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8 Things That Separate Outstanding Performers From Average People

8 Things That Separate Outstanding Performers From Average People

There are achievers, and then there are super achievers. These are the people who make stuff happen. They seem unstoppable. That’s not because they’ve never failed; it’s because they don’t let failure become the endpoint. Ready to see your own performance move from mediocre to outstanding? Here’s what to do.

1. You must achieve a level of competence.

Don’t stop because you can’t. Just keep learning until you can. The hours of study, research, practice, and just trying you put in will raise your ability inch by inch. And that’s what you have to do if you want to be a high performer. You don’t let the gap between where you are and where you want to be stop you. You simply consider how to cross the gap, and then do what it takes until you get there.

Consider this insight from Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic:

As the legendary Paul Arden (ex creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi) noted: “I want means: if I want it enough I will get it. Getting what you want means making the decisions you need to make to get what you want.”. If you really want what you say you want, then, your low confidence will only make you work harder to achieve it — because it will indicate a discrepancy between your desired goal and your current state.

2. You must set goals worth fighting for.

Kriss Carr was only 32 when she was diagnosed with what doctors called an incurable cancer. Rather than accepting this diagnosis, she turned her life around and 10 years later is “thriving with cancer.” Oh, and she’s also running a popular wellness website, is the author of books and documentaries, and is a renowned healthy living expert.

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When it matters, you can push yourself to do it. When you look at your goals and think, “Meh, I don’t really care,” you’re not going to fight your way out of a slump. Why would you? So drop the stuff that doesn’t matter to you and set goals that you truly can’t live without.

3. You must treat others with respect.

There’s no power in disrespecting the people around you. High performers know that showing respect not only opens doors, it also enables you to interact in a way gives you the most focus and clarity in every interaction. As Randy Garutti, CEO of Shake Shack, says,

It’s about being present. You can’t be everywhere for everyone, every time. But if there’s one thing I work tirelessly to do, it’s being present when I am there. There’s nothing worse than a leader who gives you their time but not their focus. (Just like there’s nothing worse than reading a story to my kids at bedtime and having my mind drift off to all the other things I have going on.) Being present is something I focus on every day.

4. You must put in the time.

If you want to reach those life-changing goals, you have to put in the hours. There’s no shortcut here. There’s not happy little spaceship that will whisk you away if you just want it bad enough. If you put in average effort, you’ll get average results.

No, you’re going to have to get there one day at a time by working hard and, well, working long. Various research shows that high performers are people who put in long hours: 60-hour workweeks are commonplace among the successful.

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If you want to be outstanding, you must be committed to doing the work even if it requires long hours. And, most likely, it will.

5. You must define what works for you.

No one else can tell you how to get there from here. And being an outstanding performer means figuring out how to make that leap yourself. Your goals will tell you what you need to do, and then you have to figure out how you can best do it. You also have to figure out what’s too much. When do you need a break? How do you know when you’re overloaded? How can you regain balance? How do you stay connected with those you love while pushing yourself to reach big goals?

Nina Garcia, Creative Director at Marie Claire, says this:

Finding this fine balance is what defines me. Books and magazines make me as do iPads and smartphones. The web has helped me to get in touch and meet new people, but I haven’t forgotten my old friends. I love Twitter, but I also love a real conversation that escapes a 140 character limit. I love to read fashion blogs but nothing can compete with the tactile touch of a haute couture gown.

6. You must think of the future.

Christopher Kane knew when he was just a little boy what he wanted to do. “I’ve always been ambitious, even from a young age,” he says. “I became tunnel vision at around 10 or 11. We got Sky TV and it had all these style programmes and I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer.”

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That long-term vision served him well; he had his own label selling worldwide before he turned 30. When you are thinking of how you want your life to look in 5, 10, 30 years, you get a lot clearer on what is a waste of time today.

Do you really need to read 27 Buzzfeed articles? Come up with another clever status update? See the latest X-Men flick three times? Or could you be doing something different, something that would actually get you to that future you want to have? If you want to actually get there, start doing it.

