How many times have you evaluated an employee and reached the conclusion that he or she is not performing at the level that he or she has the potential to reach? Far too many employees either stall out, give up or burn out before they can reach their peak, leaving them dissatisfied with their jobs and costing their companies’ bottom lines. There are some characteristics that peak performers across all fields – from sports teams to insurance operations – tend to have in common. Rather than falling into the trap of considering these characteristics innate, it is management’s job to encourage these characteristics by setting the tone for a good company culture.
6 essential characteristics
- Accepts full responsibility – Peak performers accept responsibility equally for successes and failures. It is crucial that managers set the correct tone for failures, as this is will dramatically influence how the company deals with failure as a community. Failure is acceptable – negligence is not. A manager cannot be overly accepting of repeated failure, as this will create a lack of respect within the company. However, failure and innocent mistakes must be treated as learning experiences, as a manager that is overly harsh toward failure will likely provoke finger-pointing and resentment.
- Feels confident about abilities – Employees invariably want to feel good at their jobs, and those that do almost always perform at a higher level than those that feel unqualified. A manager’s job is to encourage employees, making use of the correct balance of praise and constructive criticism. A manager that is able to strike this balance will find that his or her employees feel confident and comfortable, engendering innovation and a dedication to performing at the highest possible level. By contrast, a manager that employs too much criticism will quickly find that employees shut down, while a manager that freely hands out empty praise may find that he or she has to contend with swollen egos.
- Stays motivated – There is little hope of accomplishing peak performance long-term without motivation. There are two types of motivation at play – personal motivation and professional motivation. Personal motivation moves employees to perform well because of the learning and experience that they can receive with a company, which may lead to career development either within or outside of the company. Professional motivation is goal oriented, and stems from a clear company vision and path. An effective manager will be able to utilize both types of motivation in order to get the most out of his or her employees.
- Practices essential skills – The more frequently your employees are working on their core skills, the better they will be able to perform them. This means that effective managers should concentrate on business process improvement as much as possible, in order to free up their employees’ time for more critical work activity. Any mundane task that high-level employees are forced to repeatedly perform is waste, not only for the company’s bottom line, but for that employee’s skill set. In some cases, process standardization can help to alleviate the time commitment that essential, mundane tasks represent. In other cases, the correct solution may be selective use of outsourcing operations to free up employees to focus on their core skills.
- Identifies solutions – Peak performers tend to be those who consistently look for better ways of accomplishing goals. As a manager, you may find employees come to you with problems in hand, looking for solutions. While this may lead to frustration on your part, it is important to identify this trend for what it is – an attempt by the employee to improve the company that he or she works for. With this in mind, managers should encourage employees to bring proposed solutions to these problems. This can both improve efficiency in insurance operations and make the employee feel valued. Employees who bring effective solutions should be rewarded appropriately for their efforts.
- Perseveres – Even the highest performing employees will occasionally encounter professional difficulties, either as a result of something in the workplace or something at home. An effective manager knows how to identify these troubles and recognizes that each employee requires a different type of support. Some employees need direct support, which can come in the form of a conversation about the issues that he or she is facing, while others are more likely to persevere when the problem is not directly acknowledged by their superior. In the latter case, encouragement that is unconnected with the issue at hand or a temporary reduction in workload may be more appropriate.
The most effective insurance operations managers recognize that most, if not all, of these characteristics are not necessarily innate, but can be developed in a workforce via the correct management strategy and company culture. With a commitment to supporting these characteristics in a workforce, a manager can significantly increase the performance of his or her employees.