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Peak Performers, How Much Do You Contribute?

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When achievement is the result of a team effort - not just individual performance - we tend tooverstimating our performance overestimate our contribution to the final victory. I once asked three business partners to estimate their individual contribution to the partnership's profits. Not surprisingly, the sum of their answers amounted to more than 150% of the actual profit! Each of the three partners thought she was contributing more than half.

This overestimation of our past success is true in almost any workplace. If you ask your colleagues (in a confidential survey) to estimate their percentage contribution to your enterprise, the total will always exceed 100%. There is nothing wrong with this. (If the total adds up to less than 100%, you probably need new colleagues.)

This "I have succeeded" belief, positive as it is in most cases, can become a major obstacle when behavioral change is needed.

Delusions of Superiority

Successful people consistently overrate themselves relative to their peers. I have asked more than 80,000 participants in my training programs to rate themselves in terms of their performance relative to their professional peers. We found that 80% to 85% rank themselves in the top 20% of their peer group, and about 70% rank themselves in the top 10%. The numbers get even more ridiculous among professionals with higher perceived social status, such as physicians, pilots, and investment bankers.

(M.D.s may be the most delusional. I once told a group of doctors that my extensive research had conclusively proven that half of all M.D.s had graduated in the bottom half of their medical school class. Two of the doctors insisted that this was impossible.)

Please remember this as you progress in the corporate world. The higher up we go - the more successful we become - the harder it may be for us to hear negative feedback. I ask my CEO clients to complete a simple exercise. Complete this sentence, "I am success because of ___," Then complete this sentence, "I am a success in spite of ___."

I have never met anyone who was so wonderful that he or she had nothing on the "in spite of" list. (If I did meet such a person, I would suggest that he or she work on "humility.") My readers are generally successful people. Make your own two lists: figure out your "in spite of" - and get to work.

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My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.

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The American Management Association named Dr. Marshall Goldsmith as one of 50 great thinkers and leaders who have influenced the field of management over the past 80 years. Dr. Goldsmith is one of a select few advisors who have been asked to work with over 100 major CEOs and their management teams. He is co-founder of Marshall Goldsmith Partners, a network of top-level executive coaches. He served as a member of the Board of the Peter Drucker Foundation for ten years.
Dr. Marshall Goldsmith's 24 books include What Got You Here Won't Get You There - a New York Times best-seller, Wall Street Journal #1 business book and Harold Longman Award winner for Business Book of the Year. His recent book Succession: Are You Ready?- is the newest edition to the Harvard Business 'Memo to the CEO' series. Marshall's latest book is Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, and How to Get It Back When You Lose It!
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