7. You must put others first.

People who end up at the top have to work hard. They have to focus. They have to say no, sometimes more than they want to. But that doesn’t mean they don’t value others (they do) and they know how to give. Average people try to get as much as they give. High performers give more than they take.

Adam Grant, author of Give and Take, says:

Then I looked at the other end of the spectrum and said if Givers are at the bottom, who’s at the top? Actually, I was really surprised to discover, it’s the Givers again. The people who consistently are looking for ways to help others are over-represented not only at the bottom, but also at the top of most success metrics. 

8. You must value honesty and transparency.

There’s no substitute for good values. If people learn that you aren’t trustworthy, that’s a lesson they won’t forget. Becoming who you want to be means that you need to start with a strong foundation. That foundation must include a commitment to integrity that you hold fast to, even when you might profit (temporarily) by waffling on your stance or hiding the truth.

Just don’t do it.

As entrepreneur and investor Amy Rees Anderson says,

Success will come and go, but integrity is forever. Integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether or not anyone is watching.

Featured photo credit: Mariano Kamp via flickr.com

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Last Updated on October 21, 2019

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, is a reminder of why I am so drawn to leadership as a topic. Whenever I think it is impossible for me to be more impressed with her, she proves me wrong.

Earlier this week, a former marine suggested that he had been in a long-term sexual relationship with the Senator. She flipped the narrative and used the term “Cougar,” a term used to describe older women who date younger men, to reference her alma mater.

Rather than calling the young man a liar, or responding to the accusations in kind, she re-focused the conversation back to her message of college affordability and lifted up that “Cougar” was the mascot for her alma mater. She went on to note that tuition at her school was just $50 per semester when she was a student. Class act.

But by the end of the week, news broke that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, another contender for the presidency, had a heart attack. Warren not only wished Sanders a speedy recovery but her campaign sent a meal to his staff. She knew that the hopes of staff, donors and supporters were with the Senator from Vermont and showed genuine compassion and empathy.

To me, she has proven time and time again that she is more than a presidential candidate: she belongs in a leadership hall of fame.

What makes some people excel as leaders is fascinating. You can read about leadership, research it and talk about it, yet the interest in leadership alone will not make you a better leader.

You will have more information than the average person, but becoming a good leader is lifelong work. It requires experience – and lots of it. Most importantly, it requires observation and a commitment to action. Warren observed what was happening with Sen. Sanders, empathized with his team and then took action. Regardless of the outcome of this election, Sanders’ staff will likely never forget her gesture.

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You would have had to work on a political campaign in order to appreciate the stress and anxiety that comes with it. In this moment, staff may not remember everything that Warren said throughout the lengthy campaign, but they will remember what she did during an unforgettable time during the campaign.

If this model of leadership is appealing, and if you are searching for how to up your own leadership game, read on for six characteristics that good leaders share:

1. Good leaders are devoted to the success of the people around them.

Good leaders are not self-interested. Sure, they want to succeed, but they also want others to succeed.

Good leaders see investing in others just as important as they see investing in themselves. They understand that their success is closely tied to the people around them, and they work to ensure that their peers, employees, friends and family have paths for growth and development.

While the leaders may be the people in the spotlight, they are quick to point to the people around them who helped them (the leaders) enter that spotlight. Their willingness to lift others inspires their colleagues’ and friends’ devotion and loyalty.

2. Good leaders are not overly dependent on others’ approval.

It is important for managers to express their support for their teams; good leaders must be independent of the approval of others. I explained in an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, that:[1]

“While a desire to be loved is natural, managers who prioritize approval from subordinates will become ineffective supervisors who may do employees harm. For example, a manager driven by a need for approval may shy away from delivering constructive feedback that could help an employee improve. A manager fearful of upsetting someone may tolerate behavior that degrades the work environment and culture.”

In yet another example, a manager who is dependent on the approval of others may not make decisions that could be deemed unpopular in the short run but necessary in the long run.

