Identifying star performers
Screening and developing the right skill sets for a position is essential. But managers who place too much emphasis on job qualifications mistakenly ignore personal qualities that, when combined with competencies, result in extraordinary performance.
Managers are usually comfortable assessing an employee’s or a candidate’s job-related competencies based on resumes, testing and interviewing. But singling out personal traits that contribute to star performance is harder. The following seven qualities provide managers with the best clues:
Speaks up: Speaking up to express constructive ideas and offer suggestions are qualities managers should encourage. Star performers are usually vocal when they believe a decision is wrong, and they defend themselves and their ideas when challenged.
When someone speaks up, it shows a commitment to the work and to the company. It’s a sign that the employee thinks for himself, practices critical thinking and is highly engaged.
Displays modesty: In the May 9, 2012, Wall Street Journal, columnist Brent Stephens offered advice to this year’s college graduates: "Your prospective employers can smell ‘BS’ from miles away. And most of you don’t even know how badly you stink."
But self-puffery is pervasive. Just read online self-profiles. Look for the employee or candidate who lets ideas and performance do the talking. Those are the people who give credit to the team and partner with co-workers.
Challenges "magic bullet" answers: It’s so easy to fall prey to "magic bullet" solutions. Star performers can look at any issue from different perspectives, poke holes, learn from past mistakes and chart how a seemingly fail-proof solution may have unintended consequences. And because they have strong networks, they know who needs to be brought in to find a solution.
Practices introspection: Self-knowledge is perhaps the most critical trait star performers possess. When you see a competent employee respond immediately to constructive criticism, you know you have a star performer in the making.
Achievement comes from being ruthless with ourselves.
Recognizes the importance of customers: Far too many of us have difficulty recognizing that customers can help or hurt a business. Yet most of us can recall a time when we stopped patronizing a business due to terrible customer service.
Star performers engage with customers. They seek feedback, and consider and respond to what the customers are saying. Encourage employees to informally engage in dialogues with clients, and see how well the employees synthesize those conversations and translate them into improved processes or better goods and services.
Avoids overusing jargon: When someone speaks in heavily industry-specific jargon and acronyms, his purpose is to make himself sound smarter or to exclude others from participating in the conversation.
Jargon is a substitute for clear thinking and accurate communication. When you see or hear it, it should be a red flag.
Remains accessible: Walk the halls of most corporate offices and you can hear a pin drop. Employees engage in little talking—in person or over the telephone—primarily due to email, instant messaging and texting. That’s not necessarily a problem, especially in cubicles where people should be respectful of others.
However, an obnoxious trend has taken hold, especially among younger employees — earbuds. Employees who listen to music or online talk through earbuds send "do not disturb" messages. Earbuds have replaced closed office doors as signals from people who are not approachable. Just like knocking on a closed door, walking up to someone with earbuds is awkward.
Star performers seek out productive employee interaction; they don’t shut their world to it. While much office chatter can be trivial, the opportunity for interaction through personal, one-on-one conversation could lead to stimulating effective ways to understand someone else better and increase productivity.
These seven personal qualities are important in identifying star performers. A well-qualified, highly skilled employee who doesn’t possess them will not become a star performer—just like an employee who possesses these personal traits without the skills also won’t succeed. A star performer possesses a combination of both.
The author is founder of GrahamComm, a marketing and sales consulting firm in Quincy, Mass. He can be reached via www.johnrgraham.com.
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Market Recap: RISI Crow’s Construction Materials Cost Index
A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for Jan. 4, 2013
*Western – regional species perimeter foundation; Southern – regional species slab construction.
Crow’s Market Recap — A condensed recap of the market conditions for the major North American softwood lumber and panel products as reported in Crow’s Weekly Market Report.
Lumber: SPF trading was sluggish. Buyers instead tracked orders and shipments, needing deliveries. The reasons given by traders for the slower sales activity were numerous, but most centered on futures at a discount to the cash market. Southern Pine lumber prices continued to push higher. Mills maintained order files out 2-3 weeks, which was the primary driver of rising prices. Significant inquires making their way through the market added to the bullish approach by producers. The Coastal species lumber market remained strong, with mill lead times for a few items extended into early February. Producers reported moderate sales, as buyers continued to experience significant takeaway activity. Market activity for Inland species lumber was slower. Limited availability left buyers searching for coverage. Mills reported receiving orders from outside their normal shipping regions. Sales of Radiata Pine Mldg&Btr were steady and sometimes called brisk. Producers kept order files in close, in spite of offers to book further out. Buyers of Ponderosa Pine Moulding and Shop were still out of their offices or did not have a need to buy anything. The Ponderosa Pine board market ended the first week of the new year quiet. Activity was light due to the shortened week and some participants still being out on holiday vacation. Idaho White Pine sales were light, as were those for ESLP. Eastern White Pine sales activity was modest. Shipments of previously transacted orders outpaced moderate sales activity in the Western Red Cedar market. Those orders, generating mill order files extending through the first quarter and into the second, left mill inventories thin.
Panels: Carryover from last week’s active OSB market was light. Buyers who were in their offices and looking for OSB had difficulty finding producers who would quote. Wholesalers reported steady sales of previously purchased loads Buyers remained active in the Southern Pine plywood market, which was especially noteworthy after coming off a long holiday weekend into a short week. Availability was generally in the week of January 28 or sooner. Mill sales in the Western Fir plywood market were lackluster, due largely to few sales to eastern customers. Prices, however, remained solid or sustained a slight upward trajectory. The shortened holiday weeks did little to take the momentum out of the Canadian plywood market. Producers reported light but steady sales. Sales out of distribution were also steady. Several particleboard producers noted they were pleasantly surprised at how well their markets held up during the holidays. Moulding manufacturers continued to accept their allotted volumes, helping to keep MDF order files at a distance.
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Industry Dashboard for Jan. 7, 2013
The December national unemployment rate held steady at 7.8%, same as the upwardly revised figure from November. Also on the dashboard, gas prices leveled off at about $3.30 for a gallon of regular.