I spent most of my military career leading special forces soldiers. Here are a few of the things I learnt about developing and sustaining elite performance, which are also directly applicable to business.
Selecting the Right People
Elite organisations are incredibly careful about their selection procedures. One element of this in the military is physical aptitude but equally important are assessments of character, judgment and intellect. Can these people get on in the team, can they think straight under pressure and how good is their judgment? In other words do they make good decisions? Recruiting and selecting the right people is a big challenge for most high performing organisations. This link to the Harvard Business review has some handy tips on getting this right – http://buff.ly/1j2qkWO
Clear Defined Objectives
Organisations and teams need a clear sense of direction. This is not a vague mission statement about how the company intends to ‘become the best’ but a clear, specified and resourced objective, which focuses the entire group on analysing and planning how they are going to reach and achieve that objective. Ideally it should describe what is to be achieved but not how it is to be achieved. That is for the team to figure out and presumably the reason you carefully hired a group of intelligent ambitious people in the first instance?
Basics Done Well
High performing teams, in sport, in the military or in business do the basics well. It’s not special skills or special kit but the ability to consistently perform fundamentals to a high standard, even and especially under stress, that is the secret. This sounds easy but in reality lots of organisations and teams don’t even know what their basics are and if they do, they underestimate the self-discipline needed to achieve consistency. One reason why this is so important and powerful is that it creates a great deal of resilience and flexibility in the team allowing it to cope with setbacks, pressure and unexpected obstacles. ‘We are what we do repeatedly’ – Aristotle
The Pursuit of Excellence
The pursuit of excellence is the ambition and restlessness to keep striving to improve and do better. It involves an openness and commitment to constant learning, and an openness to criticism and ruthless self-assessment. Most organizational assessments, formal and informal are basically platitudes. They create harmony and protect egos but they also fail to drive improvements identify lessons or push performance. Groups that can develop an ethos that actively seeks constructive dissent and can cope with criticism are more honest about failures and weakness and better able to make changes and improvements.
Of course all easier said than done but for organisations that are committed to excellence and invest in leadership this might start to help sketch out a road map for performance development.
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