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Nov 16, 2017

We usually know high performers when we see them, because their stars shine bright in the workplace.

But how can you tell the difference between a high performer and a high potential performer? The latter have the talent, education, and training to become high performers, but haven’t yet proven themselves (often because they’re still new). In fact, not all workers with high potential graduate to the high-performer level; conversely, not all high performers are considered high-potential candidates that move into positions of leadership. Of course, not everyone shines right off the bat. (Both Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein were deemed unteachable by elementary school teachers, and today they’re universally regarded as geniuses.)

Here are six ways to recognize high performers — and to become one yourself:

1. High performers work hard.

They may make it look easy, but it’s the ease of hard-earned competence. The most productive workers work both smarter and harder, because nothing less will get the job done and ensure high productivity. They don’t waste time or dawdle.


2. High performers do their due diligence.

As a result, they’re rarely blindsided by the limitations of their information, software, hardware, or coworkers; nor are they caught off balance when someone asks a probing question about their work. Doing your due diligence also makes it easier to complete the task smoothly and efficiently. Using myself as an example, I don’t just write books off the top of my head. I spend hours researching, reading, formulating examples, and getting my thoughts in order. By the time I start typing, it takes less time to write.


3. High performers don’t wait for inspiration to strike. 

Artist Chuck Close once said, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.” High performers are dependable. Perfectionism and procrastination are rarely allowed in their workspaces. They know steady, consistent hard work is at least as important as talent, and probably more so. They also know that true inspiration is rare; in between, you put in the hours, pay your dues, and do your best. With enough repetition, your best will become very good indeed.


4. High performers tend to work fast.

A good work ethic, due diligence, a strict routine, and a thorough knowledge of the task makes it much easier to complete that task quickly and well. This boosts productivity; no surprise there.


5. High performers never stop learning.

They get as much training as possible, so they can do their jobs better, and both broaden and deepen their expertise to increase their personal ROI. They even pay for it themselves when they must.

6. High performers innovate when they can.

Innovation is one of the few ways to make tasks easier, benefit the entire team, and improve profits. Everything we now do is based on someone’s once-untested idea; if not for innovation, we’d probably live in grass huts and hunt for a living. So, when you have a chance to make a positive difference, take it.

And Another Thing…

Most high performers refuse to work for peanuts. The only time they’ll do so is when they’re independently wealthy (after all, bored noblemen founded most of our sciences); when they love their work so much they don’t care much about pay; and when they’re forced by circumstance to do so. If any of these conditions leaves, high performers won’t stay. Many corporations learned this to their chagrin after the Great Recession, when their high performers, no longer constrained by a hobbled economy, became their own bosses or left for greener pastures. Keep this in mind if you lead one or more teams.

This was originally published on Laura Stack’s The Productivity Pro blog.

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