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Two Barriers That Stop You From Creating High-Performance Organizations

Of the many barriers to creating high-performance organizations, these are the easiest to fix, toughest to implement and most likely to trip you up

Throughout my career, I've been fortunate enough to lead in, coach in and create several high-performance organizations. 


There are two critical barriers I've seen put the brakes on a business shifting from 'regular' to high-performing:


1. Barriers Senior Leaders Put In Place

2. Barriers Created by Not Managing Performance


Barriers Senior Leaders Put in Place

Not Educating Themselves Sufficiently

Often senior leaders attend a seminar or read about the types of results high-performance organizations can get and decide ... "Full steam ahead. We need this in our organization!" However, they may have misunderstood or not fully informed themselves of the level of commitment - time, energy, resources, shift in mindset - that will be needed.  Needed by them and everyone in the organization to implement a high-performance organization design.

Engage a consultant who prepares the leadership team for what they need to do. You'll need a consultant who has transformed other organizations. Her or she needs to realistically help the leadership team understand the time, energy and resources they'll need to dedicate to changing how the organization operates. 


Make sure your senior leadership team understands the Valley of Despair. Because it will come up at some point during the transition to high-performance! They'll need to understand and know how to navigate their way through the trough of despair. Access Managing The People Side of Change to learn more about the Valley of Despair.

Abdicating Real Leadership

A huge barrier to creating high-performance organizations is senior leaders thinking they can 'sign the paperwork' and then abdicate implementation and behavior change to middle management. I've seen way too many leaders try to do this, and fail miserably. 


Those high-performance workplaces I've worked, led and coached in all had senior leaders who were not only advocates, barrier-busters and providers of resources; they fully committed to leading from the front. Role-modeling high-performance behaviors at ALL levels of leadership is critical.

Keeping Rules that Stifle Performance

Another barrier to creating high-performance organizations is being unwilling to remove the policies and procedures that are stifling performance. Trust is a massive part of high-performance. Senior leadership teams need to be willing to trust that most people want to do the right thing.


Most policies and procedures are designed to keep control in leadership hands. In many cases they stifle performance and innovation. Furthermore, they often stop front-line team members delivering exceptional customer service. Getting rid of deadweight policies and procedures is imperative. 

Not Giving Up Control

Following on from the point above senior leaders need to be willing to let go of control. Until you are ready to give up control, you'll always remain a regular-performing company.


Leaders need to do what they are meant to be doing: spending the majority of their time working on strategic issues. Rather than, as I see in many lower performing organizations, working on the 'busy-busy's'. Often leaders get caught up in the busy-busy's because (subconsciously) they can blame their lack of performance at strategic thinking on lack of time, rather than lack of capability! 

Busy being busy

You'll often discover in lower-performing organizations that leaders are frantically rushing around fighting fires. Doing tasks that someone on a lower wage could be. When this occurs, it means they aren't as focused on the strategic, long-term objectives and external forces as they need to be.

Hot Tip

If you are making a decision or performing a task that someone on a lower wage could be doing,

then you're stealing from the company. 

Not Having the Courage/Willingness to let go

Another barrier to creating high-performance organization is leaders comfort zones. I 'get it'. You got promoted on the back of your skills and capabilities. Unfortunately, those skills and capabilities might not be enough to keep you and your organization viable in today's rapidly changing world.


You need to be courageous enough to try something new. To lead in a new way. Any leader who steps into the high-performance world needs to be comfortable with being vulnerable. 


>> Look if high-performance was easy everyone would be doing it <<


You'll need to have the courage to say things like, "I'm not 100% sure of how we are going to do this, but I'm willing to learn." One of my favorite sayings in workshops is, "If you aren't learning and growing, how can you expect your people to be growing!"


Furthermore, you'll need to be committed to change for the long-term and walk your talk. For example, committing to being coached into high-performance leadership or visiting front-line offices/facilities each month, and then only doing it once or twice and going back to old habits. That type of behavior breeds cynicism and stops change efforts in their track. 

Barriers Created by not Managing Performance

Not having Information at your fingers to Track Performance

Being high-performance means you track and improve performance.

People need to have quick, real-time feedback that enables them to adjust their performance fast. 


Let me illustrate with an example. Imagine you decide to go bowling. You send the ball down the lane, and when the ball is a quarter of the way down the lane, someone puts a big curtain in front of you. You can't see how many pins you've dropped, whether the ball went straight down the lane or trickled off to the left or right. Two things will happen fast - one you won't improve because you don't know what you need to improve. Two, you'll get bored and stop playing/trying. 


The same happens in business. When people don't have feedback, when they don't have challenges, they become disengaged.


We are an innately competitive race and are always looking for ways to boost our performance. Your systems should spark that deep desire we human beings have to improve and better our 'score'.

Not Coaching Up or Coaching Out Fast!

Leading in a high-performance organization means you get good at coaching up or coaching out ... fast.


An under-performing team member often wields more influence in a team than any other individual. They drag everyone around them down.


If you let under-performance run on in your team you'll catapult into a low-performing team.


High-performers won't stick around and be dragged down by people who are just going through the motions. If you've got turnover issues, take a look at how many people are getting away with poor performance.


Here's something you need to grasp ... when a high-performance leader is coaching a team of high-performance individuals, then high-performing people  queue up to get into that team. And isn't that what you want?


Heard the saying 'birds of a feather flock together'? Under-performers drag down the performance of everyone in the team, and eventually they'll attract more low-flyers like themselves. 

Why should I bother

 Under-performers drag down the performance of everyone in the team

Not Having Regular One-on-Ones

If you don't have one-on-ones with your team members (at least monthly), you probably aren't getting the most from them.  And, if you are shaking your head saying I don't have time for this ... then take a step down from calling yourself a leader - take a pay cut and just be a manager.


The research is pretty clear. People need to have regular coaching from their leader. It is imperative they have a combination of both developmental and operational coaching. You have the greatest impact on the productivity and engagement of your direct reports. Discover how to get the most from your 1-on-1 meetings.

Consequences are Not Clear

Consequences for achieving/not achieving business objectives are not specified nor applied across the organization.  

Be clear. Applying consequences doesn't mean you are hitting people over the head with big sticks if they miss a target, or make an inappropriate decision. Do that, and you'll get people switched off. 


Instead, you want to develop their capability to think like a business owner - not a person who just turns up to work. 


When we run business acumen training, we help people shift from a 'turn-up-to-work' mentality to business-partner thinking. We do this by showing them what the numbers mean in your business and how they, as individuals, make an impact on the bottom-line numbers. For example, you'd be surprised at the number of leaders who believe a 10% discount means a 10% drop in profit. Do you think that too? Boy, do you have problems! It's even more disastrous is if your sales team feel that's true! Check out the Zodiak program to get this all-important training into your organisation.


Not Enabling People to Feel They are More than Employees

To shift your team to a new level, you need to shift their mindsets.


One of the first things you want to do is to shift them from thinking like an employee to thinking like a business owner.  It can be challenging to overcome this mental model of being an employee. However, when done well, it transforms organizations and the individuals within them. The Mindset of a High-Performance Employee program begins that transformation.


The other program I always use when creating high-performance organizations is Thought Patterns for High-Performance. For more than 30 years, this profoundly transformational program has reshaped performance in most of the Fortune 100 companies. Are you ready to start the transformation?

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