3 Tips for achieving a High Performance Workplace

Posted On: December 8, 2013 by: Doug Lundrigan

A few years ago I ran my first half-marathon. Crossing the finish line amidst the cheers from my family, who ran the last quarter mile with me, was one of the most powerful moments in my life. Thinking back to that day, I’m reminded of how similar creating a High Performance Workplace (HPW) is to training for an athletic event. It’s no secret that to successfully compete in a marathon you need to be in peak performance condition, and the same is true in the workplace.

So how can we achieve the peak business performance needed to successfully compete in today’s market?

Tip #1: Envision success

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

If your goal is to create an HPW, then your first step is to visualize an environment where employees work in collaborative teams built on open communication, trust, and a sense of a shared mission to improve outcomes. Play a mental movie imagining a workplace that fosters a high level of team performance. The stronger the visualization, the more powerful the impact can be with greater results in improved services and products, better utilization of resources, and a more engaged workforce.

“Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.”

Alan Keith, Genetech

Recent studies indicate dramatic changes in how leadership is perceived. High Performance Workplaces recognize that effective leaders are able to visualize long-term goals and then communicate those goals in a clear direction that excites the people around them. It’s your job to empower your team by inducing passion and commitment to ensure your organization keeps pace with changing times.

Ready to achieve your vision for an HPW? Then it’s time to lace up those running shoes and test your business fitness level.

Tip #2: Work with a coach.

When I decided to run 13 miles non-stop I asked myself, “What is my current level of fitness and how will I meet my goal for this race?” As a business leader you might ask yourself, “What is our current workplace performance level and how can I meet our desired performance outcomes?”

By thinking of the workplace in terms of athletic performance, it’s easy to see how important a healthy environment is to increased productivity. Just as important is obtaining an outside view of the current situation. For me to compete in a half-marathon I needed to gain the perspective of a training coach to assess my fitness level prior to developing a training plan. The same is true in the workplace.

“A system cannont understand itself. The transformatoin requires a view from the outside.”

W. Edwards Deming, father of quality management

If your goal is to improve workplace performance, and you’re noticing declining revenues, low productivity, and high employee turnover, then you’ve got some work ahead of you. To enhance your awareness of the scope and magnitude of the challenges you face, seeking coaching help is in order. Interestingly, a 2013 Stanford Graduate School of Business Survey concluded that 100% of the CEOs surveyed stated they’re receptive to coaching; yet only 34% of CEOs currently receive leadership advice from coaches.

So where might this discrepancy come from? One possible explanation, as summarized by Stephen Miles, CEO of the Miles Group, a partner in the Stanford Survey, is that to CEOs, “coaching is somehow “remedial” as opposed to something that enhances high performance, similar to how an elite athlete uses a coach.”

Do you need a business coach? Using one of our Business Health Exams is a good place to start answering that question. Leadership assessments, employee surveys, personality profiles, and aptitude tests can help diagnose areas for improvement. You might be surprised to find out that often times the real hurdles to success aren’t the obvious perceived issues. By obtaining an outside perspective to examine your current workplace performance levels you might find that assumptions about low morale, high turnover, and declining revenues may differ from reality. For example, when training for a race you might think you only need to focus on your speed and endurance. The reality is that you need to develop a comprehensive training plan that maps out daily progress goals to help you lengthen your stride, improve your gait efficiency, optimize your nutritional intake, etc. Executive business coaches, like successful athletic coaches, are able to take into consideration the less obvious performance factors that may contribute to poor results.

Working with a coach can help you stay focused and keep moving forward. You’ll also gain the skills needed to keep track of what is happening in the team, why it is happening and what can be done next to keep the team on the desired road to success.

Tip #3: Follow knowledge with action; the road to success.

The canyon between knowledge and results is bridged by action. Develop a plan to achieve your goal and stick with it, remembering that change takes time to quantify. For example, I trained for a year before achieving a fitness level to successfully compete in a 13 mile run. Progress was gradual.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

I learned which Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) were necessary and, with my coach, we built a training program where I tracked my progress in key areas such as resting/peak heart rates, distances per week, and nutritional intake. KPIs used to measure High Performance in the workplace include the little steps (such as number of new prospects called on, number of marketing impressions made, units of waste, or turnaround time), and the big results (such as increased revenues and declining expenses, or a noted higher level of employee engagement and satisfaction.) The little successes lead to the big ones.

As with the action involved in training for and running a long-distance race, business challenges require discipline, hard work, and perseverance. Your executive team, your coach, and the significant people in your personal life will all be integral in encouraging you to keep on keepin’ on. As cliché as it may seem, having someone on the sidelines cheering, “You can do it! Keep up the great work! I believe in you!” can make all the difference in success or failure.

By continuing to measure and gauge your progress in these areas you’ll reach the finish line at the head of the pack. Visualize success and carefully track the indicators that move you closer toward your goal.

And remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

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