If increasing your team’s performance is your goal… you may be chasing the wrong target

High Performance

How do your teams support performance?

How often have you said or heard one of your managers say, “I would love to be able to increase my teams’ performance?”
If increasing your team’s performance is your goal, you may be chasing the wrong target.
Performance is a by-product rather than a goal in itself,  as with happiness in a relationship.

 Like high performance,
happiness is a desired state;
yet if we chase it, eludes us
Neither can successfully be established
as the primary goal.

Happiness (as with performance) is the result of something – for example meaningful work or a good marriage.  Happiness is the result of focusing on establishing understanding and respect in a marriage, not of a focus on happiness.
In the same way, high performance comes by focusing on developing key elements in your company, not by focusing on performance itself.
High performing companies have three key elements: a clear, compelling strategy in alignment with the company values and people committed to the cause.
 Clear, Compelling Strategy
Remember playing broken telephone – you all sat in a circle and one person initiated a message which was then passed around the circle, whispered from ear to ear until the last person repeated aloud what they heard?  Usually it was a garbled distortion of the original message.  Company strategies are often communicated in a similar fashion.
A strategic communication approach, where it is left for each level of leadership to communicate to their direct reports, has the same ‘broken telephone’ effect.
Understanding (and commitment) decreases with each communication at each level it is passed down.
Even if the strategy statement remains clear, does it engender commitment?  Does anyone care?
A professionally worded statement may be clear, but is it compelling?

 For a strategy to translate into focused performance
it must be clear and compelling

Imagine the focus in a company where everyone has a clear picture (and can tell you in their own words) of the company’s reason for existing, where it is headed and what its strategy is.
If you want to test the uniformity of the direction your employees or team are working towards, survey (formally or informally) and check the uniformity in understanding of:

  1. Why the company exists?
  2. Where is it headed?
  3. What is its strategy?

Personalisation of a clearly communicated, well understood strategy may well give you as many different wordings as people, however, you will be able to tell if they’re all describing the same picture.  If they “get it”, they will have personalised it.
Apart from other obvious benefits, a clear picture of the company’s strategy and goals allows alignment with personal goals.  This strong tangible connection between personal and company goals means the company’s agenda is their agenda.
Companies that show the “performance difference” have a strong alignment between personal and company goals and philosophy.  They are open in their communication around goals and expectations.  They are a partnership grounded in an understanding of simultaneously moving employer and employee towards their strategic goals.  Synergy is the product of this partnership.
VeriFone doubled their revenues in 5 years (to more than $300 million) and former CEO, Hatim Tyabji, was very clear about the importance of alignment between personal goals and company philosophy, expectations and direction.  They used alignment at the recruitment stage.
Before hiring a new employee they were very clear about the quid pro quo of life at VeriFone. The quid pro quo, in return for all the freedom we offer, is a tremendous emphasis on accountability.  Some hear the message and realise “This is not for me.” Fine. Others start but do not fit the mould and leave.  Left, are those who align and this is seen as integral to the company’s success.
Energy, Initiative and Commitment
Alignment leads to personal commitment.  A personal commitment to the success of the business unlocks a passion that energises us.  A community of people committed to the same thing not only feeds that energy, but also increases the accountability and the expectation of success.  The focus isn’t performance – the focus is building a company of people committed to a clear and compelling strategy; people whose personal agendas are met by meeting the company’s agenda – performance is the result.
When the focus is performance the interaction between company and employees becomes transactional which undermines commitment.  However, personal commitment is made stronger by being part of a community (all who work for the company) who are committed to the same agenda.

The result?
Even obstacles are approached with initiative and a commitment
to seeing the strategy work.

A ‘High Performance Culture’ is the result of a focus on:

  1. A clearly communicated picture of a compelling strategy.
  2. Open communication around both company and personal goals and an expectation that they will be strongly aligned. Even to the point where it is part of the recruitment process.
  3. Recruiting for, and rewarding energy, initiative and commitment together with a clear expectation of accountability.