8th September 2022 | Written by

Learn to drive more performance from leadership teams with these strategies

Every business wants a high-performance leadership team that drives results. It’s the goal we’re all trying to meet and sustain through periods of intensive growth.   Some of you are just getting started on your journey to build great leadership. Others already have a stellar team and are working to scale without losing their current levels of performance.   Finding the right model to empower leadership teams at every level is a difficult thing to accomplish. We see leadership start strong only to lose momentum in the growth shuffle.   

The High Performance + Growth Problem

High-performance leadership means you WILL grow. This is obvious, but it’s also the problem and source of leadership failures at some point in the growth phases. So, we must ask the big question:   Where and why does leadership begin losing performance value?    The actual problems are not overly complex. It comes down to leadership falling into bad habits and complacency. They stop challenging each other and move into a routine where wasted time and talent is normalized.   Leadership teams must become more effective at working with more people (direct reports, teammates, and bosses) as the business grows. Identifying limitations and weaknesses that stand in the way of scaling is critical. When you hit the wall and can no longer scale effectively, it’s time to seek help through mentorship and training.   Knowing when it’s time for help means admitting your limitations, sharing your weaknesses and asking for help from mentors who have been in your shoes. Honest communication is the key to moving forward.  

Confronting the Fading Impact of Meetings

In the early lifespan of a business, most meetings are necessary and impactful. The processes are not yet built and the small team must come together to problem solve and build a foundation.    After that foundation is built and the business begins growing, the nature of meetings changes – as does the nature of leadership. Slogging through endless meetings is less impactful and leadership’s time could be more productive when focused on pressing tasks that need their ingenuity.   Harvard Business Review references a study published in MIT Sloan Management Review, citing that research shows: “. . . meetings have increased in length and frequency over the past 50 years, to the point where executives spend an average of nearly 23 hours a week in them, up from less than 10 hours in the 1960s.”   In that same study, 182 senior managers were surveyed across a wide swath of industries. The results showed that meetings are largely viewed as a waste of time.  
  • 65% claimed meetings prevented them from doing their work
  • 64% said meetings interfered with their time and ability to think deeply
  • 71% made the simple claim that most meetings are unproductive
  While some meetings obviously remain important, many are just eating away at time that could be invested in activities that actually build your business and grow your revenue.  

Open-Door Policies are Failing You

The classic open-door policy seems great on the surface, but it comes with some major downfalls as organizations grow. Take this example to see how an open door can steal time and energy from leaders in your company:  
Jim has an open-door policy because he wants everyone on the team to communicate and come to him with problems. This works for some of the staff but one member, let’s call him Ron, is constantly coming through the door. Ron is taking advantage of the policy by putting inconsequential decisions into Jim’s lap. Keep in mind that Ron was hired to make these decisions and it’s well within the scope of his job. By shifting responsibility to Jim, it takes the burden off of him.  Now, Jim is spending five hours a week on decisions that Ron should be making on his own. The time and energy invested is also diverting his attention from high-level leadership decisions that affect the entire organization, like hiring a new salesperson who would earn the company another $1MM per year. Jim needs to Say No to the open-door policy, focus on the tasks that matter, and be Rigorously Authentic with Ron to empower Ron to make his decisions on his own. 
  The takeaway here is that you can build a leadership team that is accountable for their own roles, leaving you with the time and freedom to be creative and productive in your own job.  

How to Build a Sustainable Performance Plan

The behaviors standing between average and high-performance teams are not complex. Like anything in life, getting the fundamentals right and repeating them constantly is the key to success. Here’s how you can break down barriers and implement processes to develop sustainable, high-performance leadership teams.   

Great Leaders Go First

Creating a psychologically safe environment allows leadership teams to thrive. The safe environment is created when the top leadership members show vulnerability and open the lines of communication.   Breaking down fear barriers means your team will stop holding back and will start sharing the things stopping them from reaching their goals.    For example, a leader who Says No to low-value meetings saves five hours per week and redirects that time toward reporting that is always falling behind. Now the reports are done and they have the data needed to make performance-oriented decisions.  

Do the Uncomfortable Work and Eliminate Servant Leadership Styles

  We worked with a credit union where leadership policies were designed with a servant mentality. They were struggling to hit their performance goals, and a major cause was the system favoring “pleasing” over “performance.”    This meant leadership members attended every single meeting just to appear supportive to their employees. It was devouring their available time. In fact, they had eight executives wasting five hours per week – at a minimum!   They Said Yes to everything because that was the policy in place. “Say yes, be a people pleaser, go above and beyond.” As a result, nothing was changing and leadership was essentially stalled because every minute of time available was wrapped up in low-value tasks that had no organizational impact.   We helped this credit union by identifying where time and talent was being wasted. After redefining the processes and implementing repeatable steps to “Say No”, the leadership members reclaimed their time and doubled down on the most important tasks that would grow their revenue. Simply Saying No had a big impact on performance.   

Let Go of Past Success

Things that drove success two years ago are not necessarily going to drive you into the future. Leaders who hold onto those customers and employees who no longer fit are dragging themselves down.    You may have a customer who was a big win for the organization early on, but now they expect a ridiculous time commitment and only account for a fraction of your revenue. Is it in your best interest to spend the time overserving a customer that delivers little value?   The same applies to employees as the organization scales. Processes change and leadership is responsible for organizing and motivating staff. An employee who refuses to adapt and grow with the organization can hold you back. Learn to let go when appropriate so your team can move forward.  

Sustaining Performance at a High Level

Once you reach that high level of performance, maintaining it is not complex – but it’s not easy either. That’s why we implement very simple processes for honesty and accountability in our Say No program.   Here’s what honesty looks like in day-to-day leadership:  
I’m saying yes to meetings I don’t need to be in and it’s costing me 10 hours a month. I’m afraid if I leave these meetings, my employees will think I’m not a supportive manager. 
 
I’m going to Say No to these meetings where I don’t add value. I trust my team to handle these meetings on their own, and to raise their hand if they need specific support actions from me. I’m reinvesting my 10 hours a month into hiring new salespeople who will help grow my business’ revenue engine.  
  Here’s what it looks like from a process perspective:  
  • Identify the things you are saying yes to when you should say no
  • Analyze what it’s costing you
  • Acknowledge the fear preventing you from saying no
  • Do the Uncomfortable Work and Say No! 
  In our Addictive Leadership program, we teach you to lead by example by “Saying No” to low-value meetings, tasks, and projects – consistently.    Next, we teach you to maintain your “recovery” by taking five minutes in every regular leadership meeting to communicate at least three Say No Victories with these three key components:  
  • What did you Say No to?
  • What fear did you have to overcome to Say No? Things like FOMO, being seen as less than a “team player,” etc.
  • What did you gain/save by Saying No? Be specific in hours or dollars.
  Sharing your “Say No” victories with your team every week is an important part of the process for building trust and transparency – and avoid “relapsing” into the yes-man mentality that destroys productivity.. Consistently communicating your “Say No” victories keeps the benefits visible and clarifies how the process benefits leadership performance as a whole.    This practice also cultivates the psychological safety that tells your peers and employees: this is a safe environment to Say No, share your unique perspective, and focus on what matters.  

Are you ready to build a high-performance leadership team that scales with your growth?

Get in touch to learn more about how Addictive Leadership opens the pathways to better leadership: https://michaelbrodywaite.com/topic/speaking/

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