Super Competent by Laura Stack – Recommended Reading

Part of my reading over the last fortnight, as well as on the plane trip from New Zealand to Switzerland, has been Super Competent: The Six Keys to Perform at Your Productive Best, by Laura Stack, the productivity pro. Her key thesis is that being competent (“average”) is not enough, and that what will really set people apart in these difficult economic and employment times is becoming more than competent – super competent even. However, the “super” part doesn’t come from greater subject matter expertise or experience, but from the approach you take to your work.

Laura outlines six aspects of becoming super competent, using six words beginning with “A” to denote these. I’ve added the essential sense that I took from the various chapters for each of the six aspects:
Activity – focus your work on the items / projects of value; don’t get lost in trivia.
Availability – protect your time to stay focused on essential activities. Say no, delegate, watch out for unnecessary meetings.
Attention – remove or mitigate interruptions so you can focus on your essential activities.
Accessibility – use systems to organize daily inputs, so you don’t get lost in administrivia.
Accountability – take responsibility for your work, and carry through on commitments to other people. Don’t waste time getting ready to work – just get going.
Attitude – if it stinks, you’re in trouble. Stay in the right emotional zone, and remember that perseverance and hard work will take you further than unapplied talent.

I enjoyed reading the book. It reinforced many concepts for me, and put some thoughts in a different light. I have frequently used the front pages of a book for writing down key ideas in the book – eg., “p36, breakthroughs often come from outside of the field” – but with Laura’s book, I used the front pages to create a mindmap of the contents. I’m going to do this for future books too – whenever I pick it up in the future, I’ve got my learnings documented right there for an at-a-glance reminder.

Interestingly, one of the most startling sentences in the book for me came from Catherine Stewart’s endorsement statement at the front of the book. She wrote, “In my work with high-performing, high-potential leaders, I have found time and again that increasing effectiveness is almost singularly hinged upon decreasing interference.” It really resonated with me, because of a key area of interference I’ve been working to reduce this year.

If you’re looking for great coaching on becoming super, take a look at Laura’s book.

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