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What makes A-players stand out

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman focus on “elevating leadership strengths” in their practice at Zenger Folkman. They study and work with leaders at companies around the world.

A recent article they authored for the Harvard Business Review highlighted their research on 4,100 executives and their findings from analyzing over 50,000 performance reviews conducted on this group over five years. They compared “good” (40th to 70th percentile) to the “best” (90th percentile.)

Which leadership skills put the best ahead? Here they are, ranked in order of importance and impact. According to Zenger and Folkman, the best individual contributors:

  • Set stretch goals and adopt high standards for themselves. The best individual contributors set — and met — stretch goals that went beyond what others thought were possible. They also encouraged others to achieve exceptional results.
  • Work collaboratively. They solve problems and find the necessary skillsets in other team members.
  • Volunteer to represent the group. The best individual contributors were highly effective at representing their groups to other departments or units within the organization.
  • Embrace change, rather than resisting It.  The best individual contributors are quick to embrace change in both tactics and strategy.
  • Take initiative. Great contributors develop a habit of volunteering their unique perspective and providing a helping hand.
  • Walk the talk. If you commit to doing something, barring some event truly beyond your control, you should follow through. The best individual contributors are careful not to say one thing and do another. They are excellent role models for others.
  • Use good judgment. When in doubt about a technical issue or the practicality of a proposed decision, the very best individual contributors research it carefully rather than relying on their expertise to just wing it.
  • Display personal resilience. Everyone suffers disappointments, failures, and disruptions. If they make a mistake, the best individual contributors acknowledge it quickly and move on.
  • Give honest feedback. The best individual contributors were able to provide feedback in a way that was perceived not as criticism but as a gesture of good will.

Adding key executives or partners to your team? Test for the above to make sure they’ve got what it takes to plan for – and deliver – the best results.

Have a great week.

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