Leadership Caffeine™: The Difference Between Finishers and 70-Percenters

image of a coffee cupThere’s a class of professionals in the world one of my former bosses labeled as “70-Percenters.” They’re the people who are great at making noise, and even getting things started, but they don’t know how to close. They’re not finishers.

Are you a Finisher or a 70-Percenter? Are you cultivating Finishers on your team?

5 Key Behaviors of Finishers: 

1. Finishers walk into the heat. The 70-Percenter runs away from messy situations, while the Finisher understands that she owns a problem or difficult team situation until it’s solved. She recognizes that one of her jobs is to lead the cleanup on organizational spills, and she relishes the opportunity to help a team move from disaster to success.

2. Finishers understand that commitment IS commitment. The 70-Percenters are masters of excuses. Finishers eat accountability for breakfast, exude responsibility all day long and display fortitude in the most difficult of circumstances. Projects are completed, issues are resolved, problems are fixed and opportunities are pursued with a vengeance.

3. Finishers want the ball with time running out. 70-Percenters fear the implications of blowing the final shot. They look to pass the ball. Finishers are the sales representatives who engineer game-winning drives to bring home the orders at the end of the quarter and the engineers and developers who understand what it takes to go from whiteboard to finished product.

4. Finishers aren’t glory hounds, they are results fiends. 70-Percenters love the limelight, and live to find it. Finishers value the results and lessons learned. They climb mountains because they’re there and they complete their work, because anything else is tantamount to giving up. Finishers don’t know the words, “I give up.”

5. Finishers look around corners for answers. 70-Percenters run from vexing dilemmas and situations where the answers might involve a blend of experimentation and hard work. Finishers understand the iterative nature of most solution development activities and live to experiment and to gain insights from non-traditional sources in untraditional ways.

 The Bottom-Line for Now:

Finishers make the world go. 70-Percenters are along for a fun ride, but they don’t provide much locomotive power. As a leader, strive to cultivate Finishers on your team. Reinforce accountability and importantly display the behaviors that teach by example. As an individual contributor, adopt the behaviors above. They need to be part of your professional DNA.

While a team filled with Finishers offers its own challenges, it certainly beats the painful monotony of coping with the chronic under-performance of 70-Percenters.

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By | 2016-10-22T17:11:22+00:00 April 14th, 2013|Career, Leadership, Leadership Caffeine|5 Comments

About the Author:

Art Petty is a coach, speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.


  1. Tony Curl April 15, 2013 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Great Article. Great Question. Really challenged some reflections.

  2. Nicole April 16, 2013 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    Got distracted while reading this and almost stopped reading at about the third or fourth behavior in the list…would have been a 70% for sure if I did!

  3. Dr Jonathan Hughes April 17, 2013 at 9:40 am - Reply

    Great post. As a Finisher myself I concur with a lot of what you say. But all teams require a balance of skills. Frankly, a team made up entirely of Finishers would be a nightmare! Why? There’s always a law of diminishing returns and one Finisher’s idea of when a job is 100% complete is not anothers. Perfectionists never know when to stop. The 70-Percenters lso have a role to play. They create enthusiasm, momentum and engagement with others outside the project. They are also the first to recognise when things are never going to work and there’s a better opportunity available.

  4. Bill J. April 17, 2013 at 10:04 am - Reply

    This is almost synonymous to Pareto’s principle, 80-20 (“that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.”). I prefer my own take on this principle as it applies to any work force which is 10-80-10. 10 percent work extremely hard all the time (100% Theory X), 80 percent work but reap the benefits of others (Theory X most of the time), and 10 percent, little if anything at all (100% Theory Y). It’s all generalities.

    Overall, I like the article, thank you for sharing.

  5. David April 17, 2013 at 10:44 am - Reply

    Great article. I have also found that the 70 percenters like to sabotage the Finishers because they are a constant reminder of their own inability to get the job done.

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