The 'How To' of High-Performance | Louis D. Lo Praeste | LinkedIn

If you don't know who that is up there-that's Pep Guardiolo, one of the most winningest coaches in European football. Quick note, I will use leadership and management here interchangeably-as one relates to the action of the other.

There are lots of coaches out there. I hear from at least five a week. Some can coach how to be closer, or be more strategic, or a better employee, or a better partner,  but very few talk about the requirements of managing high performance workers.  Part of the challenge of leadership is in hiring and managing true talent. Guardiolo is equally famous for his ability to attract top talent, retain them and win. He is also famously strategic and directed. The trick to high performance management is to understand on a team without  "closers" and the "rockstars" nothing happens. You have to manage that talent correctly. Meritocracy relies on recognition and mentorship.  They might not be the easiest people to manage, but consider this: The crazy ones that will work almost constantly because they love it. The closers have actual networks to leverage can turn the deal around fast.  They are actually great team players and relationship builders--and they require high performance leadership and management.

High performance leadership is foremost strategic. 

High performance just doesn't unfold itself for you onto your lap like a dinner napkin.  Start with gauging your own expectations and risk tolerance. No one but a fool puts a horse in a race they can't win, so give your talent time to adjust, learn the territory first before you can expect results. If they win a few points during this period, consider it a success. Take note of thier style, if they charge ahead without research, reel them in. If they are too slow to get moving, incentivize them. You have to manage for the results you want. 

Do your homework and due diligence about why you are investing.

I think we have learned from the last 13 years of global warfare how quite a mess can be made when we act impulsively and on bad information. Anyone who has been doing business long enough will tell you that they have been let down at one time or another by somebody who over-promised and under delivered; the kiss of death for a salesperson. However, how often as leaders do we consider if we are over-promising a job, market or opportunity so we can attract top talent?

High performance management is realistic, and very directive.

An immature leader's growth "projections"projections of a leader's often misguided notion of "wow". Very often even the most seasoned of business people get's their ass handed to them in a new market. Beware a business leader enthralled by the "wow" of their ideas for growth, like a new coach with a roster of star players, who simultaneously lacks the "why" of going and the "how" to get there. Players naturally leave teams when they have been sold on enthusiasm but when game day came there is no coach in sight and no plan.

Failure to Manage High Performance Talent is Costly

According to entrepreneurial counselor Michelle McQuaid, misguided and abstentee leadership cost businesses $360 billion in lost productivity every year.  Over the years, I’ve consulted everyone from start-up leaders who struggled with day-to-day finance to high-performance CEO's who wanted to create a stronger relationship with their team members.

I'd estimate that just about 1/2 of the companies I have advised had serious issues with out of touch leadership. I often end up withcom panies where leadership has either failed to grow the business, or they've the the natural plateau of that business-the carrying capacity of the leader. I am rarely if ever put in the field and am comfortable being operationally focused. That's where the info is. 

Each and every time I have done this, I see as an opportunity to learn more about myself and how people operate in the workplace. After a few weeks of digging into team dynamics and market analytics, I often find deep discontent brewing like bad coffee among the team members--who uniformly complain about a lack of realism and follow-through from the top, but more often, they complained that they did not have real one-one time with their manager or the CEO about the market they are in. I discovered that high-performance leaders who show up, and focus on "how" instead of "wow" are most respected by their employees.

Laggards tend to have a few thing in common.

 Owner Absenteeism An over-zealous and stubborn commitment to their own ideas but an inability to mesh them with and have them executed by thier star performers abilities. Poor social skills: A complete lack of ability to connect with their teams on a normative, helpful basis in an authentic manner.  Lack of on-the-ground intelligence in the new market Inability to clearly and simply explain the company's value prop  

High Performance Management requires team buy-in

It's extraordinarily important to gauge the amount of support that your people need-be it financial, coaching, or materials.  Misguided leaders tend to think that high performance hires are mind-readers or messiahs. They often lack the intelligence and temper to cultivate a strategic outloook with them which is essential. 

When the future revenue or growth of the firm is mapped to the stars and not towards the actual offering and the reality of the marketplace, it's time to reevaluate. Here's what to coach for closers in today's market. Be cautious and temper the wow by cultivating a realistic sense of how is key to managing salespeople and businesses the represent that thrive. Do the opposite of wow and concentrate entirely on the mechanics of how. 

Working proficiency and comprehension of big data & horizontality. Make sure they know it's 2015, and not 1998 and that they are trend-watchers. Can they intelligently talk about the marketplace or are they bullshitters? Give them ready access to in-house technical expertise and an ability to translate the offering in intelligable, competant manner directly from the practitioners.  Strong Service orientation (simplest way to find out is to ask if they have worked in a restaurant or bar)  Find out if they are truly client-centric, and inspired to create value with others. Make sure your salespeople are strategically inclined, because they will view a client's business as a problem to solve and not cash to be made and service-orientated- whereby they will feel good only if the client succeeds.   High performance leadership is transparent

Last, if you want your start-up staffed by people with integrity and moxie--then tell them the truth. If you are bootstrapping-then make it clear that you don't know if you will make it and how much time and money you have until you do. Don't sell people optimism, sell them how. Sell people an opportunity to participate in actual growth that can be sustained on what they actually can do and be rewarded for right now today-not what they might be able get tomorrow.

The urgency you possess as a leader should be "now-focused" on the people and planning, and not on dreams. If this sounds counter-intuitive to the endless drone of entrepreneurial, start-up blather you are hearing, congratulate yourself for actually listening. Unicorns do not actually exist in my world, but well-run teams do.  

If you want to deliver on your commitment to your team and make assurances that you can keep, like keeping the lights on and paying salaries during that growth period--the key is only to commit to those things that you know absolutely for sure that you can deliver.


Louis D. Lo Praeste is one of the top management and culture voices on LinkedIn in 2015.  


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