Spotting Elite Performers and the Intangible Traits that Make Them So

Bob Cavoto, Managing Principal & Founder, 20/20 Foresight

As the Winter Olympics approach, we are beginning to see and read coverage of the elite athletes who are “going for the gold.”  Invariably, the segments or feature articles about athletes reaching for the pinnacle of their sports touch on the intangible characteristics that turned a young skier, skater or snowboarder into an elite athlete.

As a business leader, you’re constantly looking for your industry’s version of an elite athlete – that extraordinary executive whose somewhat intangible traits result in achievements that far exceed the results of a typical employee, and can alter the performance of the company or firm that employs her or him.  So how do we find that elite performer for you?  How do we ferret out those traits that are tough to determine through psychology tests?

As Adrian Furnham Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today, elite performers "need the sheer drive to succeed."  He adds that, “It is often easier to describe elite performers than understand how they became so good. They seem to see patterns differently and read situations faster. They seem to have a bigger repertoire of options; they look more confident and more in control. It all looks so effortless; but that is not the case.”

Dr. Furnham goes on to note that when looking at talented and elite performers people forget:

1. How much they have and do and will practice.

2. What they have sacrificed for the skill.

3. How they set their own targets.

4. How driven they have had to be.

5. How little they believe in chance, luck and personal gifts.

At 20/20 Foresight Executive Search we don't forget.

We agree with Matt Oechsli, the author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients, who wrote in Wealth Management late last year that there are four distinguishing traits of elite performers:  ambition, discipline, self-awareness and deliberate practice.

When searching for the ideal candidates for our clients we follow a well-honed process designed to source the deepest pool of active and job candidates our competition often miss.  We leverage our industry expertise and vast network of contacts to create a disciplined, customized search for each assignment.

When it comes to finding candidates with the traits of elite performers, we utilize our rigorous interviewing process and our expertise in the industries we serve to ensure our clients only meet with well screened and highly qualified candidates.  

We also conduct tests that measure for traits including mental aptitudes and personality dimensions.  While we believe the clients should take the results from tests into consideration as they offer invaluable insights, it’s hard to test for drive -- and drive is something you need to be a top performer, especially in a high level position.

It’s our in-depth interviews that help us ensure that candidates not only have the right technical skills and experience, but also possess the ambition, discipline and other key traits listed above to be an elite performer.

Our point of view is that we aren’t simply looking for professionals who can get the job, we are charged with finding and presenting candidates who can do the job and, hopefully, exceed our client’s expectations.  

Once the ideal candidate is selected, we stay in close communication with the client and the candidate through the entire acceptance process to help enable a smooth transition.  We also maintain regular contact with both parties throughout the first year of employment.

If you’re in need of an elite performer to help your organization realize business goals, know that we are here to work with you to find him or her.  

For more information on U.S. and international executive search services, contact 20/20 Foresight at or 708-246-2100.