Do We Really Want High Performers?

leading-leadersWe all at one time or another dream of possessing an “all-star” team that performs beyond expectations and never ceases to improve.  Similarly, when things go wrong, the first thing we look to is usually reasons for a lack of performance.  When another organization produces better results, we assume their talent is more knowledgeable and committed, thus could perform at a higher level.  Although we may not fully understand all of its faces, performance stands at the heart of most of our day-to-day thoughts.  Yet, most of us possess traits that run counter to producing optimal performance from our teams.

Most leaders during their ascent develop a strong sense of self and a high degree of self-confidence.  This drive and tenacity keeps a potential leader going during the regular difficulties of a competitive environment.  Once becoming a leader, this high level of confidence must mature and encompass the team.  In other words, a good leader transitions his or her sense of self to include his or her team, including their wants, abilities, and needs.  If this transition does not occur, a leader will be threatened and jealous of the capabilities and success of his or her team members.  The leader’s experience while rising reactivates and the team takes the place of previous rivals.  In these situations, a leader may speak of performance, but act in a manner very counterproductive to high levels of team performance.

Recently, while working with a large, regional organization, I had a chance to explore this phenomenon in more detail.  The organization indicated that it suffered from “hostile” managers and rising turnover.  Most departing employees (about 80 percent) indicated that the manager’s attitude was the primary reason for seeking other employment.  After several days of discussions with the managers, a pattern started to emerge.  Managers identified the following causes for their “hostile” response to employees:

·         Unhappiness with their own job (33 percent)

·         Unhappiness with their own supervisor (28 percent)

·         Concern with employee motives (25 percent)

·         Unhappiness with employee attitude (8 percent)

·         Concern with lack of employee abilities (6 percent)

Although this was not a scientific sample or study, it was interesting that the third most reoccurring concern related to employee motives.  Approximately 25 percent of managers were concerned that the smarter, more competitive employees were undermining them.  Although none of the reasons given would lead to a high performing workplace, it was surprising that 25 percent labeled the concern as being undermined by smart employees.

What can we do as leaders who manager other leaders? We can make sure that our leaders have an “umbrella of self” big enough to encompass their whole team.

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