Innovation Junkies Podcast

Four Building Blocks That Drive Individual High Performance

The Jeffs talk about expectations & how to drive high performance in your organization. They chat about individual competency measured against clearly defined & accepted roles, defining performance standards & setting expectations, & implementing accountability across an organization.

Jeff Standridge (Intro):
Are you ready to change the trajectory of your business and see massive improvements? Each week we’ll share strategies and practices to generate sustained results and long lasting success in your organization. Welcome to the Innovation Junkies podcast.

Jeff Standridge:
Hey, guys. Welcome to another episode of the Innovation Junkies podcast. I’m Jeff Standridge.

Jeff Amerine:
Hey, this is Jeff Amerine, glad to be back.

Jeff Standridge:
Hey, me too, man. How you doing?

Jeff Amerine:
Good, good. I’m having a high performance day. What about you?

Jeff Standridge:
Man, it’s all good around here. Everybody’s having a high performance day around here. Just another Monday.

Jeff Amerine:
Glad to hear it. Glad to hear it.

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah.

Jeff Amerine:
So that’s a good segue into what we’re going to talk about today, right?

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah. We are actually talking about performance expectations, and how do we make sure that the organization has a set of adopted performance expectations that propel us all to excellence? You want to kick it off?

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah. Let’s talk a little bit about some of the specifics around this idea of having individual competency measured against clearly defined and accepted roles. Part of what I think we’re getting to there, and I’d be interested in your thought on it, is you can have a lot of expertise, subject matter expertise, a lot of depth and a lot of understanding, but if you don’t understand how that’s to be applied, really, what those expectations are, and what your boundaries are, and, really, what your scope of work is to define it clearly, then you’re all thrust and no vector, as we used to say in the aviation world.
That’s really something that can cause a lot of problems. Whereas on the other side, if you don’t have the competency, and sometimes we think about that in the framework that Gino Wickman uses in Traction, this idea, do they get it? Do they want it? Do they have the capability? If they don’t have the capability, you might have the wrong person in the wrong seat. Even if they have clear understanding of what they’re supposed to do, they don’t have the aptitude, the skills, or the training to be able to do it. In either instance, it can be a real issue. What else would you say about that, Jeff?

Jeff Standridge:
No, I agree. And I would even go so far as to say that early in my career, I was probably high on the thrust and low on the vector myself.

Jeff Amerine:
Everything looks like a target, right?

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah, that’s exactly right. I used to tell people that before I started studying this concept of leadership and teamwork, you give me a task, or give me a problem to solve and I’m going to solve it in about 27 minutes. Of course, there’s going to be a trail of dead bodies behind me, as you go through and open the linen closets and what have you. And I would probably put a team together that looked just like me and act just like me, so we’d have a lot of high thrust individuals with very little vector adherence. But you got to have individually competent people, and that’s part, or indicative, of your hiring process.
Do you ensure that you have people who are culturally fit for the organization? Do they buy into the same cultural mores that you have as an organization? But then also, do they bring the level of expertise and the level of differentiation that you need on your team? But then, to your point, if you just have a bunch of highly competent people without any boundaries, or clearly define in accepted roles, then you just have people stepping all over each other, feelings getting hurt, conflict occurring, rework taking place, because you got three people doing the same job and they didn’t know the other one was doing it. And so, it’s really a yin and yang. High quality, competent, high speed, low drag people with enough structure there to ensure you get clarity around who’s doing what.

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah, that’s right. And you think about it in terms of early stage or growth stage businesses, where there tends to be a lot of chaos. Managing that well is really important. It’s, again, this concept of loose type, where there’s enough guidance that you don’t stifle creativity. People feel like I understand what I need to do and I’m going to be allowed to do it, because I’ve got the competency to do it. Yeah, that’s a good one. That’s really-

Jeff Standridge:
It’s a fine line too, isn’t it? It’s a fine line.

Jeff Amerine:
It is.

Jeff Standridge:
It’s like a tightrope.

Jeff Amerine:
It is, and occasionally where you do have some necessarily fuzzy boundaries, the requirement then is to have really solid communication on a regular basis, so that people can figure out how to work together.

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah. And I’ll go down to skip one and go down to the next one where it says everyone knows their individual responsibilities. So we talk about that. There are clearly defined and accepted roles within the organization, but the individual performers know precisely what that means in terms of their day-to-day work. They know what it means in terms of, what we talked about last week, their decision making authority or their level of empowerment with regard to making decisions, et cetera.

