Robert E. Kelley describes in his book, How To Be A Star At Work: Nine Breakthrough Strategies You Need To Succeed, a study conducted at Bell Labs to determine what differentiates star performers from other workers. His results showed that so-called stars were not easily distinguished from other workers based on a wide variety of test results. Rather, the differences he finally found related to how the stars performed their jobs: it was not what they knew, but rather how they used what they knew.

Kelley was able to identify nine breakthrough strategies that separated stars from other performers: Initiative, Networking, Self-Management, Perspective, Followership, Leadership, Teamwork, Organizational Savvy, and Show-and-Tell. Odds are most successful safety professionals are already familiar with and using many of these strategies. Yet Kelley found that stars understood these strategies differently than other workers. Initiative, for example, might mean developing something needed to improve your ability to do your job better, although stars identify initiative to mean developing something needed to improve the ability of coworkers or the organization to be more successful. Most importantly, Kelley found that professionals could learn and develop these strategies to improve their ability to be more productive and successful.

The purpose of this presentation is to review and build on Robert Kelley's findings with specific application to the safety professional: what are the nine work strategies, how are they understood and used by successful safety professionals, and how can they be used to increase worker effectiveness and efficiency? The emphasis will be on application for safety professionals who face increasingly heavy workloads, based on personal experience and feedback from coworkers who have used these strategies to improve their personal productivity and career success.


The contributions of safety professionals can be highly rewarding. Serious injuries, catastrophic incidents, environmental harm, major property damage, and significant business loss can be prevented, contributing to overall business excellence and sustainability. There can be many challenges as well. Safety professionals often have many technical competencies to master, have heavy workloads, and may find that the demands of their work can be relatively stressful. Strategies that can help safety professionals be more productive can help promote career satisfaction and security, provide work / life balance, and help improve organizational safety.

Robert E. Kelley, in his book How To Be A Star At Work1, investigated what factors made some workers highly productive or star performers at Bell Labs, part of Lucent Technologies. Kelley, a professor at the Carnegie Mellon University, was interested in developing technical tools to help employees and organizations improve productivity in order to help create long-term competitive advantage. In order to better identify factors associated with highly productive workers, Kelley studied various cognitive (e.g., reasoning, creativity), personality (e.g., self-confidence, risk-taking), and social (e.g., interpersonal skills, leadership ability) factors through testing and interviews with workers and managers to understand what differentiates star performers and other workers.

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