Characteristics and Actions of a Top Performer

Top performers are employees who are consistently and successfully meeting their own goals and objectives and then become involved in extra projects that create value. You will likely never hear a top performer use the phrase “That is above my paygrade.”. To a top performer working above and beyond expectations is a privilege and a way to get noticed by their manager and upper-level leadership.  Top performers get the highest raises the largest bonuses and they move to higher level roles more quickly.

If you’re not a top performer but are interested in becoming one, you’ll find tips below to be well on your way.

Meeting your goals and objectives

Each year managers review the performance of each employee to determine how well they performed for the year. At the beginning of the year, the manager assigns goals to complete or meet for the year, and then throughout the year, (usually in one-on-one meetings and quarterly check-ins) the manager and employee review the progress of those goals. The employee has an opportunity to talk to their manager about any obstacles that may be preventing them from achieving their goals and the manager works to remove those obstacles and empower their employee so they can be successful. If you aren’t having these conversations with your manager, schedule the meetings with them and start the conversations. This is the first step in becoming a top performer. Your career will thank you for it!

Use your tools and resources

When companies measure goals, they have a specific tool that stores and calculates the data for the outcomes of those goals. This information is usually available to employees, but many do not know it is available or how to access it. Discussing access to these tools with your manager will give you the data you need to improve your metrics and meet or exceed your goals. Some of these tools could be raw data, reports, or reporting tools that can be manipulated as needed. If your job is more strategic and operational than transactional and tactical, you may document lessons learned or hold calls with the team to discuss roadblocks during the project and use them to improve your success in future projects.

Below is a list of top performer habits:

  • Aligns strategically with the company goals and mission
  • Constantly improves
  • Shares success and best practices
  • Participates in stretch assignments
  • Looks for ways to add value

Share your success

Once your goals reflect your hard work, the next step is to share your results with your co-workers. This is important because when you share your success, it makes your team more effective and creates relationship bonds between you and your co-workers. They appreciate you because you are helping them improve, and they are likely to review their goals and go through the same improvement process. They could even find a new tool or process to share with the team.

When you help each other, you also help your manager. Your work becomes easier, and you function as a high performing team. You have time to celebrate together and your cycles become open, giving you the ability to begin learning new things in different parts of the business. Working on projects in other parts of the business expands your network and opens the door to new career opportunities.

A note about sharing success:

Some people believe that keeping the secret to success locked away gives them an edge and allows them more opportunities. People with this belief are causing themselves more work. They are often working long hours, taking on too many projects, and are usually stressed. They may make a lot of mistakes, miss deadlines and meetings and let themselves and their team down. These are not top performer behaviors. People who are worried about others learning what they know are likely to stay in the same role for longer because they aren’t making room for their own growth by sharing success and helping others improve. If you were playing a game of tug-of-war, would you rather be on one side of the line by yourself, or with a team? Share your successes and work together.

Top Performer: A Short Story

Ross works in a call center and helps customers complete tasks over the phone that they could not complete on the website. Phoebe is his manager. At the beginning of the year, Phoebe tells Ross that his goals for the year are to reach a 95% customer satisfaction and 95% quality assurance scores. He also must take an average of at least 20 calls per day.

Last year, Ross had a customer satisfaction score of 94% and his quality assurance score was 96%, while taking an average of 23 calls per day. Since he is meeting two of his goals, he decides to focus on the one that needs the most work. He decides to review his customer satisfaction scores from the previous year and focuses on the customer feedback. He uses that feedback to create a better experience for customers this year. One customer said that after ten minutes on the phone, they felt rushed and that they felt that Ross had something better to do than help them with their problem. Ross doesn’t remember the call specifically, but he does acknowledge that he will sometimes take an extra call a few minutes before his break or lunch. His hope is that the call will be quick, but sometimes it is longer, so he tries to end the call so he can go on his break. This year, Ross has decided that he will not take a call within 10 minutes of his upcoming break, and instead he will work on projects, documentation or follow up with other customers through email during that time.

