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What makes a great performer?

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Over the years, folks have asked me what I believe defines a "great performer." I say regardless of the circumstances, successful people generally display the same attributes. Superior achievements don't happen without great performers.

Great performers always own the jobs they have and take personal responsibility for getting it done right. They don't make excuses, and they don't wait until the last minute. They start early, creating a workable, flexible plan for the project with a start date, intermediate milestones, and a conclusion date that will get them to the goal on time and on target.

Great performers are enthusiastic and positive. They stay actively engaged throughout the planning and execution, ensuring the project stays on track and on schedule. They don't let naysayers or bureaucrats slow them down or decrease their enthusiasm. They do more than talk about the project, they make it happen.

Great performers practice "ruthless and relentless" management or leadership, a valid and useful description I borrowed from my commander, Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick at Multinational Security Transition Command in Iraq.

He meant that a great performer does not let up on the pressure to get the project done and will not allow others critical to the project disregard or ignore it.

In other words, great performers do more than hit the send button and passively wait for the results. They follow through with additional e-mails, phone calls, and visits to ensure they are aware of the project's status. If they feel the project is being slow-rolled or stonewalled, great performers exhaust their personal resources then engage their leadership for additional help.

As part of that, they report the status of their projects clearly and succinctly to their leadership, so the situation and potential issues are crystal clear. And they don't just present problems to leadership. They present solutions or potential courses of action to solve the issue rather than put that burden on their leadership.

Finally, and most importantly, great performers spend their time with other great performers. They don't hang around with losers. The only way to fit in with winners is to be a winner!