Three Things Over-Performers Do

November 2, 2014


Time and again, research among CEOs and companies of all sizes shows striking similarities. While the organizations are so different in industry, size, location, and type of customer, the challenges they face – and what they must do to succeed – are very similar.

In a major research project involving hundreds of senior-leader interviews, executive roundtables, and online surveys with 10,000 people, three winning characteristics emerged from those companies that return the best and most-consistent financial performance.


Over-performers have a business strategy that is woven into the warp and weft of every activity. People work either on-strategy or off, so the more they communicate about strategy, focus, and priorities, the more on-strategy work gets done.

All organizations can realize significantly-greater financial results by taking a strategic approach to internal communication. The highest-performing companies typically involve employees at all levels by somehow connecting them to the business strategy. They use endless creative ways to do this. They consider the people in all departments strategic partners for growth. All employees, from clerks and phone center reps to IT specialists, accountants, attorneys, and sales professionals share the same common vision for the future.


Under-performing companies typically experience dysfunctional teamwork, suboptimal collaboration, and a lack of shared purpose and trust. Top-performing companies connect people inside the organization to form cross-functional teams which builds the organization’s competitive capabilities. When people across department lines pull and push together toward the same objectives, cycle time gets shorter, quality improves, and it sets the stage for better collaboration and an overall higher-performing company mindset.

The Customer Experience

Top-performing companies don’t think “customer service.” Instead, they define and create ideal customer experiences. They increasingly enhance the value of their brand and products and services by creating better, new, and different experiences in two ways:

  • One way to improver the customer’s experience is to deepen the relationship, typically by leveraging what is known about a given customer to fine-tune certain offerings; and another way is to…
  • Increase the breadth of the relationship, typically by adding touch points (more points of contact with the customer). Consistent, high-quality, and memorable customer experiences across all touch points, whether digital or traditional, create an advantage others can’t easily copy.

Simple Practice for Leaders

As the pace of change accelerates and the business environment becomes more complex, it’s too difficult, maybe impossible, for any one person to know everything. That’s why the responsibility for defining direction must be broadly shared—with all organizational members. Only a broad, participatory process can engender wholehearted and widespread commitment to proactive change.

When it comes to setting direction, influence should be a product of foresight and insight rather than power and position. Leverage the untapped knowledge within your organization. Ask employees questions like these. Their answers will tell you how much your people are pushing and pulling together:

  • What are our top three priorities here? What should they be?
  • What is the one important question we must answer to improve our performance?
  • What do our best customers really expect from us?
  • What is the one thing we do so well everyone should know?