Need to Elevate Your Performance – Tap Your Inner Circle

In today’s global economy one truism is greater now than ever before. One must elevate their performance in order to not only succeed, but survive. John P. Kotter wrote in his book titled Leading Change “As a result of global competition more and more organizations are being pushed to reduce costs, improve the quality of products and services, locate new opportunities for growth, and increase productivity”. No one is immune to these forces. Even companies that sell only in small geographic areas can feel the impact of globalization. For example: “Toyota surpasses General Motors as the no. 1 car maker in the world. To offset the impact of lost market share General Motors lays off employees and negotiates relief from existing union contracts in the form of reduced wages and benefits virtual roundtables. As a result of reduced or lost income, employees tighten their household budgets. Families stop eating out as much, stop going to the movies, stop going on big vacations, etc.”

Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan in their book The Three Laws of Performance wrote “Performance is what matters, and that comes down to actions taken by individuals. Without performance elevation most efforts to enhance the business, through execution of strategic or tactical plans, fail”. According to a 2006 article in the Organization Development Journal titled Organization Self Assessment to Determine the Readiness and Risk for a Planned Change “70% of new strategies fall short of expectations!”

With the emphasis on improvement now higher than ever before, leaders are feeling the increased pressure to achieve new levels of performance for their business or department. The question a leader must ask is “how am I going to get the job done”? They are already working harder than they ever have, probably working with less staff, and they may already feel like they are struggling just to get the mandatory tasks accomplished which are necessary to run the business.

Given this increased pressure, the best chance for elevating one’s performance is to get help. I’m not talking about hiring an expensive consultant. Rather, a leader should establish a close relationship with those who can help them achieve greater levels of success. These individuals will become your business partner. Keith Ferrazzi in his book Whose Got Your Back wrote “Whether your running a country, business, or household, you cannot know everything you need to be successful. No one can. The real path to success in work and life is through creating an inner circle of lifeline (i.e. partner) relationships – deep, close relationships with a few key trusted individuals who will offer the encouragement, insight, feedback, and generous mutual support we need to reach our full potential.”

So, with the increased demands to elevate our performance are leaders tapping into their inner circle of friends? According to Keith Ferrazzi, based on a study in the American Sociological Review, “more than 25% of Americans admit they have no confidants at all”.

OK, now that we have established that we need an inner circle, and that a large percentage of Americans don’t have one, the question becomes “who should I include in my inner circle?” Jack Welch in his book Winning says “the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and the head of Human Resources (HR) should be the two closest advisors to a Chief Executive Officer (CEO).” Why? With any initiative the CFO will want to see the impact of the initiative on the company’s financial statement. Accordingly, the CFO is the independent source within a company charged with answering the question “did we realize the benefit from the initiative that we anticipated?” They will want to see all spending as it relates to the initiative as well as the return on the investment. As a result finance develops, understands, and reports all the metrics that are essential to measuring ones progress in achieving goals. If you want to know what happened or what drove performance, either good or bad, ask the financial guy (or girl).

Ok, so why is the human resource leader a key person to have in your inner circle? Why isn’t it the head of sales, marketing, or operations? Aren’t they the ones that impact a company’s financial statements the most? Well there are a couple of reasons. First, In order to succeed you have to have the right people in the organization. The right person is the one who not only is competent in their specific field, but also “fits” with the other players in your organization. In Jim Collins book Good to Great “Executives who ignited transformation from good to great first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive the bus. Meaning, with the right people in an organization, the strategic direction for the organization will be easier to identify and will have the greatest chance at being in the right direction.”

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