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36 and a Quarter Ways to be Brilliant - # 1 - 10


Over the past 20 years, I have had the privilege of working with some of the most brilliant people in the World. I have also worked with some of the worst. What that contrast has allowed me to do, is to recognise what makes brilliant people, simply brilliant. What are those brilliant people doing that the others are not?

So, I started to compile a list of “Brilliant-ness” . In fact, 36 and a quarter ways of being brilliant to be correct and I made sure I got better at every single thing on that list. Whilst I am not professing to be at the brilliant level yet myself, what I am certain is that by focusing on these things, I am now significantly better as an individual than had I not concentrated my efforts on that list.

I have decided to share my list to everyone, so please read below and let me know your thoughts. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments box below and perhaps "36 and a quarter" will soon become "100 and a quarter".

In return, all I ask is that you share my post with those that you will think will benefit.

1. Read

One of the simplest and most effective ways to gain Brilliant-ness status is to read. The biggest leg up the career ladder you can give yourself is to read up on topics that are relevant to your career or personal development plan. This can be in the form of a book, a blog, a newspaper, a LinkedIn Post, an RSS feed, an online newsletter, a trade journal or even some research papers. Then, once you have finished reading, read some more. Then, read a bit more. Become an expert, become an authority, become the most knowledgeable person in the room.....become Brilliant! “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” Dr Seuss

2. Play to your Strengths

To use an analogy, if you have a World class striker in your football team, you wouldn’t play them in defence to help improve one of their development areas. No, you play them up front, exploit their natural skills and get them to score the goals. However, in the corporate World, we often do the reverse. We are so intent on improving our “development” areas, that we often neglect our strengths. Our appraisal and “development plans” so often on focus on things we need to improve, rather than identifying our strengths. So, let’s change that right now. Identify your strengths and play to them. Put yourself in positions where your strengths can be exploited and not your “weaknesses” exposed. If you don’t know what your strengths are……..read number 3 below.....

3. Ask for Feedback

One of the most powerful things you can do is to ask someone for personal feedback. As part of the normal annual appraisal cycle, this often comes from line managers. The amazing thing is that people will often wait a whole year, just for a few snippets of generic feedback. If you want to be brilliant, that isn’t enough, neither in frequency nor quality. What do other people think of you. What do your peers, your team, your colleagues think of you. What do they perceive to be your strengths? What do they perceive to be chinks in your armour? You don’t know? Well find out and put a plan in place to play to those strengths and check that those “chinks” in the armour aren’t going to slow you down. If they are, address those too. There are a variety of tools on the market that help facilitate the 360 degree feedback mechanisms, although a very simple way is for you to give people a little bit of notice and then spend 30 minutes with them over a coffee. Explain what you are trying to achieve and you will be amazed at what you will learn!

4. Be the first person in the room

Going to a meeting? Then make sure you are the first person in the room. Not only is this polite and courteous (see #9 below) to the meeting organiser, but it shows you respect them and their time. It also shows you can manage your own time effectively. More importantly, however it also gives you a few minutes of idle time (before the latecomers arrive) in order to do a bit of networking with the meeting organiser or the first few people to arrive. Finally, it means you will be more prepared, relaxed and ready for the meeting to start, rather than panicked, rushed and unprepared (traits of non-brilliant people!)

5. Be Generous

Be generous with your time, your focus and your attention. One of the greatest gifts you can give to your team, is your time. If you don’t have any time for your team, then you will never be a great leader. When you give that time, be present in the moment. That is, fully focus your attention on that individual. Switch off from all other distractions and tasks that you need to do and immerse yourself in their world for that period of time. It may only be 10 minutes, but for those ten minutes, make them really count.

6. Listen

Brilliant leaders are also brilliant listeners. Ever had a conversation with someone and felt that they were just not listening to you? On the other hand, do you know people that “totally” get what you are talking about. Chances are the difference is that one of them is great at Active Listening. Active listening means really listening to what is said. Not just hearing the words, but really, really listening. There are lots of great books and articles on this topic, but in its simplest form, it boils down to a few key techniques. Pay attention to what they are saying. Give them your full attention. Make sure you are facing them, making eye contact with them and listen to both the verbal (words) and non verbal cues. What body language are they displaying? They may be saying they are fine, but their body language may be saying “help me”. Show them that you are listening. Nod occasionally, show interest, ask them questions, smile, and encourage them with short verbal prompts. Check your understanding and occasionally replay what you think they have said. Having someone replay what you have just said is a great way of assuring them that you are listening. It is also a great way of confirming your understanding. Remember, active listening is not easy. In today’s world, we are all so busy and we have so many distractions, but again, if you can perfect this technique, it will be another brilliant feather in your brilliant cap.

7. Surround yourself with Brilliant people

This one may seem like a cop out, but brilliant people realise the importance of having great people around them. Whilst this isn't always practically possible, remember that a team is only as good as its weakest link. Being surrounded by "Mood Hoovers", "Negative Ninjas" and "Blockers" will only serve to dampen your brilliance, drain your energy and lessen your impact. Where possible, look to strengthen your team and those around you, by investing in the development and training of your existing team combined with bringing in fresh recruits.

8. Rocks and Rice

In both our personal and work lives, we have many tasks to complete and accomplish. We all have lots of noise and small scale stuff that just needs to be done – I term this RICE. Then, we have the bigger stuff. The stuff that if we do, it will make a significant difference or change to our lives / work. I term these the ROCKS.Many people focus purely on the grains of rice. After all, we can get these done quickly, take the short term satisfaction of completing them and then move on to the next grain. They spend their time pushing 100's of grain of rice around. However, over time, they don’t really change anything of significantly notable value. In contrast, identifying and tackling a rock, whilst inherently more difficult, can have much more profound effects on an individual or an organisation.Clearly, you cannot focus solely on Rocks or solely on Rice, but the very first step is to separate your activities into rocks and rice. Then devise a plan that highlights what your rocks are and how you will accomplish them. Once you have planned the rocks, fit the grains of rice around them. But, make sure you do it that way round. Rocks first, then rice. Great little analogy here to bring this to life.

9. Be Polite - use manners

This may seem like a silly one, but be polite. Whether you are talking to the cleaner, the receptionist, the CEO, the board and especially to the customers, then demonstrate exceptional manners. No one wants to work for a rude, unappreciative boss. Thank your team when they have done something well, say good morning, say good night, be courteous, be respectful. No one ever said they didn’t like someone because they were polite. However, I have lost count of how many people are turned off by rude people.

10. Get some sleep

And finally for this newsletter, get some sleep! And lots of it! A lack of good quality sleep is one of the biggest barriers to you being brilliant. The negative effects of sleep deprivation are so great, that studies have shown that people who are drunk, outperform those lacking sleep.Imagine turning up to work drunk every day – you would soon be fired right? So you wouldn’t do it? You should therefore give the same attention to your sleeping habits. There is a great article here by Dr Travis Bradberry that explores this in greater depth.


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