High Performers dive into career fields & give 100%. They expect others to give 100%. They expect to be compensated fairly. They expect to be respected and trusted. They respect and trust freely. They expect a certain level of autonomy and self-governance from others, because that’s what they bring to the table and they value it.

They are insanely self-aware and will be harder on themselves than anyone else. They push for the best from those on their team. They support each other while pounding it out. They set their sights high and don’t stop until goals are met. They carefully pick their team members based on productivity and attitude, more than skill set or degrees in hand. They search out other high performers.

They cannot be a low performers.

High performers cannot be low performers. No more than a monkey can be a giraffe.

Consider this: A team has agreed to climb a mountain. They arrive at basecamp. The high performer takes off — everything they need at hand. Soon they realize they are alone — walking in circles around the mountain waiting for the rest of their team to catch up. They look around and see the other team members are still sitting at basecamp, discussing which shoe laces will last the longest on the ascent.

Our poor high performer realizes he’s misunderstood his team of low performers for high performers. He is disappointed and…not to mention…physically exhausted. See, he literally cannot sit and discuss shoe laces. Frankly he just doesn’t give a fuck what kind of shoe laces you’re wearing. Are your shoes on? Great! Let’s go. Stop talking about it. Talking won’t get you up the mountain. Talking is noise and noise distracts.

High performers cannot tolerate work environments where there is more talk than walk. It’s a waste of time. And they have mountains to ascend.

Iterate or die.

High performers live by this motto. Literally. If they aren’t producing, they’re wasting time. High performers are generally not driven by consumption, they are driven by an innate desire to create, produce, solve problems, help others. They see this as a gift, and they treat it as such. They leverage this gift for others — and their own — benefit. And that is their focus. They are called workaholics, by many, who don’t understand this Iterate or Die principal.

They know they must hit the next milestone on the ascent up the mountain. They have miles to go before they sleep — and sleep cannot wait.

High performers generally exceed all expectations.

This can be a good or bad thing. When the high performer finds all the flaws on their team, they want to fix them and keep moving forward. Team member’s low quality shoe lace broke on the ascent? No problem, the high performer has extra in his pack. Let’s lace up and go! But they can’t. The other team member needs to stop and talk about the broken lace and make a point that his underperforming shoe lace was purchased because so and so said it would last. He always has an excuse. He can’t just say, “I bought bad laces. Thanks for the spare. Let’s keep moving.” Everything is an issue when nothing is an issue. The high performer doesn’t understand this, tells the team member with the broken shoe lace to shut up, lace up, and get moving — sundown is soon and they need to get on with the next process of the climb: setting up camp for the night.

So the high performer exceeded expectations, but notice credit wasn’t given. Credit was ignored, replaced with a blame/shame game that the high performer doesn’t understand nor wants any part of. He just wants a campfire lit, food on the grate, and a tent pitched before dark. He pushes on. Ignoring the chatter behind him. Someone has to get them squared away for the night.

High performers leave dysfunctional teams.

They don’t really want to but they must. High performers have no longevity in underperforming teams. Especially task oriented, deadline-driven, production focused, servant leader based high performers. They carry the weight of the team on their shoulders and they will burn out. They will have to leave. Who can blame them? The high performer has burned out. Their emotional resources drained. Their workload has exceeded their authority. There is little accountability in the team. While the high performer is setting up camp for the night, their counterparts are sitting around discussing routes for tomorrow’s climb. Even though the route was planned and agreed to months ago, and there is no reason to shift focus and direction. Again — too much talking and not enough commitment and drive.

The high performer will not summit with this team. They leave the next morning, heading back to basecamp, leaving the team on the mountain. No longer invested. No longer concerned. No longer able to put their own future on the line for their team members, who are still discussing shoe laces.

The team may actually reach the summit — but they will be torn, shorn, and exhausted when they do. And their descent back to basecamp, and back home, may not end well. They burned through all their resources on the ascent. Not considering the consequences of such poor planning.

High performer burnout syndrome takes root.

The high performer has left, seeing only impending doom. He is fine — he made it back home from his mountainous journey with resources to boot. But he is frustrated, worn down, and his morale is beaten up. He breathes in. He exhales. And he takes his next step forward.

It’s what he does.

He’s a high performer.