Characteristics of winners

Donna M. Gray, CRM, is the owner of Total Awards & Promotions/, Madison.

And the winner is … wow, when those words are spoken, one person, or a group, or a business, or a group of businesses lets their breath out and stands up and goes to accept their reward amid rounds of applause. The feelings they have are electric. The crowd loves them. Everyone loves a winner!

Since my business is all about celebrating winners, I thought it would be interesting to identify the qualities and characteristics that help make a person, or a business, a winner, and here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Winners are good leaders, with a great sense of responsibility. They not only can head up an organization, they’re very good at building their teams. They set a good example for others. They value other people. They realize that other people can help them on their path to success. Helen Keller, who won her battle with challenges and became a great educator, said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Winners know that others can help them to turn their dreams into reality.
  • Winners are risk-takers. They’re ready and willing to try new things, and will usually lead the pack in breaking new ground.
  • They have great strengths in making decisions. They reason things through, do their homework, ask others for feedback when necessary, and make their decisions based on gathering good information.
  • Winners are good at overcoming challenges. They don’t let the little things get to them. They’re persistent. The Green Bay Packers’ most well known and loved former coach, Vince Lombardi, always told his players that “winners never quit and quitters never win.” Those in training to be winners can follow the old axiom, “98% is showing up, 2% is talent.” Though Thomas Edison had some failures on the way to inventing the light bulb. His take on this was, “I did not fail. I discovered over 10,000 things that won’t work.”
  • Winners have a positive attitude. It seems like even when they have days where things are in flux, they don’t lose their cool. They focus on positive outcomes, and they use positive people as sounding boards for their challenges. Their personalities go along with the positivity. They’re usually bubbling over with enthusiasm.
  • They’re flexible and adaptable. They can switch gears quickly, and they’re always open to any opportunity that comes down the pike.
  • They learn from their mistakes. They don’t dwell on their mistakes, as many do, but rather, they find ways to make sure the mistakes aren’t repeated. I know many who get mired in a pit of anguish when they discover that they or their company has made an error. They don’t make excuses for their mistakes. They own up to their responsibility, put mistakes behind them, move on, and work toward “making lemonade.”
  • They think big, set big goals, and focus on achieving their goals. They don’t let the daily minutiae get in the way of their “real” objectives. They’re able to choose what to work on that will take them to where they want to be. They’re committed to making good on their goals, and their commitment gives them the energy to keep working toward success.
  • They spend free time reading up on things that will move them forward in their professional and personal lives. They read inspirational books, and all materials that help them get, and maintain, a winning attitude. They work on developing themselves to their fullest potential, constantly focusing on ways to improve.
  • Some describe winners as having intensity, hustle, energy, passion. Some people have it, and some don’t. Some teams get it, and some don’t.

When I was compiling all these important traits, I spoke to several actual winners to find out what they considered important in their daily work “toolbox,” and each of them talked about “focus and finish” (concentrating on key tasks until completed) as being the key to going home satisfied at the end of the workday. Some might have a tough time with that, since some days, when arriving at the workplace, they have a good idea of how the day will go, and then the phone begins to ring, and the parade of “interruptions” starts, and suddenly, for many, it’s the end of the day and their to-do list still includes projects that were on the list at the start of the day. “Focus and finish” sounds absolutely perfect – and could work – if there were a few more hours in the day.

So with “focus and finish” being keywords in achieving success, how does one draw the line with the daily interruptions to getting things done? Today’s customer relations and marketing experts remind us that “customers are never an interruption.” Winners “go with the flow,” and they can switch course as needed to act on opportunities. We really never know if the customer who just walks in is going to bring the opportunity that makes the year’s bottom line shine.

Winners also know that to be successful we have to do what successful people do, and that means we have to be action oriented, and ready to step up and take care of business that surprises us. Winners don’t wait for business to walk in the front door. They take the actions that will bring in business. Jonathan Winters, Grammy Award-winning comedian, actor, writer, and artist, once said, “If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to meet it.” Since he was a winner, I’ll trust that advice.

Another attribute winners have is they keep a clean, neat workspace. Desk and office are well organized for productive work. They take action with every piece of paper that comes cross their desks so they don’t get involved in a “paper trap.” At the end of the day, they put everything away and leave a clean work surface, ready for the next day.

Winners spend a lot of time with other winners, by networking with them, joining their clubs, and socializing with them. They make winning connections by volunteering (and really getting involved, even when they have to get their hands dirty) for worthy causes that attract other winners.

Now that we know more about how to spot a winner – and since you are preparing to be a winner – are you prepared to accept your award? Here are a couple of hints on how to react when you hear the words “and the winner is,” and then your name is called. If you’re collecting a serious award, then whooping, punching, and jumping up and down are not in order – until you get home. During the thunderous applause that greets you as you approach the podium, smile appropriately; look confident, but not arrogant; shake the presenter’s hand; collect the award; hold it carefully; and say “thank you!”

Congratulations! Good job! Well done!

Sign up for the free IB Update – your weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. Click here. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.