5.0 Fit for Peak Performance

For those new to this series . . .

This blog is for leaders who desire to capitalize upon natural strengths to realize individual and organizational peak performance.  We share insights from an upcoming book on The Foundation of Winning (FOW), the template we have developed to help us and our clients achieve their personal and organizational potential.  The FOW elements include Three Principles of Mankind and Four Disciplines of Leadershipthey are the pillars that enable natural alignment and meaningful success.

I was privileged to spend 21 years at University of Michigan Athletics, including 11 years with Football Coach Bo Schembechler, one of our nation’s most exemplary leaders. Working with Bo revealed there is much more to to long-term peak performance than talent. Being a systems engineer, I was fascinated by the science behind what made enduring peak performance possible.  There are many great leaders who possess what Bo possessed, but Bo may be referenced more than others as he was the one I witnessed executing the disciplines most.


Phenomenally beautiful and picturesque garden for walks and supervision over flowers and treesCreating a flourishing garden requires matching a set of complementary plants to optimal soil, light, water, and climate conditions. Organizations are the same: in order to thrive and flourish, the organization’s culture must nourish each team member, supporting them in service of something bigger than themselves.



The Peak Performance Evaluation Equation

In the next few blog posts, we will share the three components of fit for an individual in an organization and their job; Cultural Fit in the organization has the heaviest weight based upon our findings.  Don McMillan and several other veteran executive coaches we collaborate with at FSA developed this Peak Performance Evaluation Equation:


Warren Buffett’s philosophy on hiring the right people illustrates this same concept:

Blog-5-0-Buffet“In looking for someone to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity (culture fit), intelligence (competency fit) and energy (behavioral fit),” said Buffet. “But the most important is integrity, because if they don’t have that, the other two qualities, intelligence and energy, are going to kill you.”


Why Cultural Fit?

Organizations thrive when each individual has the opportunity for peak performance.  Like plants, they need the right environment and nurturing to thrive.  The study of athletic teams made it clear that teams with the most five-star players do not necessarily win.  There is a shared purpose, a respect and trBlog-5-0-CompValuesust in each other, that is more important than the innate talent of the individual players.  Michigan State University’s current head football coach, Mark Dantonio, exemplifies this concept well: he recruits many good—but not five-star—players who form a cohesive team and win at unprecedented levels. Clearly, they are seeking something more subjective than talent in those they desire to be a part of their team. He is the first football coach in Big Ten Conference history to win at least 11 games in a season 5 out of 6 years. Blog 5.1 will take the discussion of Cultural fit further.

The Importance of Competency Fit

While we have emphasized the importance of Cultural Fit a great deal, we do so because most leaders value Competency Fit as the most important—and often the only—criterion in hiring.  That said, Competency does matter, and it has three components:Blog-5-0-potters

  1. Talent: Natural and innate; a raw material we can develop
  2. Skill: Abilities gained or learned on our growth journey
  3. Knowledge: The continually growing base that informs our decision making

Where and how an individual developed their talent, skills, and knowledge will also affect their level of competency: excelling at a challenging school, earning the interest of an exceptional mentor, and seeing through a difficult project are examples of experiences that augment competency, and past performance in other jobs will also shed light on their competency.  We will dig deeper into Competency Fit Assessment in Blog 5.2.

The Role of Behavioral Fit

Have you ever dreaded working with someone, even though they were talented and highly competent? Whatever the quality of their work, dealing with their inappropriate behavior was too high a price to pay.  There are many behavior assessment tools that can aid in gaging how an individual’s behavior patterns fit with the behavior required for the job. Individual behaviors are generally assessed for peak performance in these categories:

  • PrimBlog-5-0-HandUpary categories: risk taking, sociability, calmness, and detail orientation.
  • Additional categories: positivity, energy, and a passion for the organization’s purpose

Hiring “right people” – the ones who fit with their jobs in terms of competency and behavior and with
the culture of the organization, enables individuals to achieve peak performance.  And individual peak performance in service of the organization brings the organization closer to its peak performance, our ultimate goal. We will share more on this in Blog 5.3. 

Leadership Challenge Questions

As a leader, ask yourself:

  • In our organization, are we giving too much weight to Competency Fit and too little to Organizational Culture Fit? What consideration do we give to Behavioral Fit?
  • What metrics do we use to assess Cultural Fit?
  • What steps can we take to create a standard for peak performance for each of the three Performance Components, so as to benefit team members in their growing?

Upcoming Blog Posts:

  • 5.1 Performance Component #1 – Culture Fit
  • 5.2 Performance Component #2 – Job Competency Fit
  • 5.3 Performance Component #3 – Job Behavioral Fit
  • 5.4 Summary – Right People/Organization Fit

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