(Part 2 of 3)

In my last post, I gave a brief introduction to high performers in the workplace. How do they deliver value to companies? What motivates them to stick around and perform well? What hampers their performance, or worse, sends them running for the door?

These questions matter because they lead to the bigger question of how an organisation performs at a high level.

It’s fairly evident—from numerous studies and from our own experience—that when a company actively develops the right people, workplace culture improves. That workplace culture is connected to how the company is perceived, which in turn affects things like team performance and recruitment prospects.

Ultimately, all of this funnels into the organisation’s ability to compete in the marketplace. After all, professional development is not a free gift benevolently bestowed upon the talented individual. It’s an investment; one for which returns are (and should be) expected in one form or another.

So does the investment actually pay? Some time ago, a survey was conducted by Insync in Australia, in which 100,000 respondents from 200 organisations were questioned over a five year period. The aim was to compare the habits of high performance organisations to those of low performance organisations.

One of the key points shown by the data is this: In high performance organisations, far greater numbers feel that their organisation’s leadership recognises and develops the right people.

The study also suggests that leaders in low performance organisations tend toward a pessimistic view of developing people, fearing they will leave once trained. Conversely, leaders in high performance organisations take an optimistic view. To them, an undeveloped, unmotivated talent who sticks around is more of an overall risk than a developed, motivated talent who leaves to pursue other opportunities. In other words: Perception, culture and performance are all linked to success at the organisational level.

How many high performers do you need?

There’s little doubt that steady, methodical development practices are a hallmark of successful organisations—but does methodical mean over-zealous? It’s tempting to conclude that everyone on the team should be a high performer. Wouldn’t a star-studded roster improve the team’s overall ability?

The answer is: Not necessarily. Our experience working with companies tells us that more is better—but only up to a point. This is because high performers, as we saw in the previous post, are in constant need of feedback and stimulation. They may be the most resourceful members of the team, but they also consume the most resources: time, energy, input, funding.

The point is this: While there is no need for low performers, a certain number of “average” performers is both good and necessary. These are people who work efficiently, but without the same drive and thirst for challenge. They have a balancing effect on the organisation—and most professional sporting teams provide a great example. If everyone on the team were a high performer, the resources needed to develop them would be too great. Not only that, the mechanics of the team would clog and sputter.

The challenge of recruiting and developing high performers, then, is a delicate one. While there are some general principles to live by, there is no shoe that fits every foot. It comes down to the assessment of individual talent, the mechanics of the organisation as a whole, and the ability to see how these two things fit together. Part three of the series will explore this idea in greater depth.

*This is part two of a three-part series on high performance teams. For part one, please click HERE and for part three, HERE.

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