David Strittmatter

From Mediocre to Great – How to Achieve Greatness in Work

When leaders tolerate mediocrity, it’s a cancer that spreads like wildfire – Frank Sonnenberg

Dear friend,

What distinguishes great from mediocre work?

Even a little experience in a particular domain allows identifying great work quickly. We can immediately recognize greatness when we see it, even if we can’t always explain why.

But what are the underlying drivers of great work?

And what does it actually take to achieve work perceived as great by others?

What does great work NOT look like?

  • Rushing through work without taking the time to review and make improvements
  • Treating the task as a duty and performing it exactly as instructed
  • Failing to take the initiative to explore new ideas or approaches to the task
  • Simply following the tried and true methods without any innovation or creativity
  • Working in isolation without seeking feedback or collaboration from others

Underlying drivers of great work

  • Owning the task and taking full responsibility for the outcome, regardless of challenges or obstacles
  • Spending time to review and iterate the end product
  • Going above and beyond the basic requirements of the task
  • Collaborating with others to gather feedback and insights
  • Taking calculated risks and exploring new avenues for the task, without fear of failure or the unknown

What does it take to achieve great work

  1. Assume full responsibility for the outcome
  2. Identify the “customer” of your work (is it your manager, is it a client, is it the department lead, is it an investor, …?) and tailor it to their needs
  3. Review the work, gather valid feedback (ask people who can support you to better meet the needs of the “customer”), and iterate it
  4. Take calculated risks by trying new approaches, failing early, and iterating fast based on the learnings
  5. Bonus: Even for the most basic task: Find a way to make it at least 1% better

Treat these 3 lists as a checklist if you want to perform exceptionally – no matter whether you’re an intern, new hire, experienced direct report to a manager, or like me (an upcoming CEO of a company).

All the best to you and yours,


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