Six Keys to Becoming a Happy A Player

The Topgrading Professionals at Topgrading, Inc., have asked tens of thousands of executives:

How would you live your life or manage your career differently, if you could start over?  This is an indirect way of asking, “What might you have done differently in order to become a happier person?

We’ve heard the same responses again and again, so we regularly pass on what have become the six keys to becoming not just a success, career-wise, but a success in life, a truly HAPPY A Player.

1. Fix broken pieces in your life now, or they will get worse.

Create a Life Balance Scorecard. Simply list the most important parts of your life and rate each Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, or Poor.  What’s on your list?  Typical life components include most of the following:  Relationship with Spouse/Significant Other, Relationships with My Children, Wellness, Career Success, Financial Well Being, Giving Back, Being Creative, Fun Hobbies, and Spiritual Satisfaction.  You can add dimensions unique to … you!

Next, rate your overall happiness using the same scale.  We found that if even one very important part of life is less than Good (i.e., Fair or Poor), overall happiness is dragged down to that level.  An executive might be very happy with the job and career success, but admit, “My life sucks,” because of … name it … marital discord, health problems, financial stresses, etc. Hundreds of high achievers said they were not truly happy unless ALL important parts of their life (career, family, health, etc.) were at least “Good.”

Resourceful A Players become more happy by “fixing” the Fair or Poor components. In other words, recognize what is detracting from your happiness, make a plan, and implement it.

Using the Life Balance Scorecard is the umbrella recommendation to identify what needs fixing, with specifics following …

2. Invest time, energy, and love in your family.

As you’d expect, this advice comes from thousands of A Players who have been divorced and didn’t really get to know their children. They say they kidded themselves at the time – “I’ll be a workaholic for just another year or two and then get balance in my life.” But another year turned into another 10 years, and you know the rest of the story. In retrospect they say they really could have, and should have, invested more in their most important relationships.

3. Pay attention to wellness.

The high achievers stopped smoking, but about half said their exercise, eating, sleeping, and stress-relief habits were not so hot, particularly during their 30s and 40s.

4. Live within your means.

A lot of the high achievers made at least one terrible job move out of desperation – financial desperation: “With my expensive life style, I had to get a higher paying job.” That’s what they thought at the time. Their advice: Save and invest for rainy days and retirement … so you never make bad choices out of financial desperation.

5. Plan your career early.

Since 85% of the high achievers I’ve interviewed were self-made, from the “other side of the tracks,” they didn’t get great career advice early in their career. They listened to mentors who helped them succeed in the short-term, but not long-term. So, general managers started their broadening processes (MBA, request to be cross trained in sales, etc.) much later than ideal. Career plans can obviously change, but A Players suggest recruiting mentors who think long term.

6. Topgrade.

Did you think I’d neglect this? High achievers achieve balance in life mostly by Topgrading.  With teams of A Players they work 50 rather than 70 hours, and get a lot more done than before Topgrading.  This gives them the additional hours each week to devote to family, exercise, or whatever.

For non-Topgraders, “Topgrading” briefly means:

  • Using the Topgrading “truth serum” to assure candidate total honesty;
  • Using the online Topgrading Career History Form, which produces the Topgrading Snapshot “picture” of the person’s career, to quickly screen out low performers and assure interviews with only sharp candidates;
  • Conducting a tandem Topgrading Interview, using the Topgrading Interview Guide; and
  • Asking finalists to arrange reference calls with former bosses and others you choose.  No telephone tag!

These six bits of wisdom definitely improved the lives of thousands of high performers, and I hope you benefit, too.

November 5, 2013


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