What are the common characteristics of high achievers?
I delivered a presentation last week to the Northwestern Alumni Association on a recent study I’ve been working on about common characteristics of high achievers.
Actually, it’s a very informal study. Maybe I shouldn’t even call it a study. Mostly it’s just been me taking people out for a glass of wine and conversation.
I’ve spent my whole career in Silicon Valley, and I’ve known a lot of really smart, interesting people. Some of them have become super-high achievers, while others are just as smart and just as interesting but never seem to get themselves where they want to be.
As a CEO I spent a lot of time thinking about this, partly to figure out what characteristics I wanted to emulate, but also what characteristics to look for in hiring. I’m a firm believer that building a team is the most important thing a CEO does, and that the most important things to know about someone are not on their resume. So if making the right hires is so crucial, and what you’re looking for is not on their resume, then what are you looking for?
A few weeks ago I started my little informal research project on the topic. I began by reading all the literature, from Stephen Covey’s wildly-bestselling “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, to Carol Dweck’s groundbreaking research on “Growth Mindset”, to the famous Stanford Marshmallow Experiment.
From there I moved to taking people I know out for glasses of wine, and asking them what they think are the common threads that run through people who are exceptionally good at achieving things.
It was a pretty fun little research project. The results? Well, you can watch my presentation below. And then send me an email — I’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences with this topic!