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“The Behaviors that Define A-Players”

| September 16, 2014

by Jim Bruce

Today’s Tuesday Reading, “The Behaviors that Define A-Players”, focuses on identifying those leadership skills that make a difference between good and exceptional individual performers.  The essay comes from the pens of Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman and appeared in the Harvard Business Review boogs.  Zenger and Folkman are CEO and president of the leadership consultancy Zenger | Folkman and authors of several books on leadership.

Over the last five years, Zenger | Folkman has conducted 360 feedback surveys for some 4,000 individuals involving over 50,000 evaluations.  Analysis of this data has identified nine leadership skills that differentiate exceptional individual contributors (those rated at or above the 90th percentile in leadership effectiveness) from those who are rated “good” (at the 40th to the 70th percentile).  This analysis identified nine skills that distinguish the best, listed in order of which made the most difference:

1.  Setting stretch goals and adopting high standards for themselves.  The best individual contributors set and met stretch goals that went beyond what others thought possible.  They also encourage others to achieve exceptional results.

2.  Work collaboratively.  Many individual contributors strive to work independently.  This is good and even better is working together so that more value is created than by everyone working on their own.

3.  Volunteer to represent the group.  If you want to be visible, have the courage to raise your hand and offer to take on the additional work of representing your group.

4.  Embrace change, rather than resisting it.  Change is necessary for organizational survival.  The best individual contributors are quick to help shape and then embrace change in both tactics and strategy.

5.  Take initiative.  Volunteer your unique perspective by stepping forward.

6.  Walk the talk.  If you commit to do something, except when its truly beyond your control, follow through.  In doing this you’ll be a clear role model for others.

7.  Use good judgment.  

8.  Display personal resilience.  Everyone experiences disappointments, failures, mistakes.  Acknowledge the situation, learn from it, and move on.  

9.  Give honest feedback.  Giving and receiving feedback is everyone’s responsibility.  If you see work done particularly well, let your colleague know.  And, in those cases where there is opportunity for improvement, you might ask a question about the approach taken or initiate a conversation about an alternative approach you’ve found helpful, etc.

Whether you are an individual contributor or a leader/manager of individual contributors, these nine skills can be helpful to you as you go about your responsibilities.  Perhaps you may want to select one or two where you do some work to step up your game.

.  .  .  .     jim