High-Performance in the Workplace

Until this evening, I had no familiarity with the Bell Labs study, examining predictors of high levels of performance in the workplace.  Their study suggested that it wasn’t grades, or other kinds of academic success, and it wasn’t even IQ or other typical academic-success predictors.  Instead, after some years of study, they named at least nine attributes that do appear to contribute to high levels of performance:

(1) Taking Initiative. Top performers took responsibility above and beyond their stated jobs, volunteering for new activities and promoting new ideas;

(2) Networking. Top performers were deft at tapping into coworkers’ expertise and shared their own knowledge with those that needed it;

(3) Self-Management. Top performers were very good at regulating their own work commitments, time, performance level, and career growth;

(4) Perspective. Top performers understood their jobs within the larger context of the organization and could analyze problems from the viewpoint of customers, managers and team members;

(5) Followership. Although perceived by others as leaders, top performers excelled at setting aside their own agendas and using their talents to help other leaders accomplish the organization’s goals;

(6) Teamwork. Top performers were more willing to assume joint “ownership” of goal setting, group commitments, work activities, schedules, and defusing conflict among group members;

(7) Leadership. Top performers had the ability to formulate, state, and build consensus on common goals and then work to accomplish them;

(8) Organizational Savvy. Top performers recognized and thus could navigate competing interests within the organization;

(9) Show-and-tell. Top performers typically had the ability to present their ideas persuasively in written or oral form.

I think many law schools probably do a good job of helping our students on some of these, probably less well on others, and some I’m not even sure how one would go about trying to teach.

The study forms one of the bases of the set of ideas for a re-modeling of the economics of law firms in William Henderson’s “Are We Selling Results or Résumés?: The Underexplored Linkage between Human Resource Strategies and Firm-Specific Capital” — available here and described by the folks at the empricial studies blog here.

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