticed something you can do better, chances are others have noticed, too. Listening and adjusting accordingly could make a huge difference.
Don’t ask for feedback once; check in regularly with the same employee to track progress and to get more ideas of how to improve.
Chances are that top performer isn’t the only successful employee at the company who may have ideas and practices worth imitating. Don’t be afraid to restart the process again with another colleague who is thriving. Learn new lessons, test out new work styles, and strive constantly to become a successful employee others will want to imitate.