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Performance Management - What are the Roadblocks to Creating a High Performance Team?

It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, the size of the company, what you are selling, what the product roadmap looks like, how big your team is, or who your competitors are… at the end of the proverbial day, performance is measured against what we have delivered.

What are the end results and how do they compare to what was committed to?  


Whenever we have to rely on other people to deliver results, we have to start looking at our own skills as they relate to performance management. The term “performance management” sounds flashy, but it’s pretty broad and how the heck does one really go about managing this performance we’re chasing after?

When things are going well, we know it and it feels good, but it’s not always easy to pinpoint exactly what contributed to that success. Sometimes it helps to look at it from the vantage point of what happens when things go wrong and we find ourselves running into roadblocks.

If we look at the building blocks of performance (and we make the assumption that we are working with a baseline level of natural talent and ability), weaknesses in the following three areas can really undermine performance:   

Lack of Understanding

The fundamental level of performance starts with understanding. Let’s call this the “What” in the performance equation. A lack of understanding around what they should specifically be doing leaves people making guesses. Even with smart people who can figure things out, the results are time consuming, inconsistent, and guessing is not a strategy for scalable success my friends.

As a manager trying to assess understanding, there are three primary questions to ask:

  1. Does the person you are managing have a clear understanding of what it is that they are supposed to be doing?

  2. Do they understand what role they are supposed to play on the team?

  3. Is there a clear understanding of how each role impacts the team’s overall success?

The answers to these questions can sometimes clear up a lot of confusion and structure a conversation that allows each person to focus on their specific area of expertise and contribution, without getting scattered by the guessing game.


Lack of Skill Set or Resources

Once we are clear on understanding, we move to skill set and resources. It’s one thing to know what to do, but quite another to have the skill set and resources to know how to get it done. This is the “How” in the performance equation, and it’s the part that trips us up the most.  

Why do we stumble on the “how” part of producing results? As adults and professionals, we are often hired or promoted into roles with an expectation that we already know how to produce the desired results. In fast growing companies, this is even more relevant as people are promoted internally at a rapid rate. Admitting that we don’t know how to do something is a very vulnerable thing, both professionally and personally.

This is where an honest assessment of skills and resources comes into play. As a manager, the following list of questions will help focus the evaluation:

  1. Is there a skill set that is underdeveloped, but essential to performance?

  2. Where are the breakdowns occurring?  

  3. How can the critical skill set(s) best be developed and honed?

  4. Is it a matter of skills training, follow up practice/learning integration, or execution?  

  5. In addition to skill set, does my team have the supporting resources (systems, process, reference information, data/reports, technical support, etc.) that they need to be successful?

The answers to these questions will help diagnose where the roadblocks are occurring and identify what skills and/or resources need to be addressed.  


Lack of Motivation

What happens when you’ve solved for understanding (What) and skills/resources (How) and you still aren’t seeing the results you need? It’s time to look at motivation; the desire to put in the effort to produce the results.  The following questions drill down into the deeper levels of motivation, the “Why” in the performance equation:  

  1. As a leader, how have you articulated why the current initiative is important?

  2. How have you structured roles that allow each team member to feel a real sense of purpose?

  3. Is there a clear connection to the end result and can people see what the impact of their efforts will be?

  4. How are you maintaining a connection to these deeper levels of purpose, connection, results, and impact and “feeding” the motivation of your team on a regular basis?

  5. What kind of periodic recognition and praise are you planning on giving to reward your team members?

Unless there are clear and compelling answers to the “Why” questions, performance will be lackluster. I encourage you to explore these questions and get feedback from your team on what’s important and what drives them. Do not to overlook this critical element of performance.

So there you have it. Through some reverse engineering and deeper levels of questioning, we can distill out the following formula:  

What + How + Why = Performance

Simple but not easy. The first step is to start asking some questions, so get out there and get curious.

Level213 partners with managers to build the processes, systems and resources that are critical to growing and sustaining performance. Contact us here to learn more.


Amanda Ambrose, Co-Founder & Chief Coaching Officer at Level213

Amanda Ambrose