10 Traits of High Performers

I was recently speaking to a recruiter who had hired 100+ CEOs and we got onto the topic of high-performance individuals. The head-hunter said there are commonalities in how high performers think and behave and gave advice on how to spot these traits in an interview. 

Spoiler: Whilst they all have traits in common, it’s not that they all had overpriced MBAs. Instead, they had BDE: Big Do-er Energy (Ha!). 

Here’s a summary of our discussion on the 10 traits of high performers. 

#1 They Focus On Being Impressive Not On Impressing People

There’s a subtle but crucial difference between the two. One is internal, the other is external.  

Winners prioritise self-respect over respect from others. And they know that virtue-signalling will never equal results.  

You want to pick the hire who cares more about results than Forbes magazine covers.  

When hiring, ask questions like, “When did you make a really unpopular decision because you believed it was right?” You’ll find your people. 

#2 They Love What They Do

People learn more, better and faster when they’re doing it for fun than they ever do out of requirement.  

High performers do what they do because they love it. 

#3 They’re Willing To Take Smart Risks

Most humans unconsciously index heavily toward loss aversion. Very few are natural-born risk-takers. 

If you are willing to take smart risks, that puts you ahead of everyone who’s too afraid to put some skin in the game and try in the first place. 

Ben Horowitz (famous VC and billionaire) said, “If you’re going to eat shit, don’t nibble.” Put another way, look for those who go hard at it. 

In the interview, ask “What are you most proud of creating that no one else would have?” That’ll tell you what you need to know. 

#4 They Strive To Be The Best. Period.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of a multimillion-dollar company aiming for the ASX 100, or if you’re the cleaner aiming to make the floors so sparkling clean you can eat off them. 

If you don’t aim for the best work you can do, you won’t even be good. 

#5 They Say “Will” Not “Should”

It’s the difference between winning and wishing.  

“I should work out today” vs “I will work out today.” 

In the interview ask, “What are you hoping to accomplish this year?” Then listen for whether they say, “I want to” or “I will.”  

Find the I-willers. 

#6 They Write Down Their Goals

If you don’t write a goal down, it doesn’t really exist.  

You will be 10x more productive if you get your goals down on paper (or Google Docs or emails or whatever else). Once you get your goals down, you’ll be able to reference that list and reprioritise daily. 

This is as crucial psychologically as it is for utility. It’s criminal that only 34% of the population even writes goals.  

So, in interviews, the recruiter would ask the candidate to show her where they keep their goals and how they track them… No time for talkers. 

#7 They Embrace Their Haters

If you win at a high level, a portion of the population will hate you no matter what.  

Some people can’t handle the fact that others are more driven, motivated and therefore, more successful than them. Rather than do something about it, they just take a swig from the Haterade bottle and fire off their nasty tweets. 

Most people are afraid to express an unpopular opinion, but the ones who aren’t are the ones who change the world. 

The head-hunter would ask prospective CEOs, “What do you think we are doing wrong as a company right now?”  

This shows how much they care and how willing they are to have tough conversations. 

#8 They Do 10x More Than They Consume

Hot take: When a successful person says they read two books a week, they’re full of BS.  

The truth is top performers spend most of their time doing things instead of passively consuming.  

So, the recruiter would ask: 

“What does your calendar look like?” Then have the candidate show it to her. This indicates how they organise, spend their time, time block, etc. And what they truly enjoy doing. 

#9 They Zero In On Being The 20% that Matters

You know the 80/20 rule: 80% of the value of something comes from just 20% of the effort. This is true in product sales, marketing, relationships…pretty much everything. 

Top performers have a unique ability to zero in on the 20% that matters and capitalise on it.  

In one conversation, a CEO was asked how he kept his team on schedule and on budget. His response was, “Daily am meetings, daily pm async updates required from everyone on the team. No matter what. What gets measured, gets managed.” 

#10 They Don’t Take Favours, They Give Favours

Without sounding like a Mafia boss, it’s better to be owed than to owe. 

Be generous with your skills, and you’ll be amazed by how others respond in turn.  

Long-term people don’t care about short-term gains, they see the bigger picture. 

Key Takeaways

In summing up, there’s nothing magical about high performers. They are just average people who happen to work hard on things they love, have a growth mindset and always strive to be the best.  

They know that unless you actually do the work and get the skills, all you have are expensive participation trophies. 

If you’re reading this, that means you’re probably a high performer too.  

Now quit reading and start doing something. 

Want to work with a team of high performers with barrels of Big Doer Energy? Get in touch with us.  

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