One of the most frustrating things that I encountered when I first started my career was the discovery that there were mythical, unicorn employees called ‘top performers’ or ‘rockstars.’
Why was I frustrated you may be wondering? Jealousy? Insecurity? Maybe a little bit. But more than anything else, I didn’t understand this performance system that dubs some employees as ‘top performers.’
You see, my entire life, I was, arguably, a good student. I knew how the academic game was played. Take good notes, study, collaborate, take the test, do the homework, and get the grades. I’d been doing it for years.
But, here in the corporate world, there were no grades. There was also no roadmap for how these top performers got to the top anyway.
So, one could say I became a little bit obsessed and would observe and even ‘interview’ the folks that I worked with that were crushing it.
I got into the habit of throwing meetings on calendars of all the people who got glowing recommendations when they weren’t in the room.
Here’s what I found, to a significant degree, top performers excelled in the following areas - Prioritization, Influence, Communication, and Execution.
Today, I want to highlight the very best ways you can show up in each area to cement your status as a Top Performer.
We all have the same amount of time in the day, so what allows some of us to be far more productive than others?
One huge factor that separates the crowd is prioritization!
Prioritization is the ability to look at everything that needs to get done and selecting the item that drivers the best results or causes the least consequences.
Outside of just an activity, prioritization is also a mindset. It’s the decision to do the following -
✅ Protect the time to work on high impact items
✅ Remove or limit time spent on activities that are not priorities
✅ Understand that everything (even important things) won’t get done, only priorities
Before you rush to the comments and tell me all the reasons why I’m wrong, take a deep breath.
While prioritization is relatively simple to do, no one said it was easy.
Carving out the time to only focus on your most impactful working will be difficult.
But, the more time you spend practicing prioritization, the better you’ll get.
Take the time to make sure that you are working SMARTER. Prioritization is a key way to ensure you’re maximizing your performance.
Many of us think of influence as the ability to get others to do what we want.
It sounds shady and manipulative, which leads to many professionals ignoring how to be better influencers.
But, imagine you’re in a meeting and you have the perfect solution to the problem being discussed. You know your solution will work because you’ve seen it be successful under similar circumstances.
Now imagine that you can’t get anyone in the meeting to buy into your idea. Who’s fault is it -
❌ Management - they don’t listen to the workforce
❌ Company Culture - too much hierarchy here, I would need to suggest it through my manager
❌ Me? - no, because I had the idea
Take a look at that last one again. As important as it is to come up with a good idea, it’s also critical to communicate that idea will, get buy-in, and execute effectively. But, everything stops dead in their tracks if we can’t get anyone to buy into what we have to say.
There aren’t enough words to emphasize just how important Influence is, not only to your career but in LIFE. It’s a muscle that we all need to consistently cultivate to improve our performance.
How can communication be so simple but so complicated at the same time?
All communication is, is the exchange of information. It’s easy enough to grasp the concept. However, communication is often poorly executed or, fails altogether.
There are several strategies, procedures, and approaches that work extremely well to improve communication. However, I think, improving the skill boils down to one thing - placing value on what the other person has to say.
We often view communication as getting others to understand what we have to say. We seldom think of communication as a tool to gain a better understanding of others.
Whenever we make that change in mindset and start to learn that communication is a tool for us to better understand those around us and understand what’s important to them, our communication will improve. Here’s why -
👉🏾 Taking the time to listen to others will invite them to listen to you
👉🏾 Understanding what your audience values allows you to shape your proposals to meet their needs
👉🏾 It improves the connection between yourself and your audience
Communication is a skill that we all have to continue to work on. Which can feel counter-intuitive because we talk so much we feel like we are experts.
However, treating communication with the respect it deserves will start to re-frame how we engage with our colleagues. Focusing on what they value and how we can be useful is an ideal foundation to grow our ability to communicate well.
“Ideas are worthless without execution.”
We tend to place a high value on ideas. That’s why we spend hours brainstorming and planning. Mentally it’s comforting to flesh out what we plan on doing.
However, where we often spend less time and where ideas often fall through the cracks, is in the execution.
Pretending that a well-developed idea is also a roadmap for execution is a recipe for failure.
Execution needs to be thought of as a completely separate skillset which deserves similar TLC as ideation.
Here are some key point to consider to execute any initiative well -
💪🏾 Success Criteria - how will you know you’ve won
💪🏾 Actions - what activities (done consistently) will lead you to success
💪🏾 Metrics - what will you measure along the way to know things are going well
💪🏾 Failure - where are you likely to fail, when a failure occurs, how will you respond
Never forget that executing a poor idea very well will serve you better than executing a great idea poorly.
Take the time to plan how you’ll execute your initiatives, often execution is the difference between success and failure.
Just being aware of the skills that are foundational to outstanding performance helps shape how we all get work done.
Each individual is different and for that matter what each company considers ‘outstanding’ will vary as well. So, don’t get trapped in one organization’s definition of outstanding.
That being said, putting your best foot forward and developing skills that will enhance what you have to offer will only serve you well.
You’ll improve in your performance and who knows, you may start to have your praises sang without even being in the room.