In any organization, there is often a small group of people who are, somehow, on an accelerated career path. The get more raises, they get promoted, and in general, an invisible usher seems to guide them towards the nice seats.

Some advance unfairly, yet there are plenty who earn it. These people tend to share specific characteristics intrinsic to their success. Though each high performer has their own unique set of skills, many exhibit some or all of the following attributes.

A willingness to act.

Some people will watch as a small fire smolders into a big one, while other people will leap into action and extinguish the fire. Ask the first one of their inaction, they will say “It never occurred to me.” Ask the second the same question: “It didn’t occur to me not to.”

A willingness to take responsibility.

For what? Everything in their orbit: their projects, their people, their results. “It wasn’t my fault” is not really in their vocabulary. Instead, hear things like “We’ll fix it” or “This won’t ever happen again, I’m on it.”

An ability to learn from their mistakes.

Successful people make mistakes, but they rarely make the same ones twice.

Skill and ability.

High performers tend to be good at what they do. If not, they tend to have an overwhelmingly positive offsetting factor, something that lets them get away with not being as skilled as comparable peers.

Examples include an executive that energizes and inspires people, a sales guy that people just love, a manager that can keep morale high or a receptionist that makes clients feel special and appreciated. Soft skills count in a big way.


The best employees are yoga masters, able to bend to what the organization requires of them. Overtime? Weekends? Trips out of town? Done, unhesitatingly and without question.

Soft skills, people skills. In abundance.

Employees with good people skills have an inherent ability to defuse situations, increase morale and in general, add positively in many ways. Don’t discount the importance of these skills, and when people have them, take note!

Good when it matters.

Some people are good during practice but not as good when you take the field. Top performers are at their best (or at least very good) when the lights are on, and the audience is watching.

  • Confident, but not arrogant.
  • Willing to roll up their sleeves, unasked, if the situation presents.

Willing to share their knowledge via mentorship.

Truly successful people are continually seeking to replace themselves, as the next rung is waiting, there for the taking, when the appropriate time comes. If not, they create the rung.

Possessing foresight.

Strong performers not only solve problems but they avoid them in the first place. Typically developed with experience, young people who exhibit this ability should be particularly treasured; the skill, nurtured.

Any employer fortunate enough to have employees who exhibit the above characteristics should consider themselves lucky! When you identify an employee who demonstrates these skills, pay attention. You’ve likely got a hidden gem in your midst, and you’ll want to be careful to not take them for granted.

If you’re an employer: surround yourself with these people! Help them succeed, reward them for their efforts and watch your organization grow.

If you’re an employee: think about whether or not you offer these virtues and if not, why not? If you’re comfortable where you are, ignore everything I say. But if you want to meet the “invisible usher” and get on to that fast track upwards, go through the list and start ticking off the line items.

If you’d like some help with identifying high-performance employees and strengthening your team, contact us!