Top Performers: Born or Made?

Last Updated Apr 18, 2008 1:10 PM EDT

There is an old joke about a tourist in Rome who stops an old man on the street and asks, "How do you get to La Scala?" The old man replies, "Practise, practise, practise". There is no easy way to become a top performer. It takes energy, focus and hard work. The best performers are all the product of what scientists call "deliberate" practice -- about 10,000 hours of it if you want to get to the top of your field.

Practise makes perfect Harvard Business School's case method simulates the realities of the business world. Students who graduate from these types of programmes tend to perform well because they have practised the behaviour of business. The really good ones make sure to carry on this practice when they get out into real situations.

Continuous improvement Everything you do at work is a skill that can be improved upon. If you keep that thought uppermost in your mind, research shows that you will approach the way you do your job differently. You will process information more thoroughly, take a longer-term view, focus on the connection between your behaviour and your performance, and you will actively seek feedback on both of them.

Feedback Feedback is essential to performance. Once you know how you are doing, you can decide what to do differently to get better results.