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The Top Performer’s Field Guide: So, You Want to Be a Top Performer, Huh?


I’ve been studying top performance among individual contributors and leaders for over three decades. I’ve studied it academically. I’ve studied it practically. And, I’ve studied it across multiple cultures in dozens of countries across five continents. One question that drives me is, “Why is it that so many people can generate sustained top performance, while so many others get spotty results at best?” This question has driven me for my entire career as I have examined top performing individual contributors and top performing leaders across startup companies and small businesses, large organizations, academic institutions, and nonprofits.

The fact of the matter is, sustained top performance has nothing to do with degrees or credentials or education or training. Each of these things plays a part, but none of them alone is a predictor of sustained success or top performance. Sustained top performance comes from a combination of how we consistently THINK, coupled with how we consistently ACT. Of course, our ability to take certain actions is heavily influenced by our skills, the education and training we receive, and our prior experiences. But it is also heavily influenced by the way we think – how we view ourselves, how we view others, and how we look at the circumstances we face. How we think is a huge determinant of how we act. Our thoughts lead to the creation of certain feelings and emotions. Those emotions, in turn, lead us to behave in certain ways. Those emotion-driven behaviors are what ultimately lead to the results we achieve. In the final analysis, thinking and acting have more to do with top performance than just about any other factors.

In my coaching and consulting practice, I conduct over four hundred individual engagements annually with top performers across all industries and across all sizes of organizations. These top performers represent individual contributors and senior executives within organizations, and also include entrepreneurs, innovators, and change agents. I have come to recognize the similarities in their sustained success. I also recognize the similarities in the strenuous emotional demands they face. The Top Performer’s Field Guide is designed to address many of those demands by allowing the reader to step away from the fray, take a few moments of respite, and establish a healthy frame of reference.

Look, the last thing you need is more work, right? Because you are a top performer, you already do more work than any three of your colleagues. It’s the nature of the beast. People look to you because you are successful. They lean on you because you get results. This Top Performer’s Field Guide is not meant to be additional work. It’s designed to be a “breather” for you – a breather that results in new, immediately applicable insights. And, if you’re not a top performer just yet, this book is meant to launch you on the path to get there.

The best use of the Top Performer’s Field Guide is to take some time each week to STOP what you’re doing and to ENGAGE with one of the chapters. Read the material, reflect on the questions and actions and then go back to work. Over the next day or two, think about those questions and actions. When you are ready, take a few more moments to sit down and do what top performers do – answer the questions, plan the necessary activities, and then TAKE ACTION! I guarantee you’ll be glad you did. When you’re ready, I’d love to hear about the impact. Give me a shout. It would be an honor to speak with you.

Jeff Standridge

Dr. Jeff D. Standridge is the best-selling author ofThe Innovator’s Field GuideandThe Top Performer’s Field Guide.”  He serves as Managing Director for the Conductor, and teaches in the College of Business at the University of Central Arkansas.  Jeff spends the vast majority of his time helping organizations and their leaders generate sustained results in the areas of innovation, strategy, profit growth, organizational effectiveness and leadership. Learn more at
(Top image courtesy of iStock)

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