In the late 90s, Robert E. Kelley’s book How to Be a Star at Work was a best seller. Even Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence, said it was “landmark” thinking. The nine strategies Kelley outlines are timeless and align well to today’s workplace. Having absorbed the philosophy of Kelley’s book, here is a quick synopsis of strategies that have helped me coach hundreds of employees to excel at work.

1. Blaze trails where there are gaps

This is about initiative. Stay awake and aware enough to know where the gaps are and work to close them. Don’t wait to be told what to do. See it, investigate the solutions, communicate your ideas, and act. Perhaps you are working long hours because it does not seem there are enough team members to get all the work done. I’ll bet the “bench” of high potential leaders is empty. Get involved. Pitch in to help train, mentor or coach colleagues to be ready to take on more of the work so it gets done for all.

2. Know who knows

Make your own who’s who list. Network with others to find the mavens and subject matter experts. If you don’t know what needs doing or how to do it, find out who does. Without a network, you are on your own. Work is often too complex to do it alone. Perhaps you need to learn more about an application or program to be more effective. In your network there is someone who has the knowledge that you need. Request coaching from that person who knows what you do not.

3. Manage yourself

Organize yourself and develop systems to keep you working toward goals. Know what is important and schedule time to work on that. Don’t spend time in a false sense of urgency. Your talent is best used in bringing results. Examine frequently what you did last week, month or year and recall the results your actions brought. If you spent a lot of time on activity that did not lead to achieving your goals, prioritize differently.

4. Get the big picture

You are a leader of a project or team in a larger division and company. Sometimes we are blinded by the picture/scenario right in front of us and do not see how this decision or reality fits in the larger picture. You have power to make decisions. Make the best decision to benefit the greater good. When others need your talent, give it away. That talent could be people, systems, or leadership.

5. Check your ego at the door

This relates to #4 but means more than being generous. It is about being a good follower. When change is needed and you are the right person to work through that change – then step up. Don’t worry about title or power. Join the team to get the job done. When in a crucial conversation, you do not have to win. The team working together will move the needle.

6. Building and pushing a team

Selecting the right leaders is fundamental to excelling at work. A leader needs a supervisor that knows how to grow a team that achieves. Teach them to carry out a plan, even when you are not looking. High performing teams get excited when learning and change occurs. Continue to develop the team so they excel and enjoy doing it.

7. Hold yourself and others accountable

Be accountable. Don’t take the easy road. Take the road that brings the best result even when it is difficult. If you want to achieve progress toward goals of a project then monitor the team’s progress. Give feedback on their success in moving forward and what could be improved. As the leader it is your job to allocate time, resources, and expertise for the team to make those improvements.

8. Be a breeder of talent

In this era of not enough great workers to go around, it is important to keep growing talent. Highly talented people tend to grow talent in others. As a supervisor, how many people have been promoted or been successful at challenging roles as result of your leadership? If you can’t name more than one, examine how often you teach rather than do for others. When you are working through a complex situation, do you bring others along with you in your discovery and decision making? Are you communicating all the time so others can learn from you?

Most employees want to excel! Do not assume you know what success looks like to your team members, supervisor or the executives of the organization. Ask what achievement looks like to them and use these strategies to get ther


  • Leatha Ritchie

    Leadership Development Writer and Coach at LPR Consulting

    Leatha Ritchie serves as principal consultant and owner of LPR Consulting. Leatha is a certified Gallup® Strengths Coach, facilitator of The Change Cycle™, with training in Coaching from ATD, and is certified as an assessor for Predictive Index. She has extensive experience in training and development of current and high potential leaders with an emphasis on training that accompanies coaching or mentoring. Leatha’s particular area of expertise is examining and improving new leader orientation, succession planning, and programs for good leaders to become great. It takes passion, resources, and direction to develop as a leader. Leatha’s articles and blogs bring tools, inspiration, and experience to the learner. Previous to this role Leatha served as VP Operations Leadership Strategy & Development at Bright Horizons, a leader in the early education field. Her roles as Regional Manager, Director of Regional Manager Development, and Division Vice President gave her unique talent in recognizing challenge and growing leaders to confront and managing through while improving the business. Often Leatha was tapped to assess challenging organizational situations then develop systems, resources, and provide training to improve outcome. This role took her throughout the United States, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Guam. Leatha holds a bachelor degree in history with a minor in early childhood education from Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she also received her Master of Business Administration.