Do you consistently excel in every performance category that’s critical to your success? If you do, you’ll continue reading because you’re obsessed with continuous improvement.
If you’re not a high performer, you’ll read on because you want to become one or you’ll move on to something else because you’re comfortable with the state of mediocrity you’re living with.
According to the High Performance Organization Center, high performing organizations (HPOs), far exceed their respective peer group organizations over a period of five years or more by significant percentages. Here’s the data.
Performance Measure %
Revenue Growth 16
Return on Assets 12
Return on Equity 25
Return on Investment 26
Return on Sales 18
Total Shareholder Return 42
I’ve worked with many high performers if you consider FedEx, Hallmark, IBM, Mayo Clinic, Marriott, P&G, Toyota and USAA to be high performers, which I do. I’ve advised many run-of-the-mill performers who wanted to improve. What most characterizes the high performers?
Leaders are hard and soft.
They build open, trusting, respectful, caring relationships with their people while insisting on stretch, discipline and accountability. They walk their talk. Everything they say and do communicates the value they place on their customers and their people. They set a clear, shared direction, make sure their people have the resources they need to win and then get out of their way. They don’t hover, nit-pick or micro-manage.
They’re fact-based but not overly analytical. They’re action oriented.
Ethics matter. They’re consistent. They permit themselves to be vulnerable, which is what makes these leaders authentic which, in turn, is why people gravitate to them. They celebrate the hell out of the biggest and tiniest wins so everyone knows what’s important.
In nearly every organization I’m in today, people are bombarded by “stuff.” Some of it adds value. Much doesn’t.
“Why are you doing this?” I ask an employee.
“Because my manager wants it done,” the employee responds.
“But,” I ask, “what about the customer; does the customer want it done?”
“It doesn’t matter. My manager says it needs to be done.”
Knowing what to focus on and what to get off your plate because it doesn’t make a difference to customers is a hallmark of high performers.
I’ve guided a number of lean transformations. One of the most fundamental components of lean is eliminating work that adds little to no value to the customer.
Part of superior execution means aligning all the processes and systems so they drive energy–work–in a common direction. That means measurement, rewards, recognition, learning, work processes, structure and technology. Each of these systems communicates what’s important. When they’re at odds, people become confused. Energy is dissipated and performance declines.
Superior strategy execution includes a long-term focus on employees, customers, shareholders and the communities in which you do business. HPOs don’t jerk their people around. They stay simultaneously focused and agile so they can make course corrections when the external world changes.
Communicate through what you say and do.
HPO’s are obsessive about creating open, trusting environments. These environments sometimes make run-of-the-mill organizations uneasy. Of course, everything can’t be shared openly. However, “We can’t share that” is often a phrase used by a leader who doesn’t trust people. Jack Stack, author of The Great Game of Business and the pioneer of the open book management concept, believes if you want to inspire trust in your organization, open the books. Every employee in Jack’s company must be able to manage the cash flow statement, income statement and balance sheet. That’s trust!
So at a minimum, what information do people need most to perform at their peak? The research we’ve conducted over many years is clear. People need the following:
Context. The big picture, the business case for change, the “why” behind what we’re trying to do. Context makes everything make sense.
Vision and Strategy. A vision is a target, a picture of the future. A strategy is a roadmap, the plan to help you realize the vision. A vision is like the top of the box a puzzle comes in. Who will finish the puzzle first, the person who has seen the box top cover that shows the finished puzzle or the one who hasn’t seen it?
What’s In It For Me? The stake in the action, the quid pro quo. It binds people to the business and to each other.
Role. What’s my job? What results am I being held accountable for?
Support. What resources do I have to deliver excellence? This includes basic information needed to make decisions, tools, equipment, training, money and technology.
People will perform at unheard levels when they have this information and…
- There’s line of sight between what they do and the results they can create,
- They’re involved in the decision-making process,
- They have the information they need when they need it to get the job done,
- They know they will benefit when they take the organization to a higher level of performance.
Please let me know what you’ve done to become an HPO.