Having been in the executive recruiting business for 30-plus years, I can’t help but notice certain commonalities among top performers. These fundamental traits, which never seem to change, are integrated with a value/belief system that gets results. Let’s look at what makes the great ones get to the top and stay there.
First, and of highest importance, is attitude. Over the past half-century, literally hundreds of books have been written about attitude, and they will continue to flourish as top-sellers every year. Attitude starts as soon as you begin your day, and for top performers it manifests as a constant string of positive thoughts and actions no matter what challenges the day brings. It consists of continual self-talk, affirmations: “I can . . .,” “I will . . .,” . “I believe . . .,” “I assure you . . .,” and then “I am confident . . .,” “I am convinced . . .,” “I am positive that . . .,” etc. Of course, this is followed by acting out those affirmations in the form of positive, results-oriented behavior.
This leads us to the next trait of top performers: effort. Top performers will always measure their activities, which lead to productivity and end with results. Not just activity for the sake of activity, but for productivity. Not overthinking the action, but doing things and being willing to fail, knowing that failing can be a powerful learning experience. Then, they think, What are the measureable and quantifiable results? How are these results benefitting my organization and giving us an advantage or providing our differentiator?
The third element of top performers is their knowledge. Top performers are continually seeking information in order to develop expertise in their field. Most everyone has heard the statement “knowledge is power”; well, this is the mantra of high achievers. They seek out innovative approaches and technology that might provide an edge. They absorb information from all the resources and channels that will provide them new and interesting data. They digest this information and repeatedly look at it for an advantage over their competition. Among top performers, this seeking-to-learn attitude never abates.
The final characteristic of the “A” player: highly honed skills. Their “toolbox” is full so that they can compete handily in any given situation — and come out on top. They continually “sharpen the saw,” so to speak, to ensure that they stay on top. Top achievers are constantly looking at developing new skills as well, so that they can continue to grow in their designated fields. They understand that innovative approaches, combined with a highly developed skill set, will keep them ahead of their competitors and in a strong leadership role.
Ultimately, top performers focus on these four traits and continually perform self-evaluations to ensure that they achieve at the highest level. This focus becomes their very being and shield of armor that insulates them from their competition so that they can stay on top. Even though these characteristics will remain intact, in today’s world top performers’ approach to the marketplace requires a complete understanding of how they must integrate current technology into their game plan, both strategically and tactically. This, in turn, will be the subject of an upcoming blog.
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