Does sitting next to a “star” improve your performance?

Recently, I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Use Your Seat to Get Ahead.” The subtitle of the article, “Sitting next to a star at work improves your performance,” particularly piqued my interest since we do a lot of work with star performers at Cerebyte.

The gist of the article is that researchers have found that literally sitting next to someone who is a star performer improves performance in a variety of ways. Less effective performers showed the following improvements when moved next to a star performer:

  • Work “output” was raised 8 percent
  • Ability to resolve customer service requests without assistance increased 16 percent
  • Quality ratings went up 3 percent

All of these positive results were attributed to several factors including:

  • Inspiration – it was inspiring for the less successful performers just to sit next to someone who is a star
  • Peer pressure – the less successful performers didn’t want to look bad when compared to the star
  • Better work habits – people learned to work better from the stars

All of these research results make sense, but in my opinion, it is mostly useless information because there are few stars and lots of people needing to sit next to the stars. I believe that it also misses the fact that the most important factor in being a star is having a passionate commitment to a greater purpose. Star performers rarely articulate this purpose. However, by sitting next to a star, the less effective person absorbs some of it through “osmosis.”  The question is, how can an organization get the impact of sitting next to a star, ideally one who can article their purpose and be a good mentor, without having to sit next to them?

The answer is from multiple sources (and sounds just like a Cerebyte program):

  • Guide the stars to define their greater purpose in a way that enables anyone to understand their mental model
  • Guide the stars to articulate a path to operational excellence so others can learn what the stars know without having to rely on sitting next to them
  • Develop a learning program based on the newest neuroscience of learning that uses social learning to emulate the most critical social aspects of sitting next to a star

In our Cerebyte programs, 95 to 98 percent of the participants demonstrate the attitudes and effectiveness of the star performers without sitting next to them.  This gives any organization the ability to generate the level of impact reported in the research without the physical constraint of needing employees to even be located in the same building or time zone.

Wouldn’t you like to have your people think and act like star performers wherever they sit?

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