From Doing a Good Job to High Performance

Your organization's performance improves when the performance of you and your people improves.

It sounds obvious, and yet a consistent commitment to developing a high-performance organization remains, at best, an aspirational desire. At worst, it is an overused cliché with as much street cred as "I'll respect you in the morning."

Think of the people with whom you work. Most of them - probably 85 to 90 percent - want to do a good job every day. They don't walk on water without getting their ankles wet, but they know what is expected and they do it.

Here's the rub: 85 to 90 percent of your competitors' employees are delivering on expectations every day as well. You can't distinguish yourself as an organization until all - or at least more - of your employees distinguish themselves as high performers.

Here are five questions that must be answered to move your team from "doing a good job" to "high performance:"

  1. Do they know what high performance looks like? Average performance is mistaken for excellence in a world where everyone is lousy at their jobs. The best in your organization or even your industry may not be the best example of truly high performance. Broaden your horizons. What does truly world class performance look like? You can never deliver on it if you can't define it.

  • Do they have the capacity or potential for high performance? I will never dunk a basketball on a regulation height goal without assistance. No amount of desire will put enough spring in my legs to bridge the gap between my height and the rim of a basketball goal. Likewise, some people just don't have the capacity or potential to be more than mediocre at some parts of their job. The best thing you can do is to be honest with them and help them find a place where they can be a high-performance player. Remember: Never teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.
  • Do they have the desire to be a high performance contributor? Just as there are situations in which no amount of desire can overcome capacity, there are instances when no amount of ability can compensate for the lack of desire. You can lead the proverbial horse to water. You can't make him drink or even acknowledge that there might be a good reason to drink.
  • Does the environment encourage high performance? What picture appeared in your mind when you read the word "environment" in the previous sentence? Was it physical in nature like the layout of your workspace, temperature, or lighting? Was it out of your control such as the political or regulatory environment? Or, did you think about the internal areas that are completely within your ability to influence such as the culture, absence of barriers, and morale? Environment is all of those things and more. The best organizations are intentional about addressing the environmental factors within their control and influencing or mitigating the ones that aren't.
  • Are you willing to invest the time and resources to educate and train? Few people in 1998 looked at a 19-year-old skinny German kid with a funny haircut and thought, "There is the future sixth leading scorer in the history of the National Basketball Association." Eighteen years later, Dirk Nowitzki has solidified himself as one of the all-time greats to play the game. He made the transition from potential talent to superstar through relentless work and constant guidance from his coach, Holger Geschwindner. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, puts Nowitzki's work ethic into perspective: "What helped make Dirk special is not just how hard he worked, but how smart he worked. He didn't just put in the hours, he had a plan for those hours and he knew just wanted he wanted to accomplish with them." So what are you willing to invest to make the move from fully successful to high performance?
  • Today's competitive environment dictates that just being good at your job relegates you to "just one of many options" status. The chase to excellence and high performance is on-going. Isn't it time you started?

    Randy Pennington is an award-winning author, speaker, and leading authority on helping organizations achieve positive results in a world of accelerating change. To bring Randy to your organization or event, visit , email, or call 972.980.9857.