Leaders are known by their results. Your organization’s results improve when the performance of you and your people improves.
It sounds obvious, and yet performance development remains, at best, an oxymoron along with jumbo shrimp, responsible teenager, and airline food. At worst, it is an overused promise with as much street cred as “I’ll respect you in the morning.”
Most people want to and do a good job. My guess is that 85 to 90 percent of the people with whom you work do a good job every day. They don’t walk on water without getting their ankles wet, but they know what is expected and they do it.
Here’s the rub: 85 to 90 percent of your competitors’ employees are delivering on expectations every day as well. And, you can’t distinguish yourself as an organization until all – or at least more – of your employees distinguish themselves as high performers.
Here are five questions that must be answered to move your team from “fully successful” to “high performance:”
- Do they know what high performance looks like? Average performance is mistaken for excellence in a world where everyone is lousy at their jobs. The best in your organization or even your industry may not be the best example of truly high performance. Broaden your horizons. What does truly world class performance look like? You can never deliver on it if you can’t define it.
- Do they have the capacity or potential for high performance? I will never dunk a basketball on a regulation height goal without assistance. It just won’t happen. I could come close when I was 18, but not today. No amount of desire will out enough spring in my legs to bridge the gap between my height and the rim of a basketball goal. Likewise, some people just don’t have the capacity or potential to be anything more than fully successful at some parts of their job. The best thing you can do is to be honest with them and help them find a place where they can be a high performance player. Remember: Never teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.
- Do they have the desire to be a high performance player? Just as there are situations in which no amount of desire can overcome capacity, there are instances when no amount of ability can compensate for the lack of desire. There are extremely talented toiling away in mediocrity in every field of endeavor simply from a lack of desire. You can lead the proverbial horse to water. You can’t make him drink or even acknowledge that there might be a good reason to drink,
- Does the environment encourage high performance? Pedro A. Noguera, Ph. D., a Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, wrote “Beset with such an ominous array of social and economic hardships, it is hardly surprising that the experience of Black males in education, with respect to attainment and most indicators of academic performance, show signs of trouble and distress.” And yet, examples abound of African-American males excelling in the most challenging academic programs. Environment matters for excellence in education, and it matters excellence at work. If the environment stinks, over the long haul, so will the performance.
- Are you willing to invest the time and resources to educate and train? Tiger Woods, the best golfer in the past generation, takes lessons to improve his game. We’re not talking about the occasional swing correction. Tiger has a coach who works with him on a regular basis to get better. Would Tiger be a good golfer without the continuous investment in improving his performance? Absolutely. Would he have been able to achieve his dominance in a profession where the difference between first and second place is often less than two strokes over seventy-two holes? It is doubtful. So what are you willing to invest to make the move from fully successful to high performance?
Bart Starr, Hall of Fame quarterback for the National Football League’s Green Bay Packers, talked of his first meeting with then new head coach Vince Lombardi. Lombardi said, “Gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence.”
Today’s competitive environment dictates that being fully successful at your job relegates you to “just one of many options” status. The chase to excellence and high performance is on-going. Isn’t it time you started?