What It Takes to Perform Above The Rest

At the outset, no one goes through sixteen or twenty-plus years of education and experiences with a desire to, “…rise to the level of middle management…” Yet, somewhere along the way competing priorities, life challenges and hundreds if not thousands of situations circumvent the path we originally stepped foot on. I remember, as a fraternity pledge, interviewing my potential brothers and what their college and life goals were. Not one “planned” on failing personally, financially or professionally, yet some did and some did not. However, we’ve all been there – learning by trail and error, by failure, or by doing it differently the “next” time with no regrets. What’s the differentiator? What underpins the super successful, high-performing jack-of-all-trades and masters of the Universe?

There are many articles and books re: this similar topic of what the secret sauce is, that magic silver bullet to professional and personal success many high performers exhibit with grace and elegance. The secret is there is no secret; hard work, determination and an unending supply of perseverance and fortitude are consistent character traits in over three decades of research here. Below, we share what we’ve uncovered are 5 Things High Performers Do Exceptionally Well above all:

1. They Communicate Simply and Powerfully.

It’s one thing to speak authentically to the organization. It’s also another to back up your communications with the appropriate behaviors to reinforce those communications. They respond rather than react, and they respond quickly. Their ability to articulate roles, goals and how to get there separate themselves significantly from their colleagues and peers. They are Elegant Leaders who are authentic, generous and transparent and have the ability to graciously say no when necessary.

They mirror the message from the tone of their voice, their body language and actions relay confidence and a guiding direction ensuring pressure does not determine the communication outcomes. By mirroring the message they are infusing greater disclosure, clarity, and accuracy into their communications. They’re truthful, and confronting others with the unpleasant consequences of actions may be necessary at times.

“Your actions speak so loudly I can’t hear you”

They listen powerfully – listening with a purpose based upon their situational awareness. They speak powerfully. If you listen powerfully, then it makes sense to speak powerfully. Combine all your thoughts, ideas, inputs, and situations into simple, practical and powerful statements that influence with impact to move people positively. They understand communication as a system. Employee communication is as much an organizational system as is sales, and operations R&D. Formal and informal channels of communication ensures employees receive a consistent relevant message.

2. They Look The Part

They’re ambitious, energetic, healthy; they eat, sleep, and workout. They demand full autonomy and embrace full accountability. This element is not solely about deportment. It’s about the Elegant Strategy they tackle life with. They’ve crafted an internal process for effectively creating a High Performing life! They trust an organization’s population and involve people closest to the customer, competitors and products.

They succinctly communicate where the organization is today and what that mental image of what it will be in the future. An image that is largely based upon how they can guide and shape that image within the common set of values and beliefs the organization models. They understand how to leverage the organization’s knowledge base and get results. They realize the rhythm required among egos, results and relationships.

They don’t sacrifice relationships at the cost of results. They don’t seek credit for what they’ve created, built or impacted and are willing to share the success as a member of the team or as a contributor. They don’t subscribe to constant POTB’s and is everyone’s friend to the detriment or lack of results either. They lead!

3. They Model Action With Appropriate Behaviors

They understand motion ain’t action, and behaviors and perceptions must be emphasized in order to keep egos, results and relationships in rhythm. As focused, consummate learners, they improvise and adapt in order to drive a solution-oriented environment. They are able to remain calm when stress occurs. Anyone can execute successfully to a plan under normal conditions. Just like a professional golfer can shoot even par on a wind-free 80 degree day in Scottsdale. It’s the high performing professional who adapts and overcomes during the worst of times when many would revert back to inappropriate, negative, neutral or stressed behaviors. They don’t shoot 80 during windswept horizontal rain storms!

They’re comfortable in their own skin. A High Performer starts with the right Mindset before they address other extents. They have great attitudes and model, what we call, “Southern Behaviors” with clarity and perspective as their foundation. The longest relationship we will ever have is with ourselves, and high performers understand how to remove bad behaviors in order to have repeatable good habits.

“You are what you repeatedly do”

It takes thick skin to ask for feedback on behaviors that can be damaging your relationships and your performance. They set goals for new behaviors. When the veil has been removed on poor behaviors, they clearly state what they’ll change, how they’ll change them, by when and how the change will be measured. They seek counsel and eliminate past mistakes. At this point, they’ve passed over 65% of those that began this process and have demonstrated great courage. Getting advice on both effective and ineffective behaviors is priceless to them and their careers. They figured the way out. Behaviors are like crops – they’re cultivated over many years – they don’t expect them to change overnight just because.

