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on February 15, 2006
Robert E. Kelley has outlined several strategies for turning yourself into a recognized asset for your company, improving your productivity and building a stellar career.

· Exercise your initiative. Go beyond your job description. Look for solutions to problems at work. Help out your co-workers.

· Develop effective work habits. Prioritize your job-related activities by how crucial they are to the overall goals of your organization. Review your productivity on a regular basis.

· Put together an expert network. It's not enough to become an expert at something, unless you are able to work with other experts to innovate and add value.

· Learn to see issues as others see them. Seek out learning experiences that will help you to see the big picture from the perspective of a customer, colleague, competitor, manager and from a creative point of view.

· Use teams to your best advantage. Check to see if the company supports teamwork. Is teamwork more often cooperative or competitive? Once you commit to a team, be proactive.

· Be the kind of follower leaders want. Don't follow as a sheep or a yes-man. Be dependable, competent, conscientious, and cooperative.

· Earn your status as a leader through expertise, people skills or an ability to create momentum.

· Learn the unwritten rules of the game. Know where to go, who to talk to, and what to do in order to get things done.

· Communicate effectively. Tailor your message to your audience.
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This book is excellent for attacking misconception stalls (bad thinking habits based on a misunderstanding of the circumstances) that retard almost all careers. Everyone I know who had a fast rising career used the principles in this book: But they had to figure out some of the principles for themselves.
As a young person, many lack the experience and judgment to derive these principles. For example, many will see conforming to the views of co-workers (many of whose careers are going nowhere) as the way to get ahead. Not!
As your first step toward becoming a star at work, read this book and apply its principles. If you want to go further and be a Superstar at work, read on for more instructions you will need.
Careers are also plagued by other flawed thinking habits not explored in this book including poor communications (assuming the message is received and understood without checking), disbelief in promising new ideas and technologies (check these new perspectives out carefully before you dismiss them), tradition (habits that have outlived their usefulness), bureaucracy (having people involved unnecessarily), harmful procrastination (delaying when the situation is deteriorating), and avoiding ugliness (everyone else avoids it also, so the best opportunities are often in the most unattractive aspects of your operations).
To be most successful, you need to be able to create better solutions.
The way to do this is to (1) learn the value of measurements (nothing improves that is not measured) (2) measure everything you can about important processes in your key activities (each measurement will teach you something you need to know) (3) identify the best practices anyone has ever done in these areas (especially by looking outside your industry), and anticipate where these best practices will be in 5 years (4) assemble best practices together in new ways that no one has ever done before to exceed the future best practice (5) identify the ideal best practice (the best people will ever be able to do -- for communications this will be having everyone get the message in one second, like shouting "fire" in a crowded theater where smoke and flames are evident) (6) find ways to approach the ideal best practice by applying the analogy of where humans do it almost perfectly now to your situation (7) assemble the right people, resources and incentives to get the job done and (8) repeat the process (you will get better at it and find better ideas, each you time you do this again).
Further, a lot of people are oblivious to the powerful trends around them. The most effective people will find ways to turn these trends to their advantage, regardless of how the trend shifts.
If you teach someone else these ideas, you will learn them even better, and proven yourself as a leader.
Don't forget to be a superstar in your personal life, as well.
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on July 28, 2000
Robert E. Kelly, spent ten years researching the personal and professional characteristics of star performers.
If you want to do more than just succeed at work, this is the book for you! It's full of vitally information on how to reach beyond your skills at work. About ten to fifteen percent of all people will out perform their peers by a wide margin and rise above to the star ranks. How to be a Star at Work tells us how to be our own star and to be able to outshine everyone else, no matter who you are. This book has nine strategies to getting ahead, but don't think you can muddle through with a few pointers; you need to read the entire book to be able to realize how everything works and fits together. It's worth the time and effort! Remember stars are made not born.
I found this to be a helpful, informative, simplistic read. It's very well written and the fact that the author spent so much time 'in the trenches' is apparent, he knows what he is talking about. I recommend it.
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on April 8, 2003
When I review a book, I consider a number of different factors. Among my considerations is the suitability of the book to what appears to be the intended market-the intended reader.
Looking at a title like "How to be a Star at Work," I assume that the book is designed to inspire and instruct people who are not stars at work. Perhaps I'm being a bit pedantic here, but I question how many non-stars would gleefully pick up a 300+ page book to learn the Secrets of Business Life.
OK, I've got that out of my system. Let's dig a little deeper. The book is based on research, written by a college professor. Kelley teaches at Carneigie Mellon University's business school and, as may be expected, does a lot of research and publishing. Goes with the territory. This book reports on ten years of research at major companies, revealing nine factors for success: initiative, networking, self-management, perspective, followership, leadership, teamwork, street smarts, and show-and-tell (to the right audience).
As you read that list, you may be thinking, "no-brainer; should I waste my time with this book?" On a shallow level, that's a fair assessment. As you read deeper through these pages, however, you'll discover many subtle innuendos in each of these categories. You'll learn from the thought-provoking anecdotes-all with the names changed, of course. The experiences of the employees described are somewhat interwoven with political issues that are more prevalent in large companies than smaller enterprises. This environment-resident factor may taint your sense of relevance if you don't work for a big organization, but don't be fooled. The advice is solid for all sizes of employers.
This book may not be read heavily by its assumed primary target, but will still be quite valuable to supervisors, managers, leaders, and mentors who coach and guide others to improve their effectiveness and strategic career development.
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on April 10, 2000
When the gold-collar professionals (knowledge workers with hi-tech skills in our financial services business) ask me how to be more successful at work, I now refer them to this book. There is no magic here, just solid social science. This book documents what Kelley and his team observed at Bell Labs. They identified behaviors that are exhibited by those perceived as stars, and that are not exhibited by others. This book describes those behaviors, calling them "breakthrough strategies". The strategies can be taught, can be learned, and can be put into practice. But they aren't easy to do and one must work at developing proficiency and effectiveness.
For those who want a terse prescriptive cookbook, with specific instructions, or a book with a magic one-shot one size fits all solution, this book may disappoint. Kelley describes the star strategies with examples and stories, as well as specifics. Those who learn best from examples and narrative will find this book very accessible and useful.
If you are serious about working on your "game", and don't believe your failures are the result of everyone else's incompetence and ineffectiveness, this book will be most helpful. But if you believe the world is an cut-throat win or lose place, you'd probably be better off spending your time and money with a counselor or analyst or a coach in knife-wielding politics.
If you believe you can get better at what you do, and that what you do is valuable and worthwhile, this book offers some insights on how to improve your "game" and increase your value to those who depend on what you do.
You can't learn how to play golf or how to be a star at work just from reading a book. But if you and others read this book together, and coach one another on how you are doing, your "game" will most certainly improve and your value, because you are a star, will most certainly increase.
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on June 20, 2006
OK, with all of the efforts of Human Resources these days to hire the right people, still about one out of every ten recruits run circles around the others. These recruits are solid gold. Were they born that way? Can they be made? Can they be recognized? The author attempts to answer this question from insights derived from a study conducted at Bell Labs. Everyone was interviewed and surveyed. The top producers were found by survey of both management and staff. The discoveries are very interesting. The statement is made that to become a star performer you don't need super IQ, great self-confidence, or silky smooth social skills. You just need to change your strategies. We have all seen people succeed without these characteristics - here's why.

