Do you believe in your people, do they believe in you?

by | Jul 5, 2023

In the Arena – Whiteboard Wisdom #002

“Do you believe in your people, do they believe in you?”

This week I had a conversation with a senior leader that went something like this:

“I have a problem with my highest performer. He achieves great numbers, but it seems his only form of self-respect is not only by winning, but by defeating someone. In pushing himself up, he also wants to push others down, not only our competition, but members of his and my team.”

He continued:

“We have ’selflessness’ as one of our team’s values, and I know I am turning a ‘blind eye’ because he gets results. He also has a track record in this regard at other organisations, and I knew that when I employed him. I thought I’d be able to change him, and it is hard to get good performers at the moment, particularly people who can quickly get rubber on the road”.

Immediately I remembered one of my favourite Neil Balme quotes, a football man with rare clarity:

“Do we want to be known as a club that accepts other clubs’ problems?”

In the discussion that followed, the leader was able to conclude he had a broken concept of ‘high performer’ and this issue spoke more to him as a leader than any performance outcomes he may or may not achieve.

The outcome, he did not believe in or trust this person, but more importantly it was significantly impacting his believability and trust as a leader as he compromised standards and expectations for this one-dimensional view of performance.

Creating the conditions that motivated buy-in to team values is a fundamental expectation of leaders, and turning a ‘blind-eye’ all but assured that this would not happen. Values are only values when the stakes are high.

The next move is his to make, but he now has the clarity of thought from which to make it.

“Do you believe in your people, do they believe in you?”

The “In the Arena – Whiteboard Wisdom” concepts I speak to are taken from years of daily journaling, in-the-moment note-taking in my Moleskine journal, and my lived experience as a CEO and leader in high-performance sport for most of my working life.

I call this process ‘borrow freely, apply uniquely’, inspired by the Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards’ line, “It is not where you take it from, it is where you take it to”.


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