Leadership – Creating an environment for developing optimal performers (September 2010)
We have long supported the idea that if your employees are not performing it is probably the leadership that is not performing. In order to get the best out of your team you need to be sure you are providing the right environment for them to develop in.
Assuming we have provided our employees the right environment, we have found that there are six characteristics of optimal performers:
1. They are able to transcend their previous levels of accomplishment
2. They avoid a comfort zone, that no-man’s land that feels too much at home
3. They do what they do for the art of it and are guided by compelling, internal goals
4. They solve problems rather than place blame
5. They confidently take risks after laying out the worst consequences beforehand
6. They are able to rehearse coming actions or events mentally
When evaluating your team, review them against this list and then ask yourself:
1. Who are the most likely to be optimal performers?
2. Do I have my performers aligned with their talents – i.e. “Are the right people in the right seats on the bus?"
3. Am I, and my leadership team, creating an environment for these performers to flourish and excel?
What does that environment look like? Certainly it may vary by company and industry to a certain extent; however, there are several commonalities. There are many methods to research this topic - one of our favorites: ask your employees! Three simple questions can go a long way when it comes to determining what your employees feel would help them to succeed and thus the company:
1. What are we doing well?
2. What could we be doing better? and...
3. If you were CEO what might you do differently?
Recently we worked with a company where the leadership of the organization wanted to control all decisions and none of the employees were empowered to make a decision without running it by the CEO first. The consequence of course was that no one really wanted to take a risk for fear of being rejected by the leadership. Staff members were hesitant to look forward or innovate because all of that was either discouraged or basically done for them. Needless to say, they had fallen behind in many respects in their technology and perhaps in the desire of their teams to transcend their current state. The right environment was clearly absent.