Why are high-performers always trying to improve?

One of the most enjoyable things about my work as a professional speaker is that I visit workplaces around Australia, hearing about the challenges, but also seeing the clever things that people are doing.

One of the ironies of my work is that it is primarily the high-performing workplaces that book me. And the people who are most engaged, who are actively taking notes, you guessed it … are the high-performing leaders and team members.

Why is this? Why is it that high-performing leaders, terrific team members, and wonderful workplaces are always trying to improve?

The Dunning-Kruger effect describes the tendency of high-performers to compare themselves unfavourably to others and be quite self-critical.  As a result, high-performers are more open to feedback and improvement. Low-performers, on the other hand, tend to think they are doing a fantastic job and that any constructive feedback is a personal attack.

Put simply, high-performers possess the skills required to improve – the ability to self-criticise and be open to feedback. (However, one could argue they are being a touch too self-critical and need to ease up on themselves). High-performers also possess a strong desire to improve and are ready to embrace change. They know that change is a constant, this is the way of the future, and they don’t want to get left behind.

I recall a government agency I supported a number of years ago that, at the time, was known to have a very positive, collaborative, high-performing culture. A few years later, I returned to discover a change of leaders who were quite controlling, punitive, and problems had been left unaddressed. Within a relatively short period of time, their workplace culture had gone from awesome to awful.  

High-performing workplaces don’t tend to take their success for granted. Leaders in such workplaces know that good workplace cultures take ongoing maintenance. A few ways they build and maintain a positive workplace culture are … 

  1. Genuinely caring for their people, scheduling regular ‘How are you going?’ conversations
  2. Encouraging open, honest and respectful two-way communication
  3. Providing clear direction
  4. Engaging people with a strong sense of purpose
  5. Giving balanced feedback
  6. Aligning strengths with responsibilities
  7. Delegating and collaborating when it is possible to do so
  8. Giving people what they need to do their work well
  9. Addressing problems quickly
  10. Injecting positivity through laughter and meaningful recognition
  11. Helping people to advance their career
  12. Investing in themselves and their staff through ongoing professional development 

If you want to further improve your leadership style or help your team to become an even better one, then, congratulations! You share something in common with high-performing leaders and team members. But improvement also requires action - the above list may well give you some ideas on areas you need to work on and review on a regular basis.

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