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How Top Performers Communicate – Insights from 2M Emails

Thursday May 26, 2022

communication of top performers

Everyone wants a team filled with top performers. You want to have people that are productive and excited about getting through their work. So how can you foster that? It depends on several things. However, MIT did a study that shows email communication style predicts work performance with 84% accuracy.


Two million work emails were analyzed to determine there are three common characteristics among the top performers. They are highly responsive to email, they assume central network positions, and they use complex but positive language. Check emails from team members to see how they stand up.


MIT researchers discovered that email communication style predicts work performance with 84% accuracy.


Analysis of 2 million work emails identified three things that characterize the communication of top performers:

 – They assume central network positions
Central email position enables individuals to access a wide range of information.
On top of that, individuals initiating informal interactions beyond formal organizational structure, accumulate social capital and are more effective in collaborative tasks.


 – They have high responsiveness to emails
The average number of emails that need to be sent to a top performer in order to get their response is lower.


 – They use more positive and complex language
With low emotionality, but rich in influential words that are reused by co-workers.




The study identified three categories of top performers:

communication of top performers


How to Identify Top Performers on Your Team


Of course, knowing these three email characteristics isn’t the only way to identify your top performers. You can also look at the skills of the people on your team to get an idea of who might be one of the best performers. Common traits of top performers include:

  • Initiative and self-direction
  • Drive and determination
  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Strategic thinking skills
  • Confidence when making decisions
  • People skills and high-quality interactions with team members


While these are good skills to look for in top performers, there are other things to consider. For instance, what skills, traits, and abilities are valued by your company? Take down a list of these things. Then look out over your team to see who embodies the most important ones. Those could be the ultimate performers on your team.


If you want a specific time for choosing top performers, don’t discount employee reviews. You’ll already be talking about the performance of each team member. While you do that, pay attention, and watch for the people who stand out. Those could be the people you need to support as they become more crucial to team and company success.


How to Support Top Performers on Your Team


Once you know who has the potential to perform well, you need to offer them support. One method to do this is by giving them more autonomy. Let potential leaders have a chance to make decisions, delegate, and do new things. It’s important to show that you have trust in them and their abilities.


Beyond that, discuss the goals of your team members. Find out what people want to do beyond their current position. Once you have an idea of where team members want to end up, you can work with them to help them achieve those goals. When workers feel supported, they’re more likely to perform to the best of their abilities.


When you provide autonomy so employees can work on their own, it empowers them. Adding in support to meet their career goals creates a feeling of being able to do anything. It’s also important to make sure each great performer has a space to grow into. Find ways for them to move upward or laterally to meet their needs and performance is likely to soar.


Listening to the best performers is another piece of the puzzle. But it also goes beyond just sitting and taking in what different team members have to say. After listening, take action when it is appropriate. If you have the power to make changes that help workers, go forward and do that. Use the feedback to create an exceptional workplace.


When team members do well, make sure they receive recognition for that fact. However, you also should provide feedback to them. The people who have the best performance tend to be open and welcoming to feedback. Some may even ask for it as a way to do better in their positions. Share openly and continuously.


When sharing feedback, there are a few things you can do to make it useful. For one, make sure you’re specific about what the feedback pertains to. It should be goal-focused and designed to help a worker do better. It’s also best to provide feedback promptly so it can be implemented quickly.


High Potential vs. High Performer


There’s a difference between a high performer and a high potential employee, although both can be useful. Based on research from Gartner, high potential team members are three times more likely to be successful as leaders in the future than others at the company. In addition, Vincent van de Belt from Vandebelt & Partners notes that being able to distinguish between potential and performance is key to identifying talent.


So what is a high performer? This is someone who stands out from the average workers on a team. They’re going to exceed expectations and be selected for challenging projects since they always get things done. These individuals take pride in doing well and are excellent at their jobs. However, they may or may not want to go into advanced work. It’s also a gamble on whether they will do well there.


A high-potential individual is something different. These workers are those who have a great aptitude for technical abilities and the potential to make a huge impact. These are people who can do a lot more for the company. However, keep in mind that high potentials with low performance might not be the right people to move up the ladder.


High performance is easier to identify than high potential. In addition, many businesses don’t keep track of the competencies and skills that are ideal for employees. This can make it hard to assess who has great potential. However, doing so can have a huge benefit on your growth and innovation in the future.



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