Measuring performance is a tricky thing. Measuring “high” performance is easier because most people know it when they see it. Rather than focusing on a definition, let’s look at how high performers behave: What do they do differently than the average performer?
My observation from over 40 years of engaging in performance as an employee, manager, corporate officer, international consultant and MBA Adjunct Professor, there are basically four areas of differentiation between the average performer and the high performer:
1. How they work with others– High performers spends more time with others than do the average performers. This may be due to their incessant curiosity, wanting to learn more, or the desire to form team consensus, but the time spent with others is much higher. Their time may also be spent outside of the usual circle of boss, peer, subordinate. The alone- time of high performers is spent sorting out and consolidating data, forming alternatives, or considering potential solutions.
2. Their relationship with others – While they are working on a specific issue, high performers are constantly asking questions. Their questions are wide ranging but will come back to the issue at hand. The discussions with others may start out on non-work events, because the objective is to continue to build a stronger relationship with those around the high performer. When engaging in conversation, the topics are seldom on a single question and almost never on a “yes” or “no” answer. The relationship seems to be just as important as the discussion.
3. Style of working – High performers try not to dominate or force their opinion on others. They are subtler. Their style is more of an “influencer”. They don’t usually give orders, but rather try to “sell” their ideas through the information they have collected. By providing alternatives to a solution, they seek out the opinion of others then try to rationalize it into what they already know, or may develop another alternative. Through this process the high performer simply evolves different potential solutions for further analysis and direction. At the same time, high performers are continuing to shape the relationship with the people with whom they work.
4. Time spent – Because the high performer spends much more time with individuals and small groups, their total work time is greater than the average performer. The high performer will spend less time on telephone or computer communications and more time in personal face-to-face or small group interactions. The high performer also thinks about the issues, alternatives, potential solutions and strategies while in a “non-work” environment: In the car, at home, or at a little league game. It’s continual.
High performers are special people. Treasure them as if the organization’s future depends upon their performance. It does!
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