Monday, November 15, 2010

How to achieve peak performance

There are 5 critical steps in obtaining peak performance:

1. Don’t expect respect.

2. Don’t think you’ve got the answer

3. Don’t pretend

4. Get out of the way

5. Say “thank you”

Don’t expect respect

One of the earliest lessons I received from my first boss was: “work with your people: don’t expect them to work for you.” What this means is that you cannot expect to be respected and to achieve results simply because you're "the boss". Respect is something you earn and until you have earned the respect of your people there is little or no probability that your unit will achieve peak performance as frequently as may desired.

You don’t have to be liked to be respected and there’s a huge difference between “liking” and “respecting”. You need to be respected.”

The steps to earning this respect are:

Don’t think you’ve got the answer

The first step in obtaining respect is to understand the difference between things that are negotiable and things that are not. When it comes to safety issues like the use of equipment and working conditions, the rules and regulations pertaining to these are designed to minimise the probability of injury or accident to others. Here there is no room for discussion or error.

But other matters are open to discussion. The objectives and strategy might be given from the top and the tactics might come from your immediate boss but the implementation of these in the most effective way usually has reasonable degrees of freedom at an operational level. Draw on the knowledge and experience of your people. In my experience, once people realise that you are genuinely asking for their input, they freely give it. The results then become theirs - not yours alone.

Don’t pretend

The need for integrity and authenticity should always be apparent. Most people in Australia have a very well developed “bullshit detection meter”. They can quickly distinguish between an academic or theoretical solution to a problem and a solution that is based on experience. Learn to make clear the difference between what you have been taught in your education or training and your experience. Then open the issue up for input from them as to what is the optimal way forward. The result should be a blend of knowledge and experience that results in everyone learning from each other and a deepening of trust and respect that will ensure that, when required, things will be done without question and with absolute commitment to the goals, the unit, and each individual. You might be “the boss” but without their commitment you can achieve almost nothing.

Get out of the way

Central to this concept of trust is learning not to micro manage. Your role is to ensure everyone has all of the necessary knowledge and skill to do what is required and to develop the level of commitment that will ensure you achieve what is necessary no matter what the personal cost. You need to be a close-knit unit where if someone sees something needing urgent attention he or she has the power and authority to take action without waiting for you to approve it. This means that, at times, you could be a follower who respects and responds to the knowledge and experience of someone technically junior to you. You can't do the work of your people. You can only do your work and your people need to trust that you will do it. You have to trust them to do their work and together you have to achieve results.

Say thank you

Always acknowledge the contribution of others. It is vital that those who make the contributions get the acknowledgment and reward. Learn to never take credit for the input of others and to ensure that the team’s effort is always recognised.

One thing I know for sure: these 5 things apply everywhere. They are critical to good leadership and they provide the base for Third Generation Leadership.

I'd love to know what you think about this. Please provide your comments below.

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