5.4 Closing the Performance Gap

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 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 have been privileged to spend 20 years in the consulting business and 21 years at University of Michigan Athletics, including 11 years with Football Coach Bo Schembechler, one of our nation’s most exemplary leaders. My work has revealed there is much more 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 embodied, but he may be referenced more than others due to my life experiences.

blog-5-4-1-footballCoaches of sports teams have the Performance Gap in mind at all times: the most obvious metric is the difference between wins and losses! There is a Performance Gap for each team member, too — it is the difference between the level they are performing at, and what the team needs to achieve peak performance. Orchestra conductors and film directors have similar metrics for tracking success, including tickets sales, critical response, and awards won. In any of these fields, the leader must foster and elicit the best performance possible, and seek the greatest improvement possible from each group or team member; this is what builds their reputations as great leaders, not what they themselves achieve.

Like their counterparts in sports and the performing arts, business leaders must mentor their direct reports towards the goal of reaching Peak Performance. Fostering and facilitating closing the Performance Gap between Peak Performance for the job versus the individual’s current performance is a critical leadership responsibility. 

The Performance Gap in Business

blog-5-4-2-singersThe peak productivity capacity of each organization — what we call 100% Performance Capacity — is, of course, subject to market variables an organization’s leader cannot control. Leaders can, however, continually improve team member performance to achieve 100% Production Capacity for a given market environment.  Leaders can close the Performance Gap between what team members are currently producing and the best they could produce on a sustainable basis.

The fast pace of change in today’s business environment makes this particularly difficult. It highlights the need for organizations to recruit and retain individuals who are flexible enough to adapt and change, and to have leaders who can invest in each team member on their personal journey to peak performance.

Assessing the Performance Gap


How much attention do you pay to the Performance Gap for your team members?


blog-5-4-4-scorecardOrganizational Peak Performance is possible only when each team member achieves Job Peak Performance. Each team member is measured on a Peak Performance Scorecard, which compares the Peak Performance Standard for the job to the member’s Current Performance to yield the Performance Gap; regular and accurate assessments of this differential are essential.

 The Importance of Buy-In from the Team Member

Closing the Performance Gap is a contract between the team member and the leader; it identifies the components that are most important to the team member to address.  These identified Performance Gap Components are selected from the three areas of the Peak Performance Scorecard.  We will discuss techniques for closing gaps in these areas in the upcoming Foundations of Winning book.  For now, we can provide links to blog posts about each area:

blog-5-4-5-bikeWhy focus on what the team member, rather than the leader, feels needs addressing most?  We find that some Performance Gaps, once understood by the team member, touch them personally. This resonance energizes them to address the issues more naturally, with less stress. Building on this initial success, the team member can more easily move on to closing the remaining Performance Gaps. A caveat: if the team member does not recognize the obvious, non-negotiable performance gaps, they may be a poor fit for the job, or for the organization.


Leadership Challenge Questions

  1. Do you currently measure and review performance for each of your reports?
  2. Is this a continual and on-going disciplined process?
  3. Have you asked your direct report what would mean most to them to improve?
  4. Do you participate in the growth journey of your direct report?
  5. Do you regularly review the performance improvement initiatives your direct report is working on?
  6. What is the importance of growing each team member to peak performance?

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