Whether we are individual contributors or leaders of people/teams we all strive to be high performers right?

But what are the key characteristics of a high performer & how can we all become better at our work performance? Even making that the elusive high performance.

In the Harvard Business Review article “What high performers want at work” (Willyerd, K. November, 2014) the author tells us high performers deliver 400%—yes 400%—more productivity than the average performer. We also assume that high performers should be more satisfied in their roles, and this is true, however did you know that “one in five high performers are likely to leave in the next six months”.

Even more sobering, one in four will leave in the short term!

Interesting isn’t it?

As leaders, business owners, learning and development professionals, coaches and HR professionals we put plenty of time and energy and discussion into trying to release that potential of our higher performers (or retain them or replicate them) but 20-25% are already looking to leave? And maybe to a competitor! Why?

The article states, compensation (base and bonus) is one of the biggest drivers and the second one is feedback. Did the manager spend enough time giving quality feedback and did he/she do it in a quality way? I’ll discuss this further below point 2. Super article! (Check out the article in further reading below).

So here are some certainties we know about High Performers versus average performers:

1. High Performers (Hi-Pers) are invested in their own learning.

Hi-Pers take pride in driving their own development. They read, take courses, participate in professional groups, network and distill from every situation something that helps them learn and move forward. Every day is a learning day. Daniel Pink’s super book Drive-what really motivates us states Mastery, Autonomy and purpose are the three real motivators. Hi-Pers chase one or all three of above.

2. Hi-Pers want constructive feedback on what can get them performing better

As per Willyerd’s article we all remember feedback sessions from leaders who were invested (or not) in us. Was it all negative or was it the positivity sandwich with two ends of negativity and a middle bit of postivitiy? (We all remember those!).

What kind of coaching questions did they use? How did they get you to perform better or to a higher standard? What kind of praise did you receive? Was there candor or fakeness? How are you currently coaching your high performers?

3. Hi-Pers are uber focused

As Stephen Covey once said “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing”.
High Performers have maniacal focus, they know what they want, they know what results they need to achieve, they keep the main thing the main thing. Distractions don’t last long.
Dr. Isaiah Hankel wrote a great book called “Black Hole Focus”. He says “Change the questions that you are asking yourself and you will change your focus”

Hi-Pers are always asking themselves good questions.

He also says for “black hole focus” that we shouldn’t be afraid to let our previous or old priorities go – this helps the current focus be more focused!

4. Hi-Pers are role models for performance

The rest of the team look up to high performers and admire them. Mark and Bonita Thompson wrote a NY Times best selling book called Admired.

Mark has worked and coached Jobs, Branson, Schwab (three of the biggest names in business ever- I was impressed too!) and the book is a plethora of good advice on how to “double your value”.

Hi-Pers already are admired and working on adding value.

High Performers have a vision/ambition/ of where they want to be. They are driven.

At my first sales job many years ago, one of my first leaders-Sandra- used to call her high performers “Rock Stars”. In high performance teams there is always one or two that perform at a different level. Rock star/s. The team might aspire to that level or not, but high performers most definitely have an impact on the group dynamic. So the hi-per keeps raising the bar for performance once she knows the others are hunting for the top spot or watching. Sure maybe it’s a much used cliché “Winners mindset” or maybe it is just the ability to compete and stay number 1 that counts!

5. Hi-Pers lead without a title

If you’ve never read Robin Sharma’s epic “The Leader who had no title” get your hands on a copy. Sharma says everyone can be a leader. You don’t need the fancy title, office, expense account etcetera to be a leader.

Hi-Pers don’t need a title to lead. We see this in professional sports and the workplace all the time, we see it in life– those people who impact our communities without being elected. They just go “do it”. I am sure you know one!

Those folks who invest in others without the title, they develop folks around them without formality and do it because they are leaders and care about the collective performance. Invaluable to any high performing team.

6. Ownership and Pride

Another Ryan, Ryan Caldbeck wrote an article for Entrepreneur.com in 2014 titled 5 attributes to look for in high performing employees. One of them was ownership and pride. He quotes Runners World editor David Willey “Run the mile you are in” and says “applies not only to distance running; it applies to life, and it applies to how you will succeed — or not — as a teammate in business.” (Article below)

All the high performers I’ve ever met or observed (in whatever code: sports/work) take immense pride in their performance and own it 100%. The Irish Rugby Legend, Paul O’Connell is an example here. Paul -as captain of the national team -would “always” take ownership of the team’s performance – pride was there no matter what the result. There was never deflection or blaming others. Level 5 leadership as Jim Collins’ “Good to great” put it. For those of you reading this who don’t know this guy, have a look at the interview. “So Proud, so proud of that team” Language of a high performer. (It will be some q in O’Mahony’s bookstore in Limerick, Ireland whenever Paul’s book comes out!!)

‘Run the mile you are in’ is now on my office whiteboard – great motivational start to 2-16!

7. Hi-Pers Think Big and act bigger

Jeffrey Hayzlett has just written a great book called Think Big, Act Bigger.
Hi-Pers, Hayzlett says take a no-nonsense approach to life and business.High Performers goal set, they work hard and think big.

If your goals aren’t scaring you they aren’t big enough is another way to look at it!

8. Hi-Pers pay attention to their good and bad habits

Hi-Pers have good habits to drive their performance. Sounds simple but habits have a huge impact on our performance no matter what our field. Marginal gains in performance all come back to habit.

Charles Duhig’s book was just a super read. The Power of Habit. Worth a look. Charles is the expert on “habit” and it is a fascinating piece of work.

9. Finally and in my opinion they have massive amounts of integrity. We all know what that is right?

I’d love to hear if you have thoughts on what the other attributes are? How will you keep your high performers high performing? How will you become one or stay one?  I want to learn from you: If you liked this article, feel free to click like or share.
Still lots to learn for all of us- I’ll keep you updated on what I find out!

Yours from the deep end of uncovering more about high performance,

Contact Me

Are you ready to shift gears?

Sign up to receive articles exclusive to our subscribers!