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Are You a "One-Percenter"? . . . . How do You Rate? Here’s a List of Dos and Don’ts of Top Performers.

Updated: Apr 24

There is a reason why the top performers – the “One-Percenters” – consistently do so well in business and life . . . it’s because they do the things, big and small, that set themselves apart from others.


There is nothing wrong with “average.” Average is good. It’s acceptable. Do you feel you’re an average worker? Are you better than average? How much better? 


Would you like to be a One-Percenter? Do you want to be the type of person who gets frequent promotions and big raises? Do you dream of starting and running your own business or nonprofit? Do you want to be liked and respected by people around you, yet viewed as humble, gracious, and generous?


If you want to be a One-Percenter, or have the desire to improve your performance in the workplace, then commit yourself to learning and applying the following principles. If you do, you’ll find yourself in an elite group of leaders who make a difference.

Here’s a List of Dos and Don’ts of Top Performers. How do you rate?


17 Dos of One-Percenters

1. Go above and beyond

Why? Most people do what’s required and many times that feels like a burden to them. Not for the One-Percenters; they are always looking for ways to provide more value and go the extra mile. They find time to help others when they’re busy, do things to make their work exceptional, and submit projects ahead of schedule. They deliver the goods.


2. Build a high-quality personal brand

Why? The average person doesn’t think much about their personal brand. In fact, many don’t even know what a personal brand is. However, One-Percenters care about their personal brand – a lot. They know a personal brand is the composite of the images, impressions, and opinions people have of them. Good or bad, they know they are always making impressions on people. 


They are aware of the small things that affect how people think of them such as how they greet and treat others, and act under stress. They know their mannerisms, hygiene, and tone of speech affect their brand. One-Percenters continually refine their brands because they know a strong, professional, and likeable brand can go a long way to opening doors throughout their career and beyond.


3. Demonstrate leadership skills

Why? Not everyone is cut out to be a leader and that’s fine. One-Percenters study and practice leadership, and they are always looking for ways to take on leadership roles. They are quick to raise their hand for team projects to showcase their ability to lead and inspire others. Even outside of work, they display confidence, decisiveness, and a positive attitude in challenging situations.

They lead by example. They are the ones organizing a ski trip for friends, or an outing with their coworkers, or a fundraising event for one of their children’s high school sports teams. As leaders, they happily step up to lead and inspire when others won’t. And, as a leader, they know that people will be jealous of them and try to bring them down, but that doesn’t deter them from being a leader, or shying away from leadership opportunities when they arise.


4. Develop quality relationships

Why? Many people are lone wolves at work and keep to themselves. They build physical and emotional walls around them, keeping people at bay, which can cause workplace loneliness and depression. One-Percenters are friendly, outgoing, and personable, and nurture positive relationships with colleagues, superiors, and subordinates.

They understand networking is crucial for career advancement, and that building strong interpersonal skills can contribute significantly to their success. Therefore, they keep in touch with people, help others, go out of their way to meet people at events, and thank people in nice ways.


5. Exhibit exceptional communication skills

Why? Many people don’t think much before they write or speak, and because of this, what they write or say can often be misconstrued or confrontational. One-Percenters know that communication is an art, and that to excel in business, a person must know the nuances of writing and speech to masterfully persuade, convey, and motivate.

They study writing and storytelling techniques, and tactics for giving speeches. They are good public speakers. One-Percenters are also exceptional listeners, knowing that it’s more important to ask thoughtful questions and be a good listener, than to be a good talker. 

6. Have a passion for learning and growing

Why? Some people are content to leave work at work. Others feel they studied enough in high school and college. Not One-Percenters; they know knowledge isn’t about degrees, it comes from a lifelong passion for reading, learning, doing, and experiencing. Sure, they have fun outside of work, but they regularly set aside time to keep updated on industry trends, technological advancements, and relevant skills. They attend workshops, webinars, conferences, and training programs to enhance their knowledge and stay ahead of the curve. They enjoy trying new things and going to new places. They are smart for a reason – they learn.


