According to Herman Aguinis and Ernest O’Boyle Jr., professors at Indiana University and Longwood University, respectively, and authors of the study Star Performers in Twenty-First-Century Organizations, 20% of the employees in any given company is responsible for 80% of the output.
At first, it’s easy to confuse the talented worker and the star performer, but there’s a subtle but important difference: A talented employee has the potential, but when all 8 of the below characteristics are aligned, the talented employee transforms into the star performer. Believe it or not, traditional measures of ability such as IQ and GPA did not make the list in the numerous articles I’ve read on the subject. The characteristics of a star performer go deeper than that:
They do their current job well. As a baseline, the star performer must be doing their current job well, and are working above and beyond their job description. If you ever hear or see the “that’s not my job” mindset, they are not a star performer. Note that as fun as they are, social events don’t quite count as a “beyond the call of duty” type action, look for participation in projects that help the company achieve its mission statement.
They take the initiative. As another baseline characteristic, star performers are self-direct and don’t wait for further direction.
They’re a team player and team leader the ability to both work within a team and step into a leadership when required demonstrates how adaptability, agility and ability to work with others, as well as engage them.
They have follow-through. A star performer sees all projects through to completion (whether that be a product launch, or official deprecation of a current project). This is a biggie, because all the other star performer qualities fall apart if there’s no follow-through.
They have strength of character. Strength of character means focusing on the good of the project, team and organization, not themselves. While self-interest could possible show results in the short term, it’s not good for the company in the medium or even long term.
They have champions. Champions can be quiet or loud and can come from inside and outside the organization. Outside of their boss, do they have other people championing them? It doesn’t have to been in obvious ways, such as direct kudos, but it can be in subtle ways, such as specifically requesting that they join a project team.
They have organizational savvy. Aka “street smarts”. Are they adept enough at navigating your organization’s corporate climate?
They found their dream team(s). Sometimes, an otherwise okay employee suddenly comes to life when placed on a certain team or project. This is only glimpse into the impact they can really make when working with people who complement their skills and vice versa. A group of talented, complementary people will only elevate (their team, project and organization) higher when together.
When the stars are aligned, and an employee possess all five of these characteristics, they become a star performer – a company rockstar – and with the ability to help the organization achieve phenomenal results.