Performance 2

Many people believe that top performers have an innate ability to succeed. They have something special that propels them to greatness. This is not true. A team of average performers can become outstanding with the right leadership and development. The following is my perspective on how to become a servant-leader and inspire your teams to greatness by focusing on their personal success, not yours. As a Senior Manager at a nationwide financial firm, these principles led my teams to rank #1 in the country. I now help Fortune 1000 firms achieve greater levels of success by utilizing technology to help drive these principles.

Get your mind right

How you view yourself and those you lead will ultimately affect your trajectory. Take a hard and unbiased look at how you view yourself and those you lead. What are your expectations of yourself and others? Is what you say congruent with your behavior, or are you sending mixed signals? Even if you praise your people, if you feel that they are incapable of being a high performer, then your actions or voice inflection will betray your feelings about them, and your praise will fall on deaf ears. The brain is highly perceptive at picking up on incongruity, and your people will know how you really feel about them. If they think that you don’t believe in them, then they will behave like low performers. People identify with roles, and if you treat the people you lead like they need you, and that they are incapable of doing the things that you do, you will always have a team of people who are dependent, and you will always be busy solving their problems. Now on the other hand, if you treat people like they are highly capable and your voice and actions carry that conviction, they will believe that about themselves and will perform at higher levels. In addition, they will be more autonomous and you will spend your days working on building your team rather than putting out fires. This is not really a secret, nor is it something new, but it is foundational to building a high performance team.

Stop using money as your main motivator

People are not inspired by money. Sure, people want to be paid for their work, that’s table stakes, but many people will only work hard for money to a certain point, then it becomes an ineffective motivator. The reason is that money is only a conduit to an end goal.  This is a reason that many managers fail to develop top talent. They think that all they need to do is dangle a financial carrot and their team will all charge towards it. But what really happens is that only the person on that team whom really needs that money gets motivated, the rest of the team views it as a nice bonus if they should happen to win, but they do not increase effort. The way to get everyone on your team to perform is by getting to know what is important to them as an individual and helping them to achieve their goals/dreams. But this isn’t as easy as it seems. First you have to…

…Interrupt their lives

You see, life is a problem. The problem is that life gets in the way of us focusing on what we need to do to perform at a high level. After getting the kids ready for school and battling the morning commute, the last thing on peoples’ minds when they get to work is “How can I be great today.” When a team member has just arrived at work after sitting beside a sick family member, they really aren’t thinking of how they can get “employee of the month.” As a leader, your job is to interrupt that pattern of getting through the daily routine on autopilot and set the stage for a productive day. How? Ask them why they are really at work that day. Challenge your team to think past the immediate like paying bills, focusing more on things like end results. It will be different for everyone. The reason may be to send their kid to college. It may be to help a parent in need. It may be to buy that dream home so that they can start a family. The specific reason doesn’t matter. You may not even agree with their reasons. What matters is that they are focused on a purpose, not a check, and that purpose will motivate them to step outside of their comfort zones. Through our normal routines we get so sucked in to the daily grind that we forget to stop in think about why we’re really there at work. We stop dreaming or having a vision. This process will help your team realize the importance of having a productive day and put your people in the right frame of mind to positively affect their lives that day. It also gives you valuable information as to what makes them tick on an individual level so that you can help them achieve their individual goals. This is just a start to the process. If you asked them that same question every day it would get old. The goal is to help them turn visioning and planning into a habit. As a manager, this is easily done by incorporating goal setting and vision planning into a monthly or quarterly review. You hand out worksheets with questions that get them thinking about their lives from all sorts of angles such as professional aspirations, family goals, financial dreams, and physical wellbeing. When you review the documents, encourage updating or outright changes. If they are not progressing in a certain area, revise that goal, and then focus on what they have accomplished. Find something to celebrate. The point is not that they are accomplishing everything they ever dreamed of, rather it is that they are focused on their desires, as those are the most powerful motivators of all.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Now that your team has a desire to perform it is your job to give them the skills and tools in order to be great. The best way to do this is through practice. Some managers say, “I hire professionals, and they don’t need me to help them practice.” While talent is contributor to top performance, if you ask any coach of a top professional sports program what makes their players great, they usually refer to how seriously their players take practice and how hard they prepare for the game. If multimillion-dollar professional athletes at the highest level of talent practice every day, why shouldn’t your people be studying, practicing, or preparing for the day for at least 20 minutes in the morning before they start their work? If your team is not in a sales function, then they should be working on skills or studying aspects of their work thus leading them to perform better. If your team is a sales team, then they should be role-playing and challenging each other in the morning. Not only is this an opportunity for them to learn from others and build camaraderie, it also prevents them from going into their first opportunity cold, having a bad conversation and setting the tone for a poor day. After all, do you really want your salespeople practicing on your customers?

Make success a habit

Success can be defined in many ways, not just sales goals, so be creative. When a team is not hitting their goals, focusing more on that particular goal and pounding the table is ineffective, because it just reminds them how they are failing to meet that goal. Instead, break the end goal into steps that lead to accomplishing the larger goal and set goals for those steps. When they exceed those goals, celebrate it. Achieving the smaller victories will help the team build confidence and create an inertia that will push them through failures. The point is to make success a part of the person’s or team’s identity, because once it is, they expect it from themselves and that is more powerful than any monetary carrot.