The 15 Disciplines of High Performers

Excerpt from “The A Player: The Definitive Playbook and Guide for Employees and Leaders Who Want to Play and Perform at the Highest Level” by Rick Crossland.

Top performers, also known as A Players, approach work differently than average employees. Here are 15 disciplines and mindsets from the book, “The A Player: The Definitive Playbook and Guide for Employees and Leaders Who Want to Play and Perform at the Highest Level,” that high performers embrace to produce superior results. How well are you personally applying each discipline into your daily routine?

  1. Do the Things Only People in the Top 10 Percent Do. How willing are you to do the tough things the bottom 90 percent is unwilling to do? If you are already an A Player and in the top 10 percent, then set your sights even higher for the top 5 percent, or an even higher percentage like doing what the top 2 percent or 1 percent do. Paradoxically, the A Players work the hardest to improve even more.
  2. Sacrifice by Delaying Gratification. A Players have superior performance when compared to average people. The critical factor in this is the ability to sacrifice in the short term for a longer-term gain. While B and C Players are busy seeking shortcuts, the A Player realizes that sacrifices for practice and preparation are needed to earn greater results and returns in the long term. Doing what is right and necessary ahead of what is fun and easy is the key to success. Do the hard work now and the easier work follows. Forego the hard work and the easier future may never materialize.
  3. Be Prepared. Take a tip from the Boy Scouts of America motto: “Be Prepared.” A Players don’t suffer from hubris and don’t “wing it.” Instead, they meticulously prepare for every meeting and business review. Take more data and materials than you think you’ll need. Inevitably, you’ll need the information, and you’ll be glad you were prepared.
  4. Practice. Like top athletes, A Players always practice their craft. This is a fundamental discipline that separates the As from the Bs and Cs. A Players love the chance to practice their skills or presentations, while Bs and Cs resist practice with an “I know it all” attitude. Raw talent is not enough. As Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer instructs: “Talent plus Practice equals Skill.”
  5. Review Your Numbers and KPIs Daily. A Players are disciplined and study their key performance indicators (KPIs) daily. In fact, they develop a routine to review these critical numbers at a similar time each day. From this daily discipline, A Players are always informed and able to make good decisions and actions based on facts and data.
  6. Practice “Lombardi Time.” A Players know the value of punctuality and practice “Lombardi Time” by being 15 minutes early to meetings and events, a requirement of legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi of his players. By doing this, you value others’ time and put yourself in a situation to interact with other A Players who also practice this discipline. You will be amazed by the amount of critical connections and key business you will engender by practicing this discipline.
  7. Self-Control. A Players certainly can “work hard and play hard.” But they do it with a degree of self-control not exhibited by the B or C Players. A Players tend not to overindulge by consuming too much alcohol and getting sloppy. The same goes for coarse language and being inappropriately outspoken. You are being evaluated at all times, and lack of self-control in these areas can be a career limiter.
  8. Fitness and Sleep. In general, A Players take better care of their bodies, minds, and souls than B and C Players. A Players watch their weight, diet, and get enough sleep so they are optimal performers each and every day. The best have amazing daily exercise rituals, as well. They also have the discipline and self-control to pass on extra calories or late night revelry.
  9. Be a Disciplined Learner. With innovation increasing at an exponential pace in many industries, A Players realize their knowledge soon can become obsolete and that learning is the key to winning and remaining ahead of the curve. A Players are disciplined in their learning approach. A best practice for A Players in this area is to scan news relative to your field daily; read your industry periodical weekly; and read two technical, self-development, or business books monthly. Audiobooks also count in this area and are a great way to maximize your drive time with a valuable activity.
  10. Be Responsible for Your Own Training. With the advent of the Internet, training on any required system is available to you within seconds via a few keystrokes. A Players train themselves. They also read the training manuals B and C Players are “too busy” to read. A Players also train on their own watch, so working hours are preserved to produce the results they were hired for.
  11. Turn Information into Intelligence and Insights. Information only goes so far. Actively scan information to derive trends and patterns. These trends and patterns become intelligent insights that are far more valuable than the information itself.
  12. Ask Insightful Questions. Questions are the answers. Be known by the great questions you ask. People who “tell, tell, tell” all of the time wear on us. Great questions empower others and enable us to expand our learning and understanding, as well. If you really want to help somebody, ask a great question. The interrogative form of speech is more powerful than the declarative.
  13. Writing and Systems Development. The timeless adage of “if you really want to know something, then teach it” applies here. A Players are disciplined in writing down their thoughts in presentations, white papers, business cases, and systems. The discipline of writing enhances the quality of your thinking as a result of the psycho-neuro-motor activity that occurs when thoughts are translated to paper through either a keyboard or pen stroke. This discipline also creates enduring, valuable documents that create leverage in the organization. The best businesses have documented systems. Be a contributor to creating these.
  14. Become a “Collector of Jewels.” A mentor of mine suggested this metaphor to me years ago and it is a powerful visualization of how A Players view all of the knowledge available to them on a daily basis. These jewels are available to all of us. There is no limitation on access to them. Strive to add a couple of jewels or pearls of wisdom to your collection each day.
  15. Practice Gratitude Daily. Discipline yourself to take a few moments each morning to think about all the things for which you are grateful. Add in a prayer each morning as a great antidote to combat the inevitable struggles we all face in life. You will be amazed at the difference gratitude and prayer will make in your life.

Excerpt from “The A Player: The Definitive Playbook and Guide for Employees and Leaders Who Want to Play and Perform at the Highest Level” by Rick Crossland.

Rick Crossland is author of the book, “The A Player: The Definitive Playbook and Guide for Employees and Leaders Who Want to Play and Perform at the Highest Level.” He works with organizations across the country to transform good companies into great companies. For more information, visit

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