Think of the coaches who integrated their sporting teams. Their decision to do so, may have seemed odd, and even wrong, in the moment, but time has proven that those leaders were on the right side of history.

3. Good leaders have the capacity to share the spotlight.

Attention is nice, but it is not the prime motivator for good leaders. Doing a good job is.

For this reason, good leaders are willing to share the spotlight. They aren’t threatened by a lack of attention, and they do not need credit for every accomplishment. They are too focused on their goal and too focused on the urgency of their work.

4. Good leaders are students.

In the same way that human beings are constantly evolving, so too are leaders. As long as you are living, you have the potential to learn. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you think you have; you can always learn something new.

I have the experience of thinking I was doing everything right as a manager, only to receive conflicting feedback from my team. Perhaps my approach was not working for my team, and I had to be willing to hear their feedback to improve.

Good leaders understand that their secret sauce is their willingness to keep receiving information and keep learning. They aren’t intimidated by what they do not know: As long as they maintain a willingness to keep growing, they believe they can overcome any obstacle they face.

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As both masters and students, good leaders read, listen and study to grow. They consume content for information, not just entertainment purposes. They aren’t impressed with their knowledge; they are impressed with the learning journey.

5. Good leaders view vulnerability as a superpower.

It means “replacing ‘professional distance and cool,’ with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” said Emma Sappala in a Dec. 11, 2014, article, “What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable” for Harvard Business Journal.[2] She went on to note the importance of human connection, which she asserts is often missing at work.

“As leaders and employees, we are often taught to keep a distance and project a certain image. An image of confidence, competence and authority. We may disclose our vulnerability to a spouse or close friend behind closed doors at night but we would never show it elsewhere during the day, let alone at work.”

This rings so true for me as a woman leader. I was raised believing that any show of emotion in the workplace could be used against me. I was raised believing that it was best for women leaders to be stoic and to “never let ‘em see you sweat.” This may have prevented me from connecting with employees and colleagues on a deeper, more personal level.

6. Good leaders understand themselves.

I am a huge fan of life coach and spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant. In addition to her hit show on the OWN network, Vanzant has authored dozens of books. In her books and teachings, she underscores the importance of knowing ourselves fully. She argues that we must know what makes us tick, what makes us happy and what makes us angry.

Self-awareness enables us to put ourselves in situations where we can thrive, and it also enables us to have compassion when we fall short of the goals and expectations we have for ourselves. Relatedly, understanding ourselves will allow us to know our strength. When we know our strengths, we will be able to put people around us who compliment our strengths and fill the gaps in our leadership.

Final Thoughts

Being a good leader, first and foremost, is an inside job. You must focus on growing as a person regardless of the leadership title that you hold. You cannot take others where you yourself have not been. So focusing on yourself, regardless of your time or where you are in your career will have long term benefits for you and the people around you.

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Further, if you want to become a good leader, you should start by setting the intention to do so. What you focus on grows. If you focus on becoming a better leader, you will research and invest in things that help you to fulfill this intention. You will also view the good and bad leadership experiences as steppingstones that hone your character and help you improve.

After you set the intention, get really clear on what a good leader looks like to you. Each of us has a different understanding of leadership. Is a good leader someone who takes risk? Is a good leader, in your estimation, someone who develops other leaders? Whatever it is, know what you’re shooting for. Once you define what it means to be a good leader, look for people who exemplify your vision. Watch and engage with them if you can.

Finally, understand that becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight. You must continually work at improving, investing in yourself and reflecting on what is going well and what you must improve. In this way, every experience is an opportunity to grow and a chance to ask: ‘What is this experience trying to teach me?’ or ‘what action is necessary based on this situation?’

If you are committed to questioning, evaluating and acting, you are that much closer to becoming a better leader.

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Featured photo credit: Sam Power via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Good Managers Overcome the Desire to Be Liked
[2] Harvard Business Journal: What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable

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