High-performance is a matter of being, not just doing

It is interesting to me the way in which words acquire potency and meaning beyond their original definition. Take performance for example. In the dictionary you will see something like this:

1. A display of exaggerated behaviour or a process involving a great deal of unnecessary time and effort; a fuss.
2. The action or process of performing a task or function; a task or operation seen in terms of how successfully it is performed.

Yet the term ‘high-performance culture’ has come to mean something way more than these definitions. Although, I have seen my share of leadership teams who have members that display too much of the first definition to ever be capable of creating a high performance culture!

This Gallup article provides a good insight into how to create a high performance culture and in doing so goes some way to identifying what is meant by the term itself. But it seems to me that the more you try to explain it the more elusive it becomes – just as when you attempt to describe love you move away from the actual experience of love.

In Jim Collins’ book ‘Good to Great’ he presents the findings of over 5 years of rigorous research into high performance companies and distinguishes 3 stages that good companies passed through on their way to becoming great – Disciplined People, Disciplined Thought and Disciplined Action. In each of those stages he and his team identified 2 key concepts. A lot of what is captured in both the stages and concepts ultimately has to do with Being as opposed to Doing.

In our work with leadership teams we are highly conscious of the complex range of variables that impact their performance but are also aware that there is one key element that makes a huge difference – who the members of the team are being in dealing with those variables. There are plenty of consultants, trainers and books that can tell you what to DO to create a high performance culture but none of them will make the difference they intend if people continue to be who they have always been. Re-shaping who you are being first takes bringing awareness to and then responsibility for who you are currently being, and that takes deep reflection and courage.

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