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

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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.

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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?

5.2 Job Competency Fit

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 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 his mentorship.

blog5-2-jobs “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

 – Steve Jobs

 

The competency that Steve Jobs displayed was exceptional by all standards.  When it came to natural talent competency he had the knack to dream of products and features that customers would realize they needed only after Steve Jobs demonstrated them at one of the legendary Apple Special Events. His knowledge competency was fired by the booming tech industry that was creating capacity to do big things in small devices, that enhanced Jobs’ passion to provide the unthought-of for public benefit.  The skill competency for Jobs was his ability to push people to quality standards unseen previously.  He made mistakes, but that is a part of the growth requirement for exceptional competency.

In our last post, we explored the most important component in the Performance Evaluation Equation, Organizational Cultural Fit.  Now, we turn to the concept that has traditionally been given the most attention and weight: Job Competency Fit. To achieve Job Competency Fit for peak performance an individual must possess:

  • blog5-2-passionPassion for the Job

Commitment, dedication, and perseverance, focused on building Job Skills and Knowledge Competencies, transforms a job into a labor of love.

  • A Growth Mindsetblog5-2-thoughts

A hunger for the challenge of learning, growing, and experimenting provides the energy to serve a deeply meaningful purpose, in service of something greater than oneself.

 

In the Performance Evaluation Equation, the three components of Competency Fit—Talent, Skills, and Knowledge—are critical for effective execution of the job.

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The T-S-K’s of Competency

Competency Fit for the job has three elements:

  1. “T” – Talent – That ability we are born with and execute effortlessly, especially compared to others; for example, the ability to visualize objects and dimensions in space that is required of an architect, or the exceptional depth perception of airplane pilots as they land their plane.
  2. “S” – Skill – The technical ability to perform at a high level that is learned along the way; for example, becoming a master at using Excel spreadsheets for financial data analysis, or deftly sewing small blood vessels, as a surgeon must do. Depending on natural talent, some may learn faster and achieve higher levels of skill than others, but all get better with time at purposeful skill development.
  3. “K” – Knowledge – The information we gain in our area of expertise that sets us apart from others; for example, understanding the complexities of international patent law, or mastering the myriad features in the latest cell phones.

It is important understand that Talent has little capacity for growth, whereas Skill and Knowledge can improve with purposeful commitment of time on task.

Malcolm Gladwell explores competency in Outliers as does Geoff Colvin in Talent is Overrated. Both authors share what greatness is and postulate that talent is correlated to success, but only to a point. Beyond that point, it is about deliberate hard work and dedicated practice. Successful individuals who capitalized upon their talent by enhancing their skill and knowledge in exceptional ways that are featured in the books include Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, the Beatles, Tiger Woods, Winston Churchill, Warren Buffett, and Michael Jordon.

As my mentor coach Bo Schembechler said almost daily,

“You are getting better or you are getting worse, you are not staying the same.  If you stay the same, someone is gaining on you and they are going to beat you!”

Leadership Challenge Questions

 As a leader, ask yourself:

  • Assess your best team members – when they were hired, what was their Job Competency Fit vs. Organizational Cultural Fit?
    • What does this tell you about the importance of Job Competency Fit?
  • Do you think Competency Fit or Cultural Fit is easier to teach, and to be learned?
  • How do you put Competency Fit in its proper place in assessing the “right people” to hire?

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:

Blog-5-0-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