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The High Performance Contradiction

It’s a strange facet of human nature that often the better someone appears to do, the easier they make it look and the less their efforts are valued.

Perhaps it’s because it is harder to quantify skill, knowledge and background preparation or that we to value the hours put in or the sheer graft rather than actual results.

Of course in recruitment this is very familiar. Despite working tirelessly to fill a vacancy for months some clients under value our contribution if their recruiter finds the ideal candidate quickly. Whilst we may seem to waltz in and effortlessly pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat, it is likely the result of many hours of work developing recruiting skills, studying the industry and building networks, broad and deep, across the industry. Empty vacancies carry cost and one that is often under-estimated so filling a vacancy quickly adds real value to a business.

Clearly this phenomenon is not limited to the seemingly intangible service sector.

Within our markets we have seen examples of outstanding performers who quietly get on with things, produce the result and hardly ever seem to encounter a crisis. They sound ideal but are often overlooked in the face of those who heroically struggle against one challenge after another.

Indeed one head of operations told another the divisional MD will never value you until you’ve had a major screw up and put it right. Now this second guy ran the slickest operation you could imagine, had great financials, high quality ratings and great customer satisfaction; yet it was clear he was not earmarked for promotion because it was perceived he’d never “had it tough”.

The fact was, he didn’t have crises because he had built a great team and they had everything under control with excellent contingency planning and foresight to head off problems or market changes before they became an issue.

By contrast some of his colleagues seemed to ”live in challenging environments” where technology, competitors and technology were constantly disrupting their business. They fought one battle after another and were highly valued for it.

There can be no doubt that individuals who can keep their head in a tough situation, stay calm and resolute and ultimately overcome obstacles are extremely valuable. However just because they make it look easy we shouldn’t underestimate or undervalue those who manage slick efficient businesses, who anticipate disruptions, plan and implement strategies to overcome them.

It can be easy for senior executives with a number of reports to overlook the detail of a business unit or department, particularly if there is no drama; but it may serve the overall business better if they are made aware or why there is no drama or of the potential dramas that went on behind the scenes.

Now I’m not suggesting the no drama high performers create or allow the odd crisis just so they can look a hero in fixing it but clearly it is to their advantage to ensure their contribution is understood and appreciated.

Sometimes they may be their own worst enemies with ego preventing them from admitting to difficulties. However they need to put this aside and their bosses need to be receptive. The advantages of having their true qualities recognised are obvious. The benefit to the business in recognising the challenges these people have faced and how they often negated them or nipped them in the bud can provide valuable lessons for other areas of the business. Let’s put a value on “no drama” and aim to make it spread across all business dealings.

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