Manila, 24 April 2019 — What do you feel when you see high performance? Ever wonder if there is a silver bullet for repeating high performance?
Imagine how you feel when driving a high performance car and you press the pedal to the floor and experience your car accelerating powerfully, pushing you back into your chair while your car leaps forward smoothly? With an electric car, the acceleration will be even faster!
Or, what do you feel when you finish up the week in amazing style, celebrating how you achieved your three daily wins every single day and fully accomplished your week goals?
Or, how you will feel when you and your team accomplish a stretch goal after going the extra mile to make sure you will do it together?
And when you deliver your big report ahead of time and your boss gives you kudos for quality and speed?
Or, when the climate conference you participate in reaches an agreement on the last night that makes a strong contribution to targets set out in the Paris Climate Accord?
All of us will be excited, in our own preferred way, when we encounter peak performance and we’re part of it.
How can we have this good feeling more often, this celebration of high performance? As leaders, is there a silver bullet for us to do that?
Well, yes there is! No matter how challenging the situation, high performance is always the result of a process, and that process has three phases.
I call it the ACE Process, short for Assess, Challenge, and Execute. You can see it in the diagram below.
The three phases of the ACE Process correspond well with my favorite leadership model, that of Direction, Alignment, and Commitment (DAC), developed by the Center for Creative Leadership.
Note that the model moves in a counter-clockwise direction, reflecting that leaders and leadership create changes that often go against the established path of the status quo.
Let’s take a quick look at the three phases.
The process starts with a good analysis. In our world today, the capabilities for analyzing data and diagnosing problems are improving in leaps and bounds, also for leaders. You can assess, and regularly re-assess what works, what doesn’t, and pinpoint solutions to bring about alignment for better results.
This is evident for technical systems, and it is also becoming the norm for leaders who make changes in human systems and organizations. The starting point for improving performance lies in conducting as good an assessment as you can.
On a personal level, this also applies to yourself and your own performance. Modern leadership assessments will help you to take account of your personality factors, both those you can change with some effort, and those that appear to be stable and cannot be changed easily.
Multi-rater assessments, often referred to as 360-degree reviews, will become more common, and the advancing technologies will allow you to take charge of your own assessment rather than let this be done by your organization.
It doesn’t stop with assessments. Increasingly, re-assessments will become more common, to be applied after a strategy has been executed, to improve it further, and allow for performance improvements to be checked and validated.
After conducting an assessment, the second step is to strategize what needs to change, and to select a main challenge to work on in order to improve performance, based on the diagnosis of the assessment.
The chosen challenge to be selected and committed to, will be to achieve a stretch goal of the kind that responds well to the diagnosis. Your goal can, for example, address the need to work on showing more effective leadership behaviors, individually or in a team.
It is important to make the strategy as simple and clear as possible, and to make sure that your goal is well out of your and your team’s comfort zone.
No matter how well strategies are prepared, they end up sitting in binders on shelves far too often. Any strategy is only as good as its execution. And that is where many efforts fail.
In strategy execution, prioritizing actions is a key to success. For example, in developing your leadership, adopting a practice of accomplishing three daily wins every day, week, and month is an effective way to prioritize actions, to continue making progress, and to ensure frequent chances for the celebration of progress that research has shown to be highly motivating.
When your strategy is clear and your actions prioritized, it is also easier for you to ask and give feedback on how the execution is going, and to reflect on the experiences gained and lessons learned.
The process finishes up with scrutinizing of the results gained in the execution of the strategy, which can trigger a re-assessment of performance to account for progress achieved, allow for more alignments, and then to further boost performance.
Whenever and wherever you look to improve and achieve high performance, I recommend that you keep your process as simple as possible, and stick to the three phases of assess, challenge, and execute. The ACE Process will help you keep things as simple as possible, and keep moving from each phase to the next.
That way, no more strategies will be left on shelves, and you can bring your teammates and other colleagues along for the ride and the celebration when high performance has led to better results.
There is, after all, a silver bullet for repeating high performance often: to stick to the process that works and delivers.
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