7. Take initiative

Why? Some people wait to be told what to do, or they just sit in their cubicle and do their job. One-Percenters make things happen. They want to take action and contribute. They want to make a difference. They think of ways they can step up and contribute to benefit their team and their organization. And they are quick to volunteer for projects and tasks when everyone else is running for the door. 


8. Make things “unexpectedly” pleasurable

Why? Most people can easily volley pleasantries and be nice, but One-Percenters say and do the little, unexpected, things that make people feel valued and appreciated. They are gracious and generous and don’t expect anything in return. For example, they may buy coffee for the security detail, provide flowers for the office entrance, take someone to lunch who is overlooked in the office, or share some homemade toffee with a new coworker.  


9. Ability to sell

Why? Many people don’t get a promotion because they don’t know how to ask for one. Some have trouble closing deals because they don’t know how to. Others might not get what they want in life because they don’t know how to ask for it. One-Percenters, no matter what profession they’re in – at whatever level—know sales. They study sales and negotiation techniques. They know what influences people, they know how to persuade, they know how to position, they know how to close, and they are confident they can get what they want by strategically asking for it.


10. Think of ways to innovate

Why? The average worker tends to stay in their lane. One-Percenters like to daydream and brainstorm. They think out of the box to make things better to improve a project or their team. They understand the big picture, and offer suggestions to improve systems and processes that impact the bottom line and help the organization achieve its goals.


11. Help fix problems

Why? When some people have a problem at work, they often go whining or complaining to their supervisor. When One-Percenters hit a snag, they embrace it and try to figure out a solution. If they need to bring a problem to the attention of a supervisor, they come armed with three options: 1. They offer a potential solution. 2. They explain the expected outcome if the problem is not addressed. 3. They ask for advice.


12. Arrive early for everything

Why? Some people are habitually late to meetings and Zoom calls, and it’s irritating to those who show up on time. And leaders who think it’s some “power move” to walk into meetings late are only stroking their egos. One-Percenters value people and their time and always show up early to any type of meeting because . . . “If you’re not early, you’re late!” To them, “procrastination” is a foreign term. They meet or exceed deadlines, and show they can handle multiple tasks and responsibilities simultaneously. 


13. Express gratitude regularly

Why? Many people are “takers,” not givers, and they rarely express thanks for good things happening to them, or to the company they work for. Not One-Percenters, they regularly thank management and express gratitude for the good things happening to them, within their department, and with the organization. And they are gracious, kind, and thoughtful people who often express gratitude for the good things happening in their lives outside of work.


14. Talk Others Up

Why? Many people want to feel appreciated for the work they do, but are unwilling to express their appreciation of others. One-Percenters are constantly looking for ways to make their coworkers and the leadership look good – and not just in private settings, but in public settings. This is often done on a Zoom call, at a team meeting, or at an offsite event. They actively give credit where credit is due. 


No, they don’t make these gestures to “suck up;” they do it as a genuine act of expressing appreciation and value. An example would be sending out a simple email after a meeting saying, “Great meeting, Jon, it was very inspiring and we all need a boost of confidence after losing that big deal with Pfizer.”


15. Get dirty

Some people just give up when things get tough. One-Percenters are gritty. They know how to dig deep and be resourceful when they need something, or they need to do something, or they need to learn something. They are resilient. They know that everything is “figureoutable.” They never give up – ever. They take action and they are willing to fail, but fail-forward.


16. Set Clear Goals

Why? Most people have vague goals or no goals. One-Percenters have clear personal and professional goals, and regularly review their goals, and make adjustments in their efforts to achieve their goals. They know that having a well-thought-out plan for their life and career growth shows ambition, dedication, and a vision for success.


17. Keep a diary of accomplishments

Why? When it’s time for promotions and bonuses, most people do a poor job of recalling what they’ve accomplished during the year. One-Percenters keep a journal of their successes, accomplishments, and highlights so they can easily make a convincing case for supporting why they deserve the raise or promotion they’re asking for. And they know it’s good for building a resume when seeking new employment.



