Status quo is not—or should not—be an option for any organization. Organizations need people to deliver better-than-expected results, with a focus on continuous growth, over time. The demands of competition and expectations create constraints and pressures. Often, it is the subtle relationship between pressure and performance, that impacts results. The right amount of pressure can create performance needed for better-than-expected results. In contrast, performance can suffer if there is too little or too much pressure. Leaders need to seek this fine balance of pressure and support, to impact results.

What do results tell us? I suggest that the success of an employee is determined by their ability to achieve results. The diagram below shows how results may, or could, be measured.

These results are directly linked to the actions of employees, which we call performance. Performance may be defined as the way (or the how) a person does the work or activity (task), against an agreed set of measurable objectives defined in the organizational strategy. Performance links to the effectiveness and motivation of the person, and speaks to their skill level, abilities and competencies, and their stresses and level of engagement, and includes the work environment or situation. Since performance drives results, it is essential for leaders to clearly identify the link between performance and results. Likewise, it is critical to identify the challenges and gaps in performance so as to undertake the correct action to support employees, and improve performance, overall.

Since performance drives our results, the question, then, is, what are these factors which can improve our performance, to deliver the better-than- expected results?

To improve Performance, we need to answer these two questions:

  1. What do we want to do? (performance structure)
  2. How do we want to do it? (performance culture)

What is a Performance Structure?

Structure is a framework of identifiable elements which physically or functionally connect to each other and gives form and stability.

The three elements of Performance Structure are:

  1. Planning addresses how to close the gap between where we are and where we need to be by formulating a strategy for achievement. Strategy is a method or series of actions designed to achieve the goal of closing such gap.
  2. Alignment speaks to the leader’s ability to engage people to do the work, and the tool to link planning to execution.
  3. Execution is the ‘course of actions’ that are required to be taken to produce results.

What is a Performance Culture?

Culture is a common understanding of selected values or ethics, which are reflected by an expected behaviour for a group of people whether they are part of formal structure or not.  While formal processes and structures support this, central to the creation of a performance culture, is the leader.

Within a performance culture, a leader focuses on:

  1. Strong people: Those who have the intention, the ability and skills to put their heart, mind and body in action to execute the plan.
  2. Working together: Building the credibility to bring people with them, and align them to execute the plan.
  3. Understand the customer: In addition to dealing with complex issues, the people in a performance culture engage with the customer to understand their expectations and challenges in order to deliver successful results and minimize the disappointments and frustrations.

A focus on results and performance is essential to organizational growth. It is imperative for a leader to clearly identify the gaps in performance that impact results, and provide both a structure and culture to address the gaps, so as to achieve better-than-expected results. Within today’s highly competitive business environment, status quo shouldn’t be an option. The pressures of performance must be coupled with leadership that influences and supports the people in the organization—to achieve success.

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  1. What a timely article Bilal. How can leaders handle the current crisis? Your framework suggests an intuitive and practical path. Hard to believe that in spite of technological development and scientific achievements, we are still struggling to deal with a crisis that was announced so many times in the last 10 years.

  2. Great Article Bilal, remind me with the successful old days we have spent together in UAE leading with you part of MHAO business in RICOH & BOSCH. For 6 years on weekly basis we used to sit and talk and you were always educating us by every detail in this article. You have always driven the buisness and the team exactly with these great values, thinking and methodology. You were able to create a mindset of delivering better than expected by having strong individuals working together (strong team) by planning, aligning, understand customers needs and then executing. Result of that we succeeded to triple the business in 5 years (as one of the successes). I am actually practicing exactly the same here in my professional and even personal life with great impact I am gaining. Keep on educating and transferring valuable knowledge to others (i remember well it was your vision you shared with us around 7 that you want to do when you retire). Stay safe you and your family in those difficult days.

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