So who are your best employees? Are they simply the top performance scores? Are they the ones who hold the most patents? Have the best win ratio when in court? I’m a firm believer that while there are some natural top performers, it is also a skill that can be learned. HBR outlines some key characteristics of top performers that I think can generally be learned and trained.
- Elite performers don’t get distracted by the victories of competitors.
- Superstars have an insatiable demand for honest, immediate feedback. But it must be constructive, stars don’t engage in self-flagellation.
- Champions train with the competition to push themselves to new limits. They continuously reinvent themselves – especially after they become the benchmark.
- Elite performers know how to party. But celebrating ranks ninth on their list of top 10 reasons for wanting to win. ((Jones, Graham. June 2008. “How the Best of the Best get Better and Better.” Harvard Business Review, page 124.))
So how do you put in a learning program that trains employees to want honest feedback? How do you make someone want to be competitive? Well, as deflating as this may be, I have no idea. My own personal experience is that the path to these characteristics is through mentorship. I only posit this because 1) I believe I myself am a top performer, and 2) I firmly believe that my work persona is a learned personality. Shy, quiet and certainly not an overachiever as a child, I do exhibit three of the above four characteristics (I’m really not a good partier). My first (and possibly only) mentor taught me by careful example. Darryl led me not only through example, but the sheer repetition of philosophy. He believed that in business there indeed was an absolute right and wrong, and when you were right, the drive to success was not ambition, but simply a way to make the world better. Send me your thoughts on how you can influence your employees to attain these characteristics.