I am increasingly convinced that success requires a certain level of selfishness that many managers and executives are simply unwilling to reach. Rather than run the risk of upsetting a colleague or boss, they toe the line and end up delivering others’ objectives and priorities, rather than their own.

Being selfish is not necessarily bad. By focusing on what’s important to you, you are more likely to improve your levels of performance and, perhaps counter-intuitively, be in a better position to help others. After all, if you’re tired, frustrated and lack enthusiasm how can you really be of use to someone else?

Here are seven ways in which you can improve your performance and be of more value to yourself, your organisation and others by increasing your level of selfishness.

  1. Clarify your top 3 priorities – and prioritise them.

    How much extra value could you provide by ruthlessly delivering on your top objectives each day? Instead of having a list of 50 ‘to do’ items, focus instead on your top 3 priorities each day. If you get them done, you will have had a good day.

  2. Block out chunks of time for your priority tasks.

    Too many executives’ days are split into 5 or 10 minute chunks. Real progress is made when you devote a reasonable chunk of time to an important issue, say at least 2 hours.

  3. Don’t let people put their monkey on your back.

    The opposite of focusing on your priorities, is focusing on someone else’s. In an organisational hierarchy this cannot be completely avoided, but how often do you needlessly get involved in issues that others should be sorting out for themselves?

  4. Reduce your level of guilt.

    Much of people’s unwillingness to adopt a more selfish approach is a feeling of guilt that you’re letting someone down. Get over it; ask yourself where you can best devote your energies, and focus on that.

  5. Take an 80:20 approach to all your work.

    Don’t seek perfection, it only frustrates. Brain surgeons may need to achieve 100% excellence, but for the rest of us, most of the time, other people simply don’t value the perfection we try to deliver.

  6. Ignore low priority tasks.

    It’s amazing how often, after you return from a vacation, that you can simply delete a whole stream of emails on issues that resolved themselves during your break. Guess what? They can sort themselves out when you’re back at work too; you don’t need to get involved in low priority stuff.

  7. Turn off your phone, your email and your social media.

    We have become slaves to phone ring tones and social media and email alerts, answering them immediately and then getting involved in resolving the issues that have been raised. Why? Virtually all issues can wait an hour or two. I have my phone on silent and review calls every hour or so, and only check my emails two or three times a day. These actions help me focus on what’s important to me, not urgent to someone else.

Which of these seven approaches could help you achieve more – both selfishly for yourself and selflessly for your organisation?


© Stuart Cross 2016. All rights reserved.