Successful leaders recognize it's not enough for their team to work hard, pay their dues, and keep their heads down. This often leads to "middle box," average performance. Change your team's approach to work and have them become world-class employees.

It's easier than you think.

On my first day of work at a Fortune 500 company, I had a senior leader turn to me and say: "Ben, just do something every day that will set you apart from most employees."

I thought he must be joking at the time; but with 87 percent of employees disengaged, according to Gallup, he was onto something.

I have owned that mantra since that day, and it has made all the difference.

Good things come your way when your employees choose to "do something".

Sharing this mantra with others on my team helped me conquer years of frustration, rise within my organization, and leave a positive legacy.

I moved up in the employee rating system, got recognized with 3 awards, and was even featured in the company newsletter for my results on a big project.

Ever since, I have offered this simple approach to other leaders and their teams. And it has resulted in them receiving unexpected bonuses, promotions, and most importantly, a much more gratifying work day.

You may be asking yourself what to do next. Try one of these seven actions today with your team, and watch your employees' ascent to world-class.

#1 Clarify their single, biggest priority

Average employees prioritize their daily to-do list in a vacuum without the perspective of the broader team.

As the leader, proactively clarify the biggest priority for your team and the organization, so your employees can scan and prioritize their to-do list based on a win for the company.

Taking action on this priority system ensures more value to everyone's bottom-line.

#2 Encourage them to lead on something plaguing the office

Disempowered employees live in the world of "waiting to be told what to do." This over burdens leaders to identify, assign, and delegate resolving problems.

Encourage your team to step up when others don't, and keep a list of the problems that people have been talking about for years:

  • the double reporting across groups
  • the two systems that require manual entry of the exact same information
  • the extra steps suppliers must take to do business with your company that don't add any value.

Ask them to select a problem based on return on investment for your organization; then proactively resolve it or provide solution options without being told to do so.

#3 Demonstrate the intelligent gamble

Average employees either never take risks and thus limit their results, or they take them so big that they could damage the organization.

As their leader, it's up to you to demonstrate how to take strategic risks.

Walk them through how to take a risk so small that it won't break you or the company, but make it large enough so you can see the impact and correct as you go along.

  • Make a confident decision with the best information available versus hesitating and waiting for more analysis.
  • Take on a project that has a chance of failing, but you know you'd get some amazing learning.

The key is to take frequent micro-risks, a.k.a. intelligent gambles. This accelerates your development and boosts your results for the company.

#4 Explain the WIIFM principle

Sales teams and internet marketers have used this strategy for years, but I find that employees rarely use it within their organizations.

WIIFM stands for "what's in it for me." In other words, always position your requests, pitches or proposals so that everybody gains.

Average employees can use this principle when they make requests by email. Encourage them to always explain what's in it for the other person -- whether that's you or another manager -- when they ask for something via email.

Notice how much more effective and efficient your team becomes at getting things done.

#5 Reframe a crisis as an opportunity

Average employees get quickly overwhelmed by crisis.

Instead, encourage employees to focus on opportunity.

Although it may be difficult to see, just acknowledging that crisis can represent an opportunity to shed a more inspiring light. It also plants a seed of hope that something good will come from it.

I've always been in awe of how engineers handle crisis as opportunity. While all the "business folks" are freaking out, engineers get really excited when there's a problem because they get to investigate, resolve, and often make things better than they were before.

From personal experience I can say this takes practice especially since so many of us have been taught to fear crisis. Practice this action by asking your team to write down the answer to this simple question:

What opportunity could this represent?

#6 Complete a project A-Z

Average employees work their piece of the process with disregard for the finished product.

Require your team to ask questions about the bigger picture, then offer to pitch-in to help with any potential delays further down the process.

This generates a personal feeling of accomplishment and protects the bottom-line for the organization.

#7 Transform a whine into a win

Average employees complain. The trick for every leader is to turn the whine into a winning opportunity for you, the team, and organization.

Before another complaining employee walks into your office with another problem, require them to come up with three possible solutions.

This fosters more creative thinking and innovation, and it takes the pressure off of you to come up with yet another answer.

Now choose one of the strategies above, and begin creating world-class employees for your organization.