with greg layton

The Inner Chief is for leaders, professionals and small business owners who want to accelerate their career and growth. Our guest chiefs and gurus share powerful stories and strategies so you can have more purpose, influence and impact in your career.

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We’ve made it to Episode 100!!!

What a cracking topic we have in store for you today. Our High Performance Teams series now enters part 14, and we’re into the penultimate element of what drives a High Performance Culture, where today we look at the power of high standards and how this drives feedback, accountability and unity across a team.

We cover the one topic that my clients ask me about more than anything, and that is how to increase accountability in their teams and how to get people to take ownership of their work, and stop them from becoming victims. In turn, this will also help your low performers grow, you then get an environment where feedback is really common, and actually is core to your team's performance.

In this episode, I outline:

  • Why living and breathing your organisation’s values is where you need to start;
  • How you can turn the values into specific behavioural high standards across your team and how to get them to be accountable to these standards;
  • How your team can enjoy continuous feedback in such a way that they serve the higher standards you seek to attain;
  • How all of the above starts with you; you raising the bar, you being accountable, you improving continuously based on feedback.

Why is raising the bar important?

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions”.

This is more than just a brilliant quote by Ken Blanchard; this is instrumental and at the core of high-performing, accountable teams. But it’s easy to get wrong when giving it out, especially if you have no leadership currency. You've got to establish trust to begin with because you can move too fast along the feedback continuum, and it can become a really draining process.

So you want an environment where feedback is constant. Consider a tennis coach; they're constantly giving feedback because the individual wants to be the best in the world. As a result, the feedback loses any negativity to it, because the person is always thinking about how they can be the very best.

Furthermore, if your standards are too low, it doesn't drive anyone towards success and as a result, you end up being drawn towards the lowest common denominator: the lowest performer in your team. What we want is people, even the low performers, to enjoy feedback. The reason for that is because it's asking more of them; it's asking them to be a high performer.

Leaders are dealers in hope

This is a great quote from Napoleon Bonaparte and what it means for you is that feedback is the pathway to their dream.

Do you know what your people's career vision and their career goals are? If you haven't worked all that out, how can you get into the paradigm of helping them achieve their dreams in life, of helping them take their game to a new level?

This is why raising the bar – within reason – is vital to nudging your team to greater heights. Remember, by helping your team deliver their own track records, yours will be derived naturally.

Let's now go through some specific strategies.

1. Get the values off the wall and into your DNA

Living and breathing your organisation’s values is where you need to start. You've got to demonstrate those behaviours every day and they've got to be crystal clear; what your team will do, what they will never do, what they will always do every single day, what they will never ever do.

They could be around customer service, personal excellence, integrity. Whatever they are, they set the behavioural standards.

They must be aspirational; the status quo cannot exist any longer for anyone. Everyone has got to improve as individuals and as a team, which is why feedback delivered in the right way, against known performance metrics, encourages people to be the best version of themselves. And if someone knows truthfully that they could've been better in that moment, it's a lot easier for them to receive negative feedback.

2. High standards equal Accountability

The next step is to turn those values into specific behavioural high standards across your team. This is what enables you to get people to be accountable to these standards. Conversely, if you have not set the expectations of the desired standards, you can't hold people accountable to them.

What I've found is that some chiefs try holding people accountable to standards that are vague, and that is actually quite stressful. In fact, I'd go one step further and say that if you allow the weak behaviour of low performers, it can suffocate the high performers.

3. Getting your team to enjoy feedback

There are a number of types of feedback, including recognition, praise, coaching, warnings, gratitude, skills, process improvement, and behaviour modification. By using these tools, you can really build that bank account of trust you require in order to give feedback that they take on board and action.

By investing in them and having a real growth, positive mindset about what they are capable of, your team can enjoy continuous feedback in such a way that they serve the higher standards you seek to attain.

4. Raising the bar starts with you

“You know your actions speak so loud I can't hear what you're saying!”

None of the above can happen if you haven't raised the bar on yourself and demonstrated growth, maturity, transparency and the agreed values. If you haven't done these things, how could you expect anyone to follow?

I worked with a great coach in Africa called Don Ash from 100 Small Things, and he said that your people will always be at the very best one step behind you in culture improvement. He said that you set the bar and they'll always be trying to keep up to you; if you drop down, they'll drop down too.

There's a brilliant quote from Jim Yong Kim: “No matter how good you think you are as a leader, my goodness, the people around you will have all kinds of ideas for how you can get better.”

With that in mind, you've actually got to get feedback on yourself and you have to demonstrate what it's like to receive that feedback. You need to seek out how you can be a better individual, and a better performer as a leader.

Closing thoughts on raising the bar

Giving and receiving feedback is a skill that needs to be constantly worked at; when you stop giving feedback, you lose the knack and everyone around you drops the ball a bit, and the standards can drop.

So, Chief, are you avoiding too many difficult conversations because you haven't set the bar clearly enough or high enough?

Are you dancing around your conversations, and as a result, are making life stressful and difficult?

Are you being your greatest self?

That's up to you now. You are the chief of your career in life.

Stay epic,

Next article in the High Performance Teams series:

Pillar 3/Culture: Part 15 – Rituals and Traditions