Barriers to Sustainable High Performance: OR vs AND

HPT AND imageCan you have your cake and eat it too?

High Performance Teams that achieve sustainable results over the long-term have two co-existing top priorities focusing on maximising both Achievement and Engagement simultaneously.

All teams that are able to achieve sustainable high performance over the long-term share these and other key characteristics. As you can see in the diagram below, High Performance Teams not only rate highly on the two distinct factors of Achievement and Engagement but also, beneath this, they adhere to 4 Success KPIs.

HPT Infographic

The first factor, Achievement – is about the team’s ability to consistently meet and exceed business performance targets and is comprised of two specific KPIs: (1) Clear vision, strategy and actions, and (2) A culture of performance reporting.

The second factor is Engagement – the ability to create positive team dynamics to create long-term working relationships and enable innovation based on cumulative knowledge. Within the factor of Engagement we find the remaining KPIs of (3) Leveraging diversity and leading by example, and (4) Supporting wellbeing and work/life needs.

Barriers to Sustainable High Performance ‘OR’ vs ‘AND’

One of the biggest barriers to increase team performance has been described by the term coined by business gurus, Jim Collins, as the ‘Tyranny of ‘OR’’ whereby team members and their leaders believe that they can only operate effectively with one primary focus – either Achievement OR Engagement.

Over the years I have worked with a range of teams and leaders who believe you cannot be profitable and have high levels of achievement if you are focused on team engagement and support (profit OR support). I have also worked with other teams and leaders who hold the opposite view that you can only create high levels of team engagement and support if you lessen the focus on achievement and profit.

This chasm between people who see ‘achievement’ as the number one priority versus people who see ‘engagement’ as the number one priority leads to inextricably complex and confusing arguments, conflicting strategies and endless politics – choking the life out of many organizations. The sad tragedy for both the “Achievement Only” and “Engagement Only” camps is THEY ARE BOTH WRONG.

To focus on Achievement ‘OR’ Engagement is the problem in itself as there is already a prejudice against the importance of the other critical factor needed for a sustainably high performance team. Think about it… Solely focusing on achievement may create short-term high performance but excessive competition and isolation will cause low morale and unwanted turnover. On the other hand, solely focusing on engagement will create cohesion and higher morale but risk organizational failure due to the lack of focus on results.

The solution therefore is not to focus on “OR” and the choice between Achievement OR Engagement but rather to embrace the antidote to the problem which Collins refers to as the “Genius of ‘AND’”. That is to let go of the rational and simplistic view that you can only focus on either Achievement OR Engagement and instead embrace the view that Achievement AND Engagement can both co-exist as equally important forces guiding the success of high performance teams.

This is not to suggest they are somehow in balance and therefore our attention and focus is somehow divided or diminished but rather to seek full, complete and maximum effectiveness in both Achievement and Engagement at the same time. Made all the easier – as we will see – if the nature and focus of team engagement and working relationship is seen as planets that orbit around the sun, of team achievement.

Performance Driving Relationships or Vice Versa?

To be able to completely and fully focus on both team achievement and team engagement at the same time will either require some extremely bright, multi-tasking, emotionally intelligent, workaholic geniuses or a relatively simple strategy of using the team’s focus on performance and achievement to drive their engagement and development of workplace relationships.

As we know, team engagement – which prioritizes maintaining harmonious relationships at the expense of both good business decisions and our own work/life balance – always ends in disaster. The solution is to stop being relationship focused at the expense of business performance but instead make business performance the content and focus of building effective relationships with team members.

Performance Driving Relationships – Achievement AND Engagement

When we start focusing our communication strategies on business objectives and build team engagement and relationships around the achievement of work focused goals and objectives, teams are more satisfied with achieving business objectives and celebrating results. To take the next steps down the road of becoming a sustainably high performing team we need to implement some simple yet powerful strategies to address each of the 4 Success KPIs.

In the next article in the series, ‘High Performing Teams: The 4 KPIs of Success” we will look at simple behavioral strategies you can implement to address each of the 4 KPIs of Success in your workplace and, in turn, become a sustainably high performing team!

Ride The Waves of Life!

Dr Pete

The Stress Surfer

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