Talent, Ambition and Hard Work are Not Enough

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Few things are more frustrating for a talented, highly motivated employee than watching as others get promoted, are given "high potential" assignments, or in other ways achieve greater career success – especially when those others are not noticeably more talented or hard working.

"Why not me?" the ambitious employee wonders. And it is easy to go down the dark path of assuming the game is rigged. That corporate politics and "who you know" is more important than actually doing good work. While this is sometimes true, the tougher lesson is that if you are intending to achieve a high trajectory career path, having ambition and talent, and working hard will probably not be enough. For anyone.

Achieving exceptional career success requires something more – and defining that "something more" is challenging because it is different for every individual and every career.

Yes of course the true hyper-achievers are ambitious, talented and hardworking. But they also typically possess other less tangible qualities which help to drive their achievements so far beyond others who might have similar talent, ambition and work ethic. Two of these qualities are:

  • Charm
  • Clear Communication

The Power of REALLY Liking People

While there are numerous definitions of charm and many opinions regarding what it takes to be charming, one common theme is that charming people show a genuine interest in the perspectives and interests of others. This doesn't mean that they go out of their way to agree or align with the opinions of others – in fact, often they delight in contrary opinions. But they truly enjoy human interplay and engagement because at their core they really like most people.

This is in contrast with the cliched perspective of the hyper-achieving super human who barks orders at employees and is generally annoyed by the presence of others. This is more of a fictional construct than a reflection of what actually happens in the real world of work. Generally speaking, hyper-achievers are not jerks, they are charming and people-oriented.

From Complexity to Clarity

In today's work world we all have to be clear communicators, but high trajectory hyper-achievers have a specific ability to communicate complex, difficult issues in a manner which others can easily understand. This often means synthesizing a complex idea down to a summary – without losing the critical essence of the idea – which is easier said than done.

Hyper achievers know when NOT to communicate, they thoughtfully pick the right place and time. And they carefully tailor a message for each audience, knowing when to dig into the details and when to skim the surface. They are also masters at leveraging metaphors and infographics, both of which can help to quickly communicate complex information.

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These two qualities are certainly not an exhaustive list. I would be very interested in your thoughts regarding the subtle, intangible qualities of hyper-achievers.

Beyond talent, ambition and hard work, what other qualities do YOU typically see in high-trajectory hyper-achievers?

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