In How to Be a Star at Work, productivity consultant and college professor Robert E. Kelley draws on experience he gathered working with such large companies as AT&andT's Bell Labs and Hewlett-Packard. Summarizing his search for the holy grail of what makes a standout employee, he offers a nine-step program of strategies. This "how-to" aspect is suffused with the rigor of first-hand knowledge and academic research, adding to the credibility of his suggestions. Kelley's target is the elite of the new knowledge-based economy (he calls them "brainpowered" workers). They are college-educated engineers, analysts, and the like. His program is not remedial. Instead, he attempts to convey what separates the merely good or average, but certainly acceptable performers, from the "stars." If you buy into the premise that "stars" are many more times productive than average workers, and that our economy is increasingly a knowledge-based one, it behooves us to make as many people as possible into "stars." That's because productivity gains are what drive real increases in our standard of living.
To unfairly boil down Kelley's recipe for workplace stardom, start with top-notch technical skills in your chosen field of endeavor and add a flexible and secure ego and superior people skills. This is not a one-size-fits-all formula, but a well-researched and cleanly written treatise. Of particular interest are chapters on the need to employ creative "followership" and the advantages of "small-l leadership," the latter particularly well suited for teams brought together to address a particular issue. Another telling note is that star employees don't typically see their "brainpowered" roles as subordinate to or less important than the jobs of managers just different.
Reviewed by Neal Lipschutz.