Ross meets with Phoebe and tells her his plan to improve his customer satisfaction. Phoebe suggests a new company tool that allows Ross to listen to his customer calls. She shows him how to log in to the tool, see a list of the calls and match them up with customer satisfaction surveys.

For six months, Ross reviews his customer satisfaction scores and listens to the calls for any of the surveys that are below 95%. He takes note of his tone, pace and how well he matches and connects with the customer. During is mid-year review, Phoebe is happy to show Ross that his customer satisfaction is at 98%. Ross is so thrilled with his success he asks Phoebe if he can give a presentation to the rest of the team to show where he started and how he improved. He explains that his goal is to help others who may be struggling to meet their customer satisfaction goals. Phoebe appreciates his offer and schedules time during the staff meeting for Ross to present his success to the team.

Nine months after starting his improvement process, Phoebe meets with Ross and explains that there is another team who is struggling with their metrics. She asks him if he would be interested in sharing his improvement process and success story with them. He is excited but also nervous because he has never worked with or presented to anyone outside of his team. After meeting with the other team, they applaud him, and their manager is impressed. Ross sends an outline of his process to the other team after the presentation. A few of the employees on this team use Ross’ process and their scores increase dramatically over the next three months. By the end of the year, the Director notices the improvement between both teams and meets with both managers. Phoebe tells Ross’ story and the director likes it so much she asks Phoebe to talk with Ross and see if he is interested in presenting to the other eight customer service teams.

Each week, Ross presents to one team, and at the end of two months, all ten teams have seen Ross’ presentation and have his documented process along with all the tools. Over the next four months, all ten teams have improved their customer satisfaction scores.  The Director meets with Phoebe again and they discuss the considerable improvement in customer satisfaction scores. The Director tells Phoebe that she as decided to create a new role that will focus on analyzing and improving metrics across all ten teams. The role will be a lead role and will report directly to her.

Phoebe announces all job openings to her team and this one is no different. When the job is posted, Ross and some of his team members apply for the job. The interview is intense but because Ross created the process, he impresses in each round. He is confident and uses his customer service skills during the interview to match the interviewer’s tone and pace. The final interview is with the Director, and he is very nervous but remembers that this is something he has been doing for over a year. At the end of the interview with the director, she makes Ross a verbal offer for the position. She tells him about the positive impact that his process has made on the entire department, and she has been speaking about their successes with the executive team. After the interview, Ross reflects on the last year. When he started this process, it was simply an action plan for him to increase his customer satisfaction so he could meet his goal. Now, all the managers for the other teams and their team members know him and appreciate his willingness to help them improve, the director knows him and just hired him for a higher-level position, and now he is learning that the executive team has heard about him. Ross is shocked, but humbled. He is also glad that he decided to take the initiative to improve his own scores and share his experience with the team because had he not, his career would not have blossomed in such a short time.

In this story, Ross a customer service representative, was meeting two of his three goals for the year. He thought about the tools he had available, and how he could leverage those tools to improve his scores. He shared this plan with his manager, and she showed him another tool he could use to improve his scores. Once his scores improved, he decided to share his success and knowledge with the rest of his team with the hope that his process and journey would inspire them to do the same. Ross is helping his team and his manager by being a top performer and sharing his success. Ross’ job description does not include process improvement or people development, but he stepped outside of his basic responsibilities to share his success process with others. This willingness to go above and beyond his responsibilities makes him a top performer and prepared him for a promotion.

Become a top performer

Think about your current role. What do you do well and what needs improvement? Work on an improvement plan for any goals you aren’t meeting. If you are already meeting all your goals, document your best practices and share them with your manager and co-workers through collaboration tools like email, instant messaging, and filesharing. Ask for time during huddles or meetings to present your best practices.


Check out my other blog posts.

Career Selection: What to do when you don't know what you want to do

What is a Lateral Move?

Interviewing: Being Yout Authentic Self

Burnout: My Story and Suggestions for Prevention

Is a Side Hustle Worth It?

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Check out my Continuous Learning page where I recommend professional development books, and provide a list of audio books I am listening to this year.

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