All participants in the study were asked to rank nine work strategies in their order of importance. Now, here is the crux of the book... everyone thought that these items were important, but not only did they have them in reverse orders, they gave different meaning to the terms. So how do winners think and what order do they rank for importance in business strategy?

1. Initiative - going beyond the job - adding bold ideas - efforts to better it for everyone - tenacity - some personal risk - goes far beyond taking on projects for personal publicity

2. Networking - developing pathways to knowledge - sharing knowledge - establishing networks before they need them - goes far beyond just knowing people to get ahead for yourself

3. Self-Management - increase your value by increasing your skill - experiment with better habits - goes far beyond just mananging time

4. Perspective - seeing from a variety of views and opinions of the five Cs - the customer - the colleagues - the competitors - the company's - and creative views possibly involving other industires - this is far from just personally making your perspective thought well of

5. Followership - cooperating with a leader for goal achievement - can disagree with a leader by adding facts and seeking advice - this goes far beyond just doing as you are told

6. Leadership - using your influence to convince a group to accomplish - qualities of knowledge, caring, push-through - not just giving commands

7. Teamwork - taking joint ownership - everyone agreeing on a mission - it's not just doing your own job

8. Organizational Savvy - knowing how to navigate the organization to get things done - not just who to kiss up to

9. Show and Tell - persuading the right audience with the right message to deliver valuable information effectively - it is much more than showing off for personal gain

The author speaks of staying aligned with the critical path. That is the most direct value-added route that can be plotted from the work of an employee to a delighted customer to an improved bottome line.

Your heart must be large to understand this book and the meaning of the survey.

