My boss recently shared this quote with me. We have many discussions about what it takes to be a top performer at HP and this quote from Lone Survivor sums it up pretty well:
And right here I needed to remember a lesson drummed into me from an early age by Billy Shelton: when a special forces commander makes even a slight reference to an issue that may be helpful, listen and then do it. Even if it was an aside, not a proper command, maybe even starting with I think it might be a good idea . . . Always pay attention and then carry out the task, no matter how minor it may seem. Billy’s point was that these SF instructors were looking for the best, and it might be only small things that separate guys who are very good from guys who are absolutely excellent, outstanding. “Listen, Marcus,” Billy told me, “always listen, and always jump all over anything your instructor tells you. Get out in front. Fast. Then make sure you stay there.”Luttrell, Marcus (2007-06-12). Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 (Kindle Locations 1198-1204). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.
How true is that. It's one thing to take an explicit request and do it really well. For example, I might get asked to create a report about a printing trend, and I can make an excellent report. It's another to listen to the conversation, and the questions they're struggling with and make a report that wasn't asked for, but is still valuable.
I've done that in the past and it's fun to delight my boss in that way. The trick to being a truly top performer is to do that regularly. To constantly be listening for questions that suggestions that seem like off-hand comments, and act upon them. That definitely isn't easy to do, and that's why only top performers do it. This is one of the areas I'll be looking to improve this year. Hopefully this quote will also inspire you to listen closer to those suggestions and act upon them. Doing that is what will separate you from the pack. It's yet another form of the Slight Edge.