8 Don’ts of One-Percenters

1. Don’t go to the dark side

Why? Some people are willing to cut ethical corners to get ahead. One-Percenters know that the risk is never worth it. Engaging in dishonest or unethical behavior can have serious consequences on a career—possibly ending it. Even the smartest people get caught. This extends to things like taking credit for other people’s work, lying, cheating, or stealing. One-Percenters know that having high standards is good business and they sleep better because of it. 


2. Don’t come to work drunk, stoned, or hungover – EVER!

Some people think it’s okay to come to work on occasion with bloodshot, half-mast eyes after Monday Night Football. Or, that it’s okay to smoke a little pot at lunch, or come back to work after lunch, smelling like a microbrewery. One-Percenters know that leadership might not say anything when they see a person under the influence, but they will never forget it. And each time it happens, it erodes the person’s reputation and brand. One-Percenters also know that if they attend a work function that involves alcohol, they never have more than one drink—ever!


3. Don’t gossip

Why? Some people like to gossip and spread rumors at work because they are inherently negative people and it makes them temporarily feel powerful or “in-the-know.” For others, it’s a method of communication that gets others to listen to them. One-Percenters know that any type of personal, team, work, or public gossip is bad, period. They know that gossiping, spreading rumors, or saying negative things about people, will most certainly come back to haunt them, and that being thought of as a gossip is a surefire way to lose respect of coworkers and leadership.


4. Don’t cross HR boundaries

Why? Some people think it’s okay to push the HR (human resources) boundaries. They may say jokes, make comments, or use words or phrases that are inappropriate or insensitive. And some cross boundaries and make unwanted advances, touches, or hugs. One-Percenters clearly know where the HR boundaries lie and never cross them. They know that doing so, even once, can cost them their job and possibly taint their career and brand forever. And they accept and respect people of varying backgrounds and identity without judgement.


5. Don’t whine or complain

Why? Some people often feel good about themselves when they dump their personal problems, negativity, and baggage on others. People may listen like they care, and some do, but most don’t want to hear it, and for many, it’s annoying. One-Percenters know to keep their personal problems and baggage under tight security. They keep things positive and avoid the negative. They never blame others and are willing to take responsibility and be held accountable when they fall short. And they know it’s important to be open to constructive feedback.

6. Don’t do personal stuff at work

Why? Some people like to do personal things on work time and find ways to justify their actions. They shop online, do social media, and even watch porn. One-Percenters do work at work, and take care of personal things on breaks, lunches, and after work. They know to use workplace technology responsibly and avoid excessive personal use of company resources. They also know that many organizations now monitor website traffic on company computers. 


7. Don’t date someone from work

Why? Some people believe that it’s okay to date someone at work if they happen to fall in love. One-Percenters know that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. A failed work-related relationship can have lasting and uncomfortable consequences, which is why One-Percenters avoid dating others at work, even if the place of employment allows it.


8. Don’t ask a coworker how much money they make

Why? Some people want to know the salaries of their coworkers because they want to make sure they get as much of the pie as the next person, even if they don’t deserve it. One-Percenters know that it’s tacky and inappropriate to ask someone what they make and would never take the liberty to ask a coworker.



One-Percenters know that building a successful career, or building a business, is a marathon not a sprint. By consistently working to improve yourself and applying the attributes and principles above, you can transform yourself into a One-Percenter and increase your chances of becoming a huge success and a gracious leader with lots of friends and a broad network of connections as you make your dreams become realities. 


It's 2024? Are you Thinking of Strategic Planning, or Hosting a Board Development Retreat in the Coming Year? Then, go with the best! Click on the links below and find out why First Things First retreats will exceed your expectations at a price you can afford, and why Tom is rated America's Best Retreat Facilitator. Or, simply email and say "Take us Higher!" in the subject line and we'll set up a meet-and-greet call to answer your questions. For details about a retreat day, click here:

Tom Iselin

“America’s Best Board Retreat and Strategic Planning Facilitator”

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