One of the questions we’re frequently asked is “what do top performers have in common?” Leaders understand that each role is unique and that top performance in each of those roles is also unique. In other words, content is king (how a top performer produces excellence), and context is queen (the specifics of the role, the organization, and the mission). But people still want to know whether there are some commonalities that apply across multiple roles. Said another way, are there traits that can help determine whether a person is likely to be successful in any role in which he or she is placed?
So to that end, we’ve taken a look at scores of roles across dozens of organizations to see what commonalities emerge. Somewhat to our surprise and delight, there are, in fact, several characteristics that stand out as common attributes or traits. We do not represent these traits as exhaustively or conclusively proven predictors of success. Nor are we positioning the lack of any given trait as a diagnosis of why someone may not have excelled. All we are saying is that top performers in disparate roles from different organizations across multiple industries often share a few core traits that warrant further discussion, particularly if you are trying to recruit and select talent for your organization. We readily admit that we have a built-in selection bias—we are looking at the traits of proven top performers. We also admit that our sample only includes a certain type of role: roles that leaders have decided are crucial for driving organizational success. But with those caveats, we will share our observations over the next several blog posts. We welcome your feedback, your challenges, and your questions as we jointly seek to gain insight from these observations.
Questions to ponder:
- Do your top performers seem to have a few core characteristics in common?
- Do you select people based on characteristics, skill sets, experience, or a blend of all three?