The Top Two Qualities That Set Apart Successful People From the Rest

How would you rate your performance on a day to day basis?  I’m talking about how you’re performing in the various areas of your life–your work, your significant relationships, your spirituality, other areas.

Are you satisfied with your progress?  Discontented?  Proud?  Ashamed?  Indifferent?  Maybe you don’t even think about it?  Or when you do, you feel guilty for not doing more?

I’ve noticed that for so many of us how we’re doing isn’t a huge reflection theme.  People tend to allow themselves to be on “autopilot”–they just do what they need to do and, most of the time, when they need to do it.  No real thought.  Just do it.

Others of us do reflect or evaluate ourselves.  But our focus tends to be negative evaluation–we never quite measure up to our expectations or what we think others expect of us.  So we often feel guilty or less than–especially when we compare ourselves to others.

But we can’t allow the meaning we attach to self-evaluation to keep us from the practice of self-evaluation.

Why?  Because without self-reflection, we can never improve or gain momentum or achieve our deepest desires.  We’ll never accurately identify what it is that needs improvement.

Instead of letting our focus fixate on how we feel about how we’re doing, we need to be willing to honestly look at our progress and then make strategic choices to learn and move forward more effectively.

I read a significant piece of research about what qualities set apart the most successful people from the rest (based upon surveying 50,286 360-degree evaluations conducted over the last five years on 4,158 individual contributors).  I’m finding this to be true with the clients I work with, too.  The research identifies 9 skills.  I’m going to list the top two qualities ranked in that order–the top two skills that make the most difference.

#1–Set stretch goals and adopt high standards for yourself.

I’m finding that this is a theme many people just don’t entertain.  Stretch goals.

The challenge is that this skill assumes that you are already establishing goals for yourself in the first place (which is, by the way, vital to maximizing your entire experience of life).

What is it specifically that you really want to do in your life?  How do you want to utilize and apply the strengths you have in your life?  What specific things do you want to accomplish so that when you do reach those goals you actually know it, you can measure it, you can see it?  If you don’t know what you’re wanting, then you can never know when you’ve gotten it.  Right?

But this number one distinguishing behavior goes even beyond that.  It’s taking wants, desires, goals to the next level–stretching those standards for yourself; pushing yourself to go beyond where you’ve gone before.

For example.  In my last month, I’ve set some big stretch goals for myself.  I first made a list of people I know in corporations, businesses, organizations, and churches.  I identified specific contacts I have within those groups.  My goal:  send them my strengths coaching one sheet that describes the work I do with leaders, teams, and groups in maximizing people and multiplying performance.

This is a good goal.  But in itself, it isn’t a stretch goal.  So I actually took the next bolder step by stating:  I’m going to make 3 contacts every day (15-20 every week).  I’ve never been that intentional before in this area, giving myself numeric contact goals.

I can tell you, doing these stretch goals have created more energy and more forward momentum for me in this part of my work.  I can measure my progress on the spreadsheet I developed to chart this process.  I can evaluate what’s working and what’s not working and then make necessary changes to my process.  And it also holds me accountable.

QUESTIONS:  When is the last time you feel like you really stretched yourself, pushed yourself to a bigger or higher level/standard?  Do you know what that would look like in any area of your life?  Have you stated some expectations for yourself that go beyond what’s normal for you or beyond where you’ve gone before or even beyond what others think you can do?  What would that look like specifically?

#2–Work collaboratively.

Successful people have learned the strategic significance of working with other people in order to accomplish their big goals.

Successful people don’t operate under the delusion that they have to make everything great in their lives happen by themselves.

Successful people don’t buy into the omni-competent superman myth.  They have developed a humble, honest, confident perspective about themselves that recognizes they don’t have all the strengths needed to be successful.

So they bring others into their daily orbit who can contribute in the areas of their personal gaps, complementing their strengths with strengths they don’t themselves possess.

For example.  To achieve my own stretch goals I shared above, I realized that I couldn’t do this on my own.  I needed to collaborate with others.  This is an area of growth for me.

So I chose not to begin with cold calls (although there’s nothing wrong with cold calling and I will perhaps end up doing that, too).  I began with people I already know and who know me, people who respect what I can contribute and who are willing to step forward and make connections for me.

For example.  My wife Shasta is one of the most productive and effective people I know.  She uses her strengths in remarkable and maximizing ways to accomplish so much good in the world.  She sets stretch goals all the time.

Consequently, she is also very strategic and smart in how she goes about meeting her stretch goals.  She collaborates and networks with a wide range of people.  She has developed a large team of people in her life who believe in her and what she’s trying to do and are willing to use their strengths to help her.  She asks for their help.  This collaborative mentality empowers her to accomplish way more than she could on her own.

I find this skill to be hugely significant for all my clients if they are going to be effective in moving their lives forward toward what they’re truly wanting for themselves.

If you want to stretch, you have to collaborate.

QUESTIONS:  So ask yourself, who are people you know who could contribute their skills and strengths to helping you accomplish some of your big goals?  Would you be willing to ask them to collaborate with you?  Would you honor their strengths by asking for their specific contribution in your life?  Are there identifiable steps with your goals that you could actually delegate to someone else?

At the end of one of my coaching sessions recently, my client remarked, “Man, this process is so valuable for me.  I haven’t done this much reflection, evaluation, and strategizing for my life ever.  I love the momentum I’m feeling and seeing.  I actually think I’m going to make my vision for my life happen!”

That’s the power of practicing strategic reflection and evaluation about what matters most in life.  You start moving there.  And in the end, isn’t that what we all truly want for ourselves–to know where there is and to get there well?

If you’d like to have a short phone call to talk with me about how this could work in your life, email me.  I’m happy to arrange that call with you.

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Looking for a Speaker or Coach?

If you or someone you know in your organization is looking for a keynote speaker or workshop teacher for events in your company, congregation, or association gatherings, I would be happy to come speak on this theme or others like it.  And interested in strengths coaching?  Feel free to email me at greg@gregorypnelson.com or look at the Speaking or Coaching pages of this site.