Five Stars Shining Brightly
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on October 24, 2002
This book is a snow job. Okay, sure, if you didn't know that showing initiative and networking with people will help you be more productive, this book will clue you in. For those who happen to be more productive than a tree stump, you won't learn anything new.
Kelley consistently creates straw dogs that he easily knocks down with his "exhaustive" research. For example, Kelley states he wrote this book because of his "distress over the proliferation of misguided approaches to productivity improvement. Some are harmless (for example, if you take time each day to let your workers tell fables and stories to one another, they will be more productive). Others are just flat out wrong (for example, some racial groups have higher intelligence and are therefore destined to be more productive). With it solid research base, this book sets the record straight on what leads to higher productivity and what does not." (p. xi) Spare us. When was the last time someone promoted "telling fables" or hiring certain racial groups as a way to boost productivity?
The most disturbing aspect of the book is the deliberate misuse of statistics. Throughout to book Kelley reminds us that "stars are made, not born," that we can have staggering increases in our productivity, that we can become ten-for-one-ers. These claims are based on the research that compared productivity ratings that managers gave two groups of employees, one group that used the Star@Work approach, and the other that didn't. At the end of the eight-month period, those who used Star@Work had ratings that were about 10% higher than at the beginning of the period. In other words, if they were rated a 5 before, they were rated a 5.5 after. Those who didn't use Star@Work received ratings that were about 5% higher after the 8 months (i.e., from 5 to a 5.25). Since 10% divided by 5% equals 2, the Kelly claims that "you can double your rate of productivity increase." When you realize the results aren't based on actual increases in productivity, it suddenly isn't very impressive. Oh, and the managers knew which group had taken the training.
Another eye-popping claim by Kelley is the potential 400% increase in productivity by women and minorities. But this is also lacking when it comes to the numbers. The group of women and minorities who applied Star@Work had the same 10% increase in productivity rating as the non-minority group. The reason the 400% number is used is because the minority group that didn't use Star@Work only increased their rating by about 2.5%. Thus, 10% divided by 2.5% = 400%. Ho hum.
I'd bet most of the excitement for this book stems from the false expectation that you are going to double your productivity by applying its principles. Most likely, you will be more productive if you skip reading the book and spend the extra time in the office.
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on October 14, 2000
This book is fine and wonderful, but it doesn't really talk about the 'dark side' of work. You can be a star, but don't be politically naive either. Know that some people have no problems spreading unfounded rumors, bullying, harrassing, and ostracizing anyone who is competent and a perceived 'threat' to them and their desired managerial position. Go ahead and buy this, but then also buy a book about mobbing or bullies in the workplace.
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on July 20, 2003
This is a good guide to success in the workplace for engineers and other 'brainpowered' workers. Dr. Kelly, professor at Carnegie-Mellon's business school, writes of nine 'breakthrough' strategies to move ahead of the pack, into the 'A player' ranks. While the somewhat cheesy title implies that this is a guide for lazy people (the 'C players') to sneak their way up the ladder, this is in reality a well-written and well-researched book that is strictly for highly-motivated workers that just need a little added 'edge'.
The tips Dr. Kelly provide seem to be common sense, but we all see hard-working 'B players' every day that neglect these at their own peril. (If it were as easy to spot one's own faults as it is to spot faults in others, this book wouldn't be necessary.)
It doesn't cover everything, of course, and the strategies aren't necessarily easy to implement, but it's a good starting point for someone truly motivated to improve their promotability. To that end, I'd personally recommend reading Stephen Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People", Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People", and this book.
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on November 2, 2000
I completely agree with the reviewer from Wisconsin (Oct 14). The ideas in this book are most beneficial to those who work in an environment that is not overtly political. If you want to know how to be an outstanding knowledge worker (and you can do this even if you think you have a job for the brain dead), and you're willing to put forth the effort necessary to reach a high level of performance, then by all means, get this book.
My problem with this book is that the author seems to honestly believe this is all one needs to do to be successful in most of today's organizations. Most cutthroat politicians will not be threatened by those who put the first part of the "Star At Work" equation into practice, mainly learning as much as possible and putting forth extra effort. The troubles start when the exceptional worker tries to get recognition and to implement their ideas. The only way to outwit the politicians and be a real star is to have some political savvy yourself, which the book doesn't place enough emphasis on.
IMHO, you can be the smartest, most dedicated "star" in the room, but if you don't have a little "juice" with those in power, they'll simply take your ideas and effort & leave you used up and burned out.
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