The performance puzzle what separates top performers from average ones

In life and in business we often talk and hear about “top performers” and many of us try to emulate their successes. But what makes someone a top performer? We analyse how some of the best businesses tackle performance and seek the views of experts on what separates top performers from average employees.

Company culture is undoubtedly what an organisation owes its success to, and ultimately determines the quality of its performance and what the organisation sets out to achieve. Performance culture is at the core of competitive advantage, because it shapes the way people behave and establishes the way in which things are done.

Top performers thrive despite the setting they are positioned in, however inadequate the guidance or obscure the challenges they are tasked with. They lend their vision and drive to the environment and engage people in making the right decisions, creating change and seeking advancement.

We spoke to experts in the field who have identified what they think the most essential quality of a top-performing employee is and what it takes to succeed in the coveted and crowded Greater China market.

One of the things that all high performers generally have is a point of view. They don’t tend to sit quietly fretting over speaking up and they have the confidence to back themselves.

Enthusiasm and passion

“The most important quality is the enthusiasm and passion that high performing employees have for their work. This enthusiasm drives them to work harder, work smarter and to find ways to improve on existing processes and ‘status-quos’. The people who are less than enthusiastic about their work tend to drop in their performance level, even though they may be technically very strong and skill-wise very competitive. To be successful in the Greater China market, companies need to deploy on-the-ground local resources to keep on the pulse of the market and to manage the cultural differences that inevitably affect business operations. ” – Joy Huang, President, Connect East

Communication skills

“One of the things that all high performers generally have is a point of view. They don’t tend to sit quietly fretting over speaking up and they have the confidence to back themselves. However, the people who do speak up are broken down into two camps; firstly, those who react emotionally to events in the moment and secondly, those who respond rationally. In a fast-paced external environment such as Greater China, where market sentiment, cultures and time zones are constantly changing as one travels, the resources that are needed most are great communication skills and an ability to handle constant change.” – Mark Weston, Head of Arcadia Consulting


“Resourcefulness is the most critical quality. This is especially useful and beneficial in Greater China where one is required to navigate through its hyper competitive markets, convoluted and evolving regulatory environments and largely unreliable partners.” – Frederic Ducros, Principal Consultant and Coach, AGI.LI

Being open to continuous learning

“The key skill is ‘being open to continuous learning’. High performers are always looking to enhance their skills and take advice from a wide variety of sources. They never think they have ‘made it’ and are always aware of maximising their abilities through learning. Passing down this trait to people in their teams is also vital as it engenders an improvement and learning culture. This is particularly important in Greater China as the landscape continually changes whilst the country develops. What worked a few years ago may not be relevant anymore as the focus and pace of the economy evolves as today the region is focused on a return on investment, productivity and profitability.” – Andy Bentote, Senior Managing Director, Greater China, Michael Page

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The unique, multicultural and fast-changing nature of the Greater China market means that high performance does not come from one particular skill, but more from the following skill set:

  • an enthusiastic and passionate approach to working hard
  • having refined and rational communication skills
  • practising resourcefulness
  • constantly seeking to maximise abilities through learning
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