10 Characteristics of Top Performers by Richard Parsons
In 30+ years of retail experiences I have had the pleasure of working with thousands upon thousands of people. Many of them were highly ambitious and motivated to improve their personal and economic situation by moving up “the corporate ladder”. What follows are 10 common characteristics I have observed that have separated true “Top Performers” from the thousands of others who may have the desire to advance but lack the personal discipline to change themselves in ways that will help them achieve their long term goals. Consistently applying these characteristics has provided success in many situations over the years, both for myself and for many others I have mentored along the way.
1. They are high trust individuals; character and competence. To be successful people have to be able to trust you. This goes well beyond the basic foundations of being honest, not stealing, etc. Your track record has to answer tough questions for others…Can he really do what he promised? Will she push through when things get tough? Will they admit a mistake and own it? Will her actions line up with her intentions? Will people give her the benefit of the doubt if they don’t? Trust is the foundation for strong relationships which are critical to creating and sustaining high performance.
2. They manage themselves first. The best performers are driven to succeed and they recognize that they can’t be hypocritical leaders. They are self aware, focused on their own continuous improvement, and have a thirst for growth and learning. They look first at themselves as the potential source of “the problem” and recognize that they must change their approach or develop new skills to achieve a different (and better) outcome. These are the people that never need scolding when they make a mistake as they are already beating themselves up 10 times worse than you could ever dream of doing.
3. They don’t bring any baggage. Top Performers do not bring things into the equation that create difficult situations, hinder performance, or put their supervisor in positions where they feel the need to defend or explain away perceived issues or favoritism. Everyone has a personal life, problems that arise, imperfections to overcome, temporary crisis’s, and personality quirks that make them unique. Top Performers possess the ability to manage all these things and keep them from being part of their performance in the workplace.
4. They align personal goals with company goals. Achieving the company goal, or solving the company issue, gets them one step closer to their own personal goals. Their ability to put this into action allows them to embrace change early (and forcefully) and may even get them “charged up” to champion the latest company cause or tackle the most difficult of issues. This translates into commitment and energy that drives motivation and helps them push past obstacles that would stop others in their tracks. This energy level also helps to rally groups of people towards common goals that can lead to huge improvements in performance.
5. They take the toughest assignments. You have most certainly heard the terms to describe these people…”turn-around specialist, problem solver, troubleshooter, etc”…who always are willing to rise to the challenge and take on the assignment that no one else wants. Interestingly, while many people view these assignments as “career suicide”, these individuals see it differently. No where to go but up!! The more who have failed, the bleaker the outlook, the lesser the chance of success…the MORE they get excited about the opportunity. They know they can make a difference and that they will get noticed for it when it happens…and at the very least they get the kudos for their willingness to give it their best shot. I have seen people literally ride the success of the reputation they earned by taking several of these assignments. Big risk…but also big reward.
6. They make decisions based on facts. True, every decision will not have all the facts you would like. Also true, decisions made on gut feel alone can have huge consequences. Top Performers are great decision makers and have a unique blend of using their instincts to guide them without allowing their emotions to get the best of them and lead to a poor decision. They ask great questions, remain calm and focused on the problem at hand, and seek out the data needed to make the best decision possible. This process of decision making becomes another source of confidence that adds to their ability to consistently repeat their success across more and more diverse situations.
7. They see the big picture. “He can’t see the forest for the trees”. You will never hear that said that about these folks. They have the ability to zoom in and get deeply immersed into the details to get things done, and then zoom completely back out to maintain the proper perspective of how the issue at hand impacts the larger situation (company, stakeholders, future, etc). This ability compliments others listed here and results in a laser focus on the right things and an ability to continuously make significant improvements.
8. They come through for the Boss. Everyone has heard the phrase “it’s not what you do it’s who you know”. Well, when you are really great at what you do it’s amazing how many people want to know you. I have seen a pattern develop many times in my career. Great leaders (the Boss) are always on the lookout for followers that they can count on to deliver. Once you deliver for them once, they remember…and many times will bring you more (and larger) assignments and opportunities. This is a win/win scenario…the Boss looks great because they are delivering results and the Top Performer has a champion in the business who wants them on their team. As the Boss moves up the Corporate ladder, or to other companies, they are eager to bring their own team of proven winners with them. This can be a very profitable relationship for many years as long as both parties deliver their part of the bargain. This is where all the characteristics come together into some significant rewards that can catapult a career.
9. They are positive – “can do; let’s go”. A Top Performer has an unshakable confidence that allows them to view almost everything as something they can handle or overcome. Words like can’t, try, too hard, etc, are not in their vocabulary. They are abnormally positive about challenging situations and may even relish in the opportunity to show their ability, test themselves, develop new skills, and learn new subjects. Rest assured, if they set their sights on it you can almost bet that they will be successful…which leads to even more of this crazy optimism that spills into all parts of their life.
10. They improve every situation. A true top performer can be counted on to make any and every situation better than it was. No matter how bad, how hopeless, how many others have failed, etc; there is a confidence in this person that they will always find ways to improve performance, relationships, profitability, morale, etc. With this confidence comes a tremendous range of differing assignments that provide new experiences, challenges, perspectives, and opportunities to learn new things and develop new skills. Granted that not all problems can be solved or fixed; but rest assured they will find a way to make it better than it was before they became involved.
These 10 characteristics are common among many that I have observed throughout my career. I am sure there are many more that could be added to round out this list and I hope that these are helpful to someone looking to make an impact and move ahead. If you found these valuable please “like” this post and/or leave comments. Your feedback is both welcomed and appreciated.
keep walking the Pathway of Champions