Jeff Amerine:
And part of that culture too, the best cultures will be you know what you’re supposed to do and what your job is, but you never say, “That’s not my job,” when something comes up. In other words, if something’s thrown your way that might be outside the boundary, you figure out how to be helpful and how to find the person that can actually resolve the problem. So there’s never, “It’s not my job,” as an excuse, even if you do have good definition.

Jeff Standridge:
I’ve coached so many people over the years that if you ever get the inkling to say, “That’s not my job,” just replace it with, “Put me in coach.”

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah, exactly.

Jeff Standridge:
Put me in coach. Put me in. I’m a utility player, put me in. Because I was having this conversation this morning with someone who works in our organization, and my response to her was that of all the forms of development that exist, experiences are the best ones.

Jeff Amerine:
That’s right.

Jeff Standridge:
So when I was thrust into the United Kingdom to integrate 21 companies in seven countries and to build an international HR organization, I was just a handful of years away from being a respiratory therapist.

Jeff Amerine:
You had to learn English as a second language too, right?

Jeff Standridge:
I had to learn the mother language. That’s exactly right. What do they say? Two countries separated by the same language.

Jeff Amerine:
Exactly.

Jeff Standridge:
But those experiences, there’s not a book on that. There was nothing I could learn from a book, or a podcast, or what have you. As good as podcasts are, and I know some really good ones out there, one in particular, two in particular I guess I should say, but there’s no podcast for how to take someone and throw them into a body of experiences and for them to develop themselves in that regard. So a little bit off track, but related.
The next thing revolves around having clearly defined performance standards. In other words, this is not so much on the individual level. This is really more at the collective level of that excellence is not only expected, but it’s defined. People know what they’re facing in terms of the outcome of excellence in the organization.

Jeff Amerine:
And they know that it matters, because if you do that well, you start with the top level objectives that are derived from the strategy. Those get flowed down to each echelon within the company, and they’re connected, and they’re traceable. So that someone can tell the reason why I’m doing this particular task, and it’s got to meet that particular standard is because it’s leading to this overall objective that’s important to the company. When there’s that traceability, and that connection, it makes a lot of difference in terms of performance and people understanding why they’re scored the way they are. It makes a huge difference.

Jeff Standridge:
And then finally, there’s this expectation of accountability. And I’ve really challenged my thinking on this concept of accountability just in the last several months. And I had the opportunity to speak to a group last Wednesday, actually, a couple hundred folks in a leadership event we had. And I have this definition of leadership on my wall and I tell people that I’ve begged, borrowed, and stolen components of it from, literally, all over the world. And so, it’s so much amalgamated together that I now claim it as my own. But it basically says that leadership is the most important requirement for business or personal success. In simple terms it’s defined as the willingness to be held accountable for results, and then to deliver on that responsibility, no matter what the external circumstances, situation or pressures. So I call it “Whatever It Takes” leadership. No matter what.
And even when I first started using that definition of leadership, I really tended to think of accountability as an act of assertion. We, as leaders, have to hold ourselves and we have to hold others accountable for the results that they’ve signed up for. And I’ve really begun to shift my thinking into organizations work much more naturally, and excellent performance occurs much more naturally, when accountability is an act of submission. In other words, every leader in the organization and every individual contributor in the organization submits themselves to being held accountable by their peers and colleagues. That’s the ideal organization. That’s the ideal expectation of accountability is not that everyone holds everyone else accountable, but that everyone submits themselves to being held accountable.

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. It is, in a way, an act of submission to a greater objective, or to a greater cause, in the case of the team or the purpose of the business. And accountability, nothing happens without accountability, and when there’s not an understanding of that accountability or an acceptance of that accountability, people will always feel like it’s someone else’s problem, at any level within the organization. The other thing I would say about accountability that I think about, as it applies to leadership, is ultimately when you’re in a leadership role, you are accountable when things go poorly, to accept all the blame, and you’re accountable, when things go well, to pass along all the credit.

Jeff Standridge:
That’s right.

Jeff Amerine:
One of the things you’re obligated to do, you’re accountable to do, as a servant leader is to make sure that number one asset of any business, the team, is taken care of and protected in equal measure. And that doesn’t mean that individuals are not held accountable, but your job is to be a shield, at times, for your team as a leader. I think it’s crucially important.

Jeff Standridge:
That’s right. Good stuff. Good stuff. Hey, thanks, Jeff. This has been another episode of the Innovation Junkies podcast. Thank you for joining.
Jeff Amerine:
See you next time.

Jeff Amerine (Outro):
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