Over the past twenty years, I have been surrounded by many top performers:
- Courageous fellow paratroopers in the U.S. Army
- Amazing colleagues at both a global consulting firm and my own professional services agency
- Outstanding leaders throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia
- Brilliant students at one of the nation’s top universities
As I consider what makes many of them outstanding, I have come to the realization that they exhibit six behaviors that make them invaluable at work.
I invite you to take a minute to review each behavior and consider the questions I offer.
1. Deliver Results; Don’t Just Pleasantly Accomplish Activities
Top performers may be funny, personable, kind, considerate, or a variety of other wonderful attributes. However, above all, they deliver results.
I’m not saying that the above mentioned attributes aren’t helpful. They are. They make working with someone much more enjoyable. But, when times are tough and expectations are high, leaders don’t need a friend, they need a top performer who delivers the goods.
- Is your reputation one as a person who delivers results?
- Do you confuse activities with results?
- When was the last time that you and your team failed to deliver as expected? What did you team learn from the situation?
2. Solve Problems; Don’t Just Point Them Out
Top performers aren’t afraid to jump in with both feet to help fix a problem. They don’t merely stand on the sidelines or complain about the complexities of work.
They don’t seek glory or work to fix blame; they seek to solve problems and put steps in place to avoid future pitfalls. They are proactive problem solvers.
- What problems exist within your team or organization that are going unaddressed? (Odds are you aren’t the only one who sees them.)
- What might you do today to begin to proactively addressing problems in your midst?
3. Learn New Stuff; Don’t Just Be Comfortable
Top performers actively develop new skills. They put themselves into new situations, wade into uncharted waters, and willingly place themselves in uncomfortable positions.
Why would they do this?
Well, they recognize that investing time in learning new things makes them more valuable to the organization, more helpful to their teammates, and more marketable in future situations.
- Would people consider you and your team members active learners?
- What book are you currently reading? What skills are you honing?
- When was the last time you taught a customer or employee something new?
4. Experience the Customer’s World; Don’t Just Observe It
Top performers understand and practice the concept of being in their customer’s world. They care about the customer winning as much as the customer cares. They demonstrate an unmatched level of customer understanding that eludes their peers and competitors.
- Who are the most important customers that you and your team serve?
- What matters most to them?
- What can you and your team do today to better help your customers win?
5. Provide Value That Is Not Easily Replaced; Don’t Just Do the Job
Top performers are not irreplaceable, but they are not easily replaced. You can’t simply hire another person with the same skills, experience, and education as a top performer, get him up-to-speed on his role, and not feel the loss.
Because a top performer makes a distinctive contribution. They add value over and above their job description.
- How easy would it be to replace you and your team?
- What can your team do to be more valuable to your customers? What can you do?
6. Think Abundantly, Don’t Fall Into the Scarcity Trap
Much of your work will likely involve participating as a member of a team. If you want to contribute your best effort, help your team members win, and avoid isolating yourself from your colleagues, work on your mindset and your behaviors will follow. Recognize that the pie can be big enough for all to win AND your winning doesn’t require someone else on your team to lose.
- Do you operate from a win-win mindset, where both you and your colleagues can win?
- When you are listening to a colleague, do you listen with the intent to understand or to simply find a space in the conversation to interject your ‘wisdom’?
Am I suggesting that these are the only behaviors necessary?
I am simply suggesting that they are key.
I wish you all the best as you work to become a top performer in your chosen endeavors!
Patrick Leddin, PhD is a speaker, global leadership consultant, and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Five-Week Leadership Challenge. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.