High Performer or Average Worker? How Can You Quickly Tell?

“The best in every business do what they have learned to do without questioning their abilities—they flat out trust their skills.” — John Eliot, American author of Overachievement: The New Model for Exceptional Performance.


High Performer or Average Worker? How Can You Quickly Tell? by Laura Stack

Adding a new person to your workplace team is always a gamble. Usually you can’t tell, just by looking, who will consistently deliver top-notch performance that makes the entire team shine…and who will just show up, do an average job, and fade into the woodwork.

To clarify, “average” does not mean “bad.” Average people define the norm and provide the benchmarks by which we recognize high performance. They do their jobs adequately when properly directed, and you can depend on them in most things. But you build your team around high performers—the “quantum leapers”—who achieve up to ten times greater impact and results than the average worker. Slow and steady may win the race, but sometimes you need to hitch yourself to a star to make real progress. How can you see this star quality?

Good on Paper. A candidate’s “paper trail” offers clues about their performance ability. Did they graduate college summa cum laude with a double major? Good—that suggests an overachiever. If they’ve quickly risen through the ranks at previous jobs and have a stellar performance record, then you may have a winner on your hands. But you can’t always rule out a personality or attitude change since that last glowing performance review.

The Yoda Attitude. Yoda, the little green Jedi master, once told Luke Skywalker: “Do or do not. There is no try.” Look for this attitude during your face-time with the candidate. High performers confront workplace challenges head-on, applying their experience and creativity to craft tailored solutions that get the job done. So ask your candidate what they would do in certain hypothetical situations, noting how well and how quickly they can construct a reasonable solution.

Sharp, Well-Defined Goals. A high performer has no problem citing his or her goals, both short- and long-term. They can present those goals neatly and quickly, with a solid understanding of the steps required to get there. They understand how to translate goals into action.

Ambition. High performers push themselves to get ahead. These high-energy self-starters radiate confidence, need no one else to motivate them, and maintain a clear sense of direction. They “keep on keeping on” until they get what they want and hit the targets.

Excellent Time Management Skills. High performance burnout can be a big problem. Ambition, solid goals, and a can-do attitude matter very little if a worker can’t juggle time with the best of them. To do you proud for years to come, high performers understand the basics of time management well enough to create a work/life balance that maximizes their personal productivity without exhausting themselves. Working long and working productively aren’t the same thing, so you’ll have to dig deep to see if the person possesses this skill set.

The Bottom Line

You’ve probably experienced the occasional pleasant surprise when someone you’ve written off as average suddenly rises to the top of the performance ladder. Similarly, you may have suffered disappointment at the hands of a “sure thing.” Ultimately, performance matters, not appearance, so take care not to mistake style for substance. Search for the five characteristics outlined above before you assume you have a firecracker on your hands. “Masters of Disguise” who depend on their winning personalities to get them onboard usually can’t hide their weaknesses well enough to evade careful scrutiny. True high performers exhibit a fearless, ambitious, action-oriented—and above all else—results-oriented approach that no one can easily fake.



  1. Iknowwhatumean says:

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