The 5 Things High Performers and Leaders Do Exceptionally Well

Ask any executive what type of organization he wants to lead, and somewhere in that answer he will communicate that he wants to lead an organization of effective leaders where accountability, communication and performance are valued and where his vision can be realized and strategic outcomes will be achieved.  He will also add that he wants to surround himself with leaders and high performers who deliver results.

Most of us want this.

We want to create high-performance cultures where employees consistently produce outstanding results and are committed to organizational success. I spend a lot of time working with organizations and teams on culture, strategy and performance. When strategic outcomes are achieved, it is due to several factors including effective leadership, transparency, highly developed and effective teams and performance accountability.

Whether we are talking about leadership, management or employee deliverables, high performance and effectiveness are paramount to success. Why? Because the most important competitive advantage that any organization has is the quality of its talent – the people who run the show, make the decisions, come up with the ideas, design the products and deliver the services.

These people – particularly the ones who do it best – represent an organization’s true sustainable competitive advantage. The high performers make the difference!

High performers

don’t only care about their production and service levels; they also care about elevating and contributing to the performance and success of the entire team and organization.  High performers consistently produce outstanding results while remaining dedicated to organizational success.  They are the individual contributors and leaders of teams, and they keep a laser focus on strategy and goal accomplishment while seeking out opportunities to support and uplift other team members.

As you will see below, high performers (1) focus on strengths (2) remain accountable (3) engage others in solutions (4) emphasize behaviors and actions over results and (5) are willing to change.

Here are five (5) things that high performers (and leaders) do exceptionally well.

1. Focus on Strengths

  • High performers offer praise over punishment and focus on people’s strengths rather than their weaknesses.
  • They pay attention to skills and make alignments with organizational strategy and employee talent. The focus is placed on what we can do rather than what we can’t, and the strength of the team lies in its core competencies and recognition for the contributions of individual team members. Hiring, promotion, and performance management decisions are made primarily with a focus on individual strengths and value added for sustaining a high-performance culture.
  • High performers find and create informal and formal moments to highlight and recognize the strengths and accomplishments of others and will make connections for how said strengths or accomplishments are helping to advance organizational or departmental goals. These leaders are always developing and focusing themselves and their team members for product and service delivery that will make everyone look good.
  • While high performers do take the time to receive and/or provide learning and development opportunities to address weaknesses, they don’t spend an inordinate amount time on it, and they don’t bother with improving weaknesses that have no bearing on strategy and goal accomplishment. Weaknesses are addressed only to the extent that improvement will enhance organizational strategy and performance.

2.  Remain Accountable

  • High performers more readily admit mistakes and make corrections quickly so as to minimize resource and time waste.
  • These people are willing to hold themselves and others accountable for success and failure. They have a keen ability to see through the garbage – the time and money wasters – and get to the core issues.
  • If something goes awry, high performers don’t let it fester and lead to further problems or unnecessarily inhibit productivity. They step up, take responsibility, process what happened and solicit ideas for improvement. They are not busy deflecting responsibility and ascribing blame to others (throwing others under the bus).

3.  Engage Others in Solutions

  • High performers seek out solutions, give credit, minimize chaos, and help colleagues achieve results.
  • If you work with a high performer, you are going to have someone open to creative ideas and focused on the “best” solution regardless of where it comes from. They don’t come in the door with a plan all the time because they are open to ascertain viable solutions from other team members and give credit accordingly.
  • When confusion and chaos rear their ugly heads, high performers are able to refocus energies and thinking so as to remain focused on the key priorities, and they direct themselves and their teams toward effective performance strategies.
  • These people focus on solutions to problems and work to improve processes and resolve intervening policy conflicts.

4.  Emphasize Behavior and Actions over Results

  • High performers hold themselves and others accountable not only for results but the methods to achieve those results. The end does not necessarily justify the means with these people.
  • High performers are not so focused on results that they support or demonstrate underhanded or unethical behaviors to achieve those results. The methods used and behaviors exhibited matter just as much, if not more, to high performers as the results they deliver. High performers care about productivity and want to achieve results within deadlines and budgets but not at the expense of undermining integrity, professional standards for behavior or resorting to unethical or illegal actions.
  • Integrity, professionalism, respect, ethics and team values trump results with these people.

5.  Willing to Change Course and Thinking

  • High performers own their power to affect change, influence the culture, and seek out opportunities to influence.
  • High performers want to perform; they want their teams to perform and deliver intended results. As such, they don’t get married to any particular model, methodology or process and are regularly assessing current practices against strategic goals. When there are better models, methods and processes, the high performer will use them or create it and will work to convince others why the change is necessary.
  • High performers are often times also good leaders because they understand the importance of influencing and persuading others on a particular path and learn how to do this even when they lack formal authority of a position title. They aim to achieve organizational goals and realize the strategy and will create, apply or influence others to this aim where and when possible.

Ponder this –

  1. Are you a high performer?
  2. How do you know this?
  3. Do you elevate and advance team and organizational goals? How?


by Terina Allen
President & CEO, ARVis Institute
Chair, ARVoices Strategic Leadership Network