Many people say they want to be a 10xer, but very few people know how to become one.
This post outlines how you can become a 10xer in your own organization and how you can identify other star employees in any business.
What is a 10xer?
A 10xer is someone who brings 10 times the value to their company as compared to their peers.
They impact the business almost immediately. The organization is improved in a matter of weeks, and their peers notice very quickly that they’ve found someone special.
Here are the 4 things you can do to become a 10xer:
1. See opportunities where others only see threats.
The ability to understand and analyze threats to a business is important. This is especially true if it’s a large, established multi-billion dollar business that needs to focus on protecting its downside.
Companies have entire teams focused on identifying and neutralizing potential threats. Sometimes this is necessary, but oftentimes it’s not. Many threats are not as severe as they initially seem. And if a business spends all its focus on threats, it will no longer innovate and no longer grow.
If you want to be a 10xer, you need to be the one discovering massive opportunities for growth. And the younger the business, the more time should be spent on growth vs. threats.
This is hard because the threats are real. They are important. They could really hurt the company. And the big threats should definitely be tackled head-on. But not every threat needs to be addressed. And even those that do need to be addressed don’t need to be addressed fully.
It takes experience to discern which threats are important to mitigate and which threats are less severe. Employees with large company experience are often in “threat-mode” more than they should be. This gives you a potential advantage.
Smart employees at start-ups often spend over 80% of their time on threats and less than 10% on opportunities. But the 10xers spend over 50% on opportunities.
That’s how you can start to become a 10xer; spend more time on finding opportunities than you do identifying threats.
2. Create a bias for action.
Really smart people are great at pointing out threats. And some are great at finding opportunities.
But this is just Stage 0 of being a 10Xer. There many stages of being a star employee:
- Stage -1: Ignorant of opportunity/threat
- Stage 0: Pointing out opportunity/threat
- Stage 1: Proposing a viable solution for opportunity/threat
- Stage 2: Having a plan of action for opportunity/threat
- Stage 3: Having a plan of action for opportunity/threat that YOU can do
- Stage 4: Solving the opportunity/threat by doing/building/etc.
Your goal should be to be a Stage 4 employee. The more you focus on action, the closer you are to becoming a 10xer.
The 10Xers I have worked with make sure important things get done. They pay attention to small details, while also taking on big projects to completion. They spend more time doing, and less time writing PowerPoint presentations.
Many smart people spend more time debating the solution than implementing the solution. It is important to think critically about threats and opportunities — but many smart people spend too much time planning and not enough time doing. Start-ups need to be biased for action.
You’ll see the same thing play out in vacation planning. Many super-smart people spend more time planning their vacations than actually being on vacation.
10xer employees understand that a concentrated action might fail, but failure is okay if you learn lessons from it and then try another alternative solution.
When in doubt, have a bias for action.
3. Be positive, not negative. (“Yes, and” beats “no, but”).
Having a negative outlook is often extremely valuable to an organization. People who are negative can have incredible accomplishments and many star employees I have worked with have a negative personality. Having zero smart people in an organization that are negative can be really dangerous.
But you can only have a few negative people in an organization because negativity and positivity are both wildly contagious.
True 10Xers are almost always glass-half-full people. It doesn’t mean they gloss over threats. But because they are solution and action-oriented, they are good at finding solutions to these threats and they are confident in themselves (and their colleagues) that they will be able to handle threats in the future.
So 10Xers are not just wearing rose-colored glasses … they are confident in themselves to find solutions because they have a track record of finding and implementing solutions in the past.
4. Make your team better.
10xers do great work, but they also make the team’s work better. They increase the talent and productivity of those around them to a great degree, making the whole greater than the sum of its pieces. This is one of the reasons why positivity is so important because that can infuse excitement in those around them.
Star employees can also help the team produce high-quality work under less than ideal circumstances. They are the ones problem-solving with a bias for action when everyone else is worried about not having enough time, budget, or resources.
Many super-smart people are great contributors and they do make the team around them better. But 10Xers are a true force multiplier on the team.
That’s how you can become a 10xer in your organization.
It’s not an exhaustive list, of course, but these are the main principles. Here are a few more:
- Do everything you say you are going to do.
- Manage your boss and colleagues — don’t make them spend time managing you.
- Proactively help the organization.
You can read more about these in my article, How do I make over $200,000 / year?
Here’s how you can identify 10xers for yourself:
A 10xer can be any level of experience or in any profession.
There’s no common background, education level, or profession for 10xers. They come from all walks of life and can be an intern or the CEO.
A 10xer is in the top 10 percent of anyone you’ve ever worked with.
Star employees leave an impact on the people they work with.
A 10xer works harder than their peers.
While you don’t need to work a crazy number of hours to be a 10xer, almost every 10xer does. Yes, there are exceptions but those are exceptions. Most 10xers outwork their peers. They do this because it does not feel like “work.” They usually bring a deep passion to what they do and it is fun.
You want to work with them again and you’ll fight to bring them into your next company.
Not only will they quickly become an asset on the team, but you will also be willing to work with them again – inside or outside your organization. This gives them options and subsequently salary leverage. Once a 10xer establishes themselves, they typically see rapid pay increases. Remember, they have options and everyone knows it.
A star employee will be a 10xer for the foreseeable future.
A star employee today may not be a 10xer forever. But when you find one in their prime, it will be clear they have plenty of runway ahead of them. They work exhaustively hard to keep up with their industry and will be emphatic about tinkering on the edges of innovation in their field so they don’t fall behind.
10xers are hard to hire because they have so many opportunities.
It is extremely hard to hire a 10xer who has at least 4 years of experience if you have never worked with them before. This is because they have so many opportunities to choose from. People who have worked with them in the past are begging them to take job offers.
10xers weren’t always star employees.
There was a time when they were regular employees. But then they developed a system of habits and mental models to bring 10x the value to their organization. And 10xers in one organization might not be 10xers in another organization — the culture, system, and company processes are really important.
A star employee today is not necessarily a star employee tomorrow.
10xer do not always remain 10xers as time passes. A star software engineer could be an average VP of Engineering. So just because someone was a star in the past does not mean that they will be one forever. Magic Johnson at age 55 is not the same basketball player he was at age 25.
Conversely, an average employee today could be a 10xer tomorrow.
A star employee today might have been an average employee in the past. Maybe today they are working in a role more suited to them. Maybe they are working in a different environment or culture that’s a better fit. Maybe their new boss matches their personality. Or maybe they just changed or matured over time.
There are plenty of examples of people who got fired for low performance who later became star employees and then founders (and sometimes that firing is the “I’ll Show You!” motivation).
Regardless of which camp you are in, know that things can change quickly. For the future 10xers, that’s a great motivator.
Special thanks to Thomas Waschenfelder for his help and edits.