4. They Have High Value Extremely Effective Relationships

We can talk about communities, connections and tribes, however the point is regardless of its moniker – relationships matter! High Performers seek out those with a common set of beliefs and values. They don’t waste time seeking someone who they can get something out of or from – that is a transaction. Your personal and professional reputation is proven daily with relationships that have influence and impact; and, your success in both realms is largely based upon the quality of those relationships.

High Performers establish, develop and strengthen relationships daily and habitually. There will be relationships to repair, relationships to nurture and relationships to strengthen, and the people with the most influence and impact realize this dynamic and then act upon it. They know how to earn the right to advance; meaning a level of mutual trust and respect is established. It’s more than bridge building as some relationships will experience a gap and the savvy will widen this gap to motivate the relationship to be more desirable.

They are response-able for quality relationships. They are generous and transparent; their personality, character and ability earns their right to advance. They’re response-able to help other’s attain what they want and need based upon a circle of influence they have no access to. They invest in each other. Relationships take time, effort and energy. With a mindset of investing in the other person and communicating effectively in how you’d like them to invest in you is how the law of reciprocity evolves. They earn trust and respect by demonstrating trustworthiness by their actions…and, finally.

5. They Move Forward

They’re focused on what it takes to lead their direct and indirect reports to move the organization forward. High Performers not only excel in the art and science, motivation and communication norms of Leadership. They’ve learned how to engage employees and generate the synergy to move the entire unit forward. They’re NOT “moving the needle” or “taking their team to the next level.” They apply simple, practical and elegant action steps to move their organization’s forward.

They take time to get to know people. How do you know what to do with and for your colleagues and peers if you don’t even know who they are, what they want or need? You hired them for their skills (most likely) and their (culture) fit, but chances are you have no idea what they value and how they want or need to be led to succeed. High Performers continue to earn the right to advance. Earning this right is a daily challenge as employees will follow actions and non-actions more so than words which may ring hollow if there are moments of duplicity or abdication. A High Performer’s competence, credibility and character may not be challenged by employees, but they earn their stripes by the actions and decisions they make that are seen and those unseen.

They are clear, concise and compelling! It’s a key tactic to develop messages that energize and move the team forward. These messages are the “why” and reinforce their contribution when they face daily challenges. They treat giving and receiving feedback as a gift, AND they communicate that same belief to their colleagues and peers. We surveyed nearly 10,000 candidates from our Executive Search practice in 2014 and feedback from their immediate supervisor was the overwhelming #1 reason for lack of job satisfaction and the #2 reason why employees left their previous company.

“There is no feedback without understanding what was acceptable and where improvement is needed.”

In order to put meat on the bone feedback to improve, correct or even change course, High Performers understand the need to their employees or their team understand what the expectation is and was at that time, and for them to be told where they fell short and how that situation could or may have been avoided. Everyone needs to know where the finish line is, when they’ve done it correctly, and what they can do better next time. High Performers inspire people. Not every High Performer has a charismatic persona and nowhere is it written you have to have one either to be inspiring to others either. They have an unwavering desire to bring people along with them on the journey.

With every experience we encounter on the job and outside the office as leaders and managers, we learn as much about what not to do as what to do for the next time a similar situation is encountered. High Performers embrace the opportunity to deliver messages and stories that inform, educate, motivate and inspire their team and their organization whether individually or collectively. Their ability to deliver these messages transfers knowledge, exemplifies authenticity and transparency that will inspire others because they communicate sincerely.


For some of you, it may be a relief to know that no one said you have to be the smartest person in room. You don’t have to have all the answers and quite frankly you shouldn’t – that’s why you hire talented people even those more talented than you. Not everyone wants or needs to be a High Performer. However, my hope is you picked up 2 themes to comprehend, 1. your learning never ends, and 2. your team’s learning never ends! High Performers are quite similar to Elegant Leaders – they understand a simple principle – you can’t and certainly shouldn’t do it all alone. Your charge is to develop your people to rise above their potential. Your number one goal and responsibility as a High Performer or an Elegant Leader with Voltage is to develop more leaders. Here’s what you can do and should commit to doing this day forward:

  • Develop a generation of leaders – be candid, tell them!

  • Demonstrate daily through your observable behaviors how you value people!

  • Ensure resources for growth in their role and in leadership are available

  • Model the behaviors you want (and frankly should demand) modeled

  • Bake into your culture how important and committed leadership is to their success!

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