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When Performance Gets in the Way of Achievement

The senior leadership team was a powerhouse of high achievers. Each was driven, disciplined and had a reputation for achieving or exceeding goals. However, as we got to know each other, it became obvious that something was missing. While they were strong at achieving individual results, together they were a dysfunctional mess.

The leaders frequently worked at cross-purposes with each other. Silos had developed – along with a competitive spirit that led them to hoard information and subtly undermine each other. This mindset had cascaded down to the lowest levels of their organizations. Rather than achieving something extraordinary together, they had settled for mediocrity without even realizing it.

Unfortunately, the scenario above is common. Most managers don’t rise to their positions without a strong drive for achievement. When in balance, an achievement mindset is a strength and serves as a driver for extraordinary results. However, when out of balance, the long-term consequences can be disastrous.

The scoreboard masks the problem.

Part of the reason it is so hard to diagnose the problem is the scoreboard frequently says we are winning. When the winds are at your back and the industry is prospering, it is easy to get results in the short term, especially if you are willing to burn some bridges along the way. The pacesetter leader who drives their team to the point of disengagement is a classic example. The pacesetter is a flurry of activity and may see a quick bump in performance, but the performance is not sustainable because they lose their team along the way.

Short term performance creates a false sense of security that what you are doing is working, but it rarely tells the whole story. It is not until you encounter headwinds or face rapid change that you discover the true health of a team. Conversely, the scoreboard can frequently disguise achievement as well. An example is when a coach leader makes a conscious decision to sacrifice short term results to build bench strength. The scoreboard today does not reflect the future reality.

How do you know if you are out of balance?

The clearest indicator you are out of balance is damaged relationships – either with your peers or direct reports. Ask yourself the questions below:

  • Do I have damaged relationships characterized by low trust? If so, am I taking responsibility for re-building trust in those relationships?

  • Do my team members collaborate well with others outside my organization (across business units, departments, or shifts)? If not, what am I doing or not doing to contribute to this mindset?

  • How much time do I spend talking about strategic priorities? Am I fixated on activity and short term performance to the detriment of long-term results?

  • Am I sacrificing my team’s engagement to achieve short term performance? Am I making time to develop every team member and build bench strength?

Taking time to self-reflect on these questions creates clarity and will make you a more effective leader.


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Team Trek is a world-class provider of culture transformation solutions, leadership development, and team building.


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