The critical difference between a high-maintenance and high-performance team is the culture of accountability, measurement and ownership…but

1)      How do you create that culture; what are the component parts of what you need to do? And,  

2)      What happens when you are not getting the results expected? And,

3)      How do you manage the hard part?

Creating the culture 

…if we can take a step back for a moment, hopefully, we can see that there are really three components of management and leadership …

  • Directing… an intellectual and conceptual pursuit
  • Managing …the technical aspect
  • Leading… the people aspect

Each of the above is also made up of a further three components …

Directing involves:

  • Understanding the external world in which the company operates in order to craft an ambitious and deliverable strategy
  • Giving direction to the staff against the objectives set
  • Building the capability of the organisation in order to deliver only objectives

Management is the technical aspect of process creation and problem resolution needed to deliver on the strategy, it’s primarily concerned with:

  • Creating processes
  • Allocating resources
  • Addressing problems

Management is about ensuring the work of others can be organised both effectively and efficiently … remember effective first…  efficiency 2nd. …  if the things that you’re doing are not effective, it really doesn’t matter how efficient you are!

Lastly but by no means “leastly” is leading.  Leading, is the human activity, it’s about:

  • Defining the task
  • Building the team
  • Developing individuals

Leading is both moral and emotional … it’s the job of motivating and inspiring others so that they are willing to go in the direction you want them to travel and perform their own tasks better than they would have …. had you, the ambitious leader, not been there.

And leaders need to balance their time between each of these activities …. and their associated emotional approaches … if we continue to direct and command, when what’s needed is to lead … we are highly likely to come across as cold and calculating.  A diagram of the above model might look like the one below:

So, the culture is developed using the model above to provide direction and martial resources to execute the task in hand.

There are a number of blogs and webinars on all of these aspects and if you want to dig deeper into various components checkout some of the following:

What needs to be done? The nuts and bolts 

But, inevitably from time-to-time people underperform. The killer question, at those times, becomes – What are your reactions to the situation.  I’d suggest there are a few very common reactions:

  1. To rant at the offending individual… it might relieve a little stress but it’s not usually useful
  2. To go nuclear and issue an official warning… which might justify future dismissal
  3. To apply more training and coaching
  4. To take a long hard look at yourself and think what could I have done better?

If you opted for number 4 (at least in the first instance, and maybe the 2nd) then this blog is definitely for you.

In blogs and webinars previously we have talked about McGregor’s theory X and theory Y. Theory X is the realm of the dictatorial manager, carrots and sticks and takes the route of additional supervision, external rewards, and penalties.  Theory Y is the domain of the more collegiate manager and rests on an understanding of motivating, developing job satisfaction and encouraging people to approach their tasks without direct supervision.  So, I’m of the firm belief that the vast majority of people come to work wanting to go do a good job (at least until they have proved beyond doubt otherwise).  As a result, given that there is an issue with performance, I believe the ambitious manager should point the finger firmly at themselves first, asking what could I have done better?  In adopting this approach it is useful to ask questions like:

  • Have I actually set a clear standard?
  • Have I provided sufficient detail around what success looks like? (I’m a big picture thinker so this is often a problem for me)
  • Have I properly explained why this is important?

A great tool for going through this process with the individual in question it’s something that we have called the delegation driver, it helps the ambitious manager think through carefully what it is that needs to be achieved and the steps in getting there.  We also have another tool similar but different called the impact accelerator … both worth downloading.

The hard part 

However, in some instances a time comes when obviously enough is enough, so, having taken a long hard look at yourself, and I mean properly looked long and hard at your own performance and your contribution to the problem, the next question becomes – Is the issue about:

  • The individual’s motivation to undertake the work
  • The individual’s ability to undertake the work

Let’s at this point take an example, let’s say the issue in question is about the accuracy, timeliness and submission of time sheets and expenses.  I could be anything, it could be any task not completed or on time or to your satisfaction.  The conversation might go something like this:

Jeff, I think I owe you an apology, apparently I’ve done a lousy job of:

  • Communicating what we want
  • Making sure you own your timesheet and expenses submission process
  • Explaining why it’s so important time sheets and expenses are submitted on time
  • Providing you with the training you need
  • Tolerating what you have done in the past without giving you the appropriate coaching on how to improve it

I really am very very sorry…

What we expect is for the time sheets and expenses to be submitted every Friday by 6:00 o’clock and this is not happening in a consistent basis.  I am confused, so can you help me understand?  We both know we have discussed this on several occasions previously, yet we seem to be no further forward, and I’d really like to understand where the problem is:

  • Is it that you don’t understand what we want?
  • Is it that you haven’t been adequately trained?
  • Is it that you just don’t care… despite this being a critical part of your job?
  • Is it that you simply don’t have time?
  • Is it that you don’t own your job and are unaware of the consequences of not doing the job you were hired to do

Now you could go as far as saying (I’ve never had to) I now feel like I am begging you to do the work have we employed you to do, which makes no sense, because you have never had to beg me for your monthly salary, and I suspect, neither of us wants to beg and neither of us should have to!

The bottom line here is if the problem isn’t getting and staying solved a different strategy needs to be applied.  Depending on the nature of the issue in question.  There are some really simple solutions, it might simply be a laminated checklist defining the various responsibilities pinned to the office wall, a regular outlook or smart phone reminder, it might be more training is required or more mentoring or a different approach is required.  Effective leadership varies, not only with the person or group that is being influenced, but it also depends on the task, job, or function that needs to be accomplished. Effective leaders need to be flexible and must adapt themselves to the situation.  Consideration certainly needs to be given to the task in hand and to the stage that the individual is at for that task.  They could be exceptionally competent in their day job but this is a new task that you’ve given them so needs to be treated appropriately.  In these instances the situational leadership model offers a brilliant (and practical) model.

Finally, there will of course be occasions where issues arise and it is found that people don’t have the necessary intellectual horsepower to deliver the results you need … but that’s a different story for a different day, but in short, effort there should probably focus on the original recruitment process!


I believe, and I hope you do too, that pretty much everybody wants to come to work and be successful.  The critical issue is to ensure that the definitions of success are both codified, (written down so that they can be interrogated, updated and questioned) and aligned to the needs of the business. 

As ambitious leaders, the clearer we are on defining performance and shifting the burden of ownership and correction to the staff member, the less likely it is that we will need to resort to ranting, discipline, begging and threats.

As Keith Cunningham suggests … “the only difference between a high-maintenance and a high-performance team is a culture of accountability measurement and ownership”.

Finally, if you are struggling to get things done in the way that you want them done, the question becomes, as above:

  • Who do you need to apologise to?


Downloadable resources 

 To find out how Statius can help you deliver:

• Better strategies
• Better systems
• Better measurement and 
• Engaged people delivering 
• Better results

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