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We all want our organisations’ system to perform optimally – after all, it is an innate requirement of a successful business. How this system is created is up to the individual, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a CEO who didn’t consider optimal system performance as the ultimate outcome of their endeavours.

Performance today, however, is a trickier topic than it was 30 years ago when driving profit through a command-and-control structure was the norm and easily achieved.

Those days are behind us due to the radically more complex business landscape we find ourselves in. The ideal response to these more complex conditions is for a CEO to develop a highly refined understanding of how to coax an optimal performance from their business. Or, more accurately put, how to coax an optimal performance from their ‘system’: the intertwined set of relationships between customers, employees and the market.

The truth is that each performance ‘solution’ will have to rotate around that most tricky of characters: the human. 

Every move your business makes – right or wrong – will be as a result of a human being making a choice – including yourself. It, therefore, stands to reason that you will need to think carefully about creating the best conditions for your humans to make decisions and perform at their best.

Be careful that you don’t put this all down to ’employee engagement’. The topic is far broader than that. Rather, it’s about formulating a solution for your own business that brings the elements that you’ve created within your organisation together in an optimal way that drives performance.

Elements here include: 

  • leadership 
  • culture
  • strategy 
  • innovation
  •  sales
  • resource allocation
  • customer relationships 

This balance requires experimentation and refinement over time. 

My own experience of this has been an interesting journey. During the first decade of running Lockstep, I viewed IP creation as being paramount: surely having the smartest ideas about leadership would result in many clients seeking us out.

However, to my surprise, what I learned was missing was a sales focus – something that wouldn’t have been amongst my top 15 priorities. Once I recognised that sales was paramount to building a successful consulting firm (duh – I know), we made the necessary changes and the whole system started to perform in a way that it had never before – in some months, generating a 300% revenue growth year-on-year. Naturally, this resulted in higher earnings for Lockstep’s associates, more senior talent being attracted and a more aligned brand being built leading to more clients and better quality work.

Your balance will be different. Maybe it will be about talent attraction, or Research & Development, or more autonomy for your employees, or about performance management. That is a question you are going to need to hold over time while you watch your system respond to your leadership and the levers that you are pulling.

This is a subtle art and if your business construct is old or if your definition of leadership is outdated, you will likely not have much success. 

However, if you consider leadership to be the creative art-form that it is, then you’ll be able to find your own solution that you can apply like a piece of proprietary IP. Once you’re on that path, you are off to the races. On the CEO Accelerator, we teach this exact skill, if you are interested in learning or refining it.

Even if you’re not, take a look at the elements I’ve listed above and consider how these are working for or against you in turning on optimal system performance in your business. 

Evocative questions to think about:

  1. What is ‘Optimal System Performance’ for your business?
  2. What are the levers at your disposal that can materially shift your business in the direction you want it to go in?
  3. How does the make-up of your business’ performance differ from other businesses?
  4. What is your leadership approach or philosophy and does it suit your business and its path to full performance?

Connect with us leadership@lockstep.co.za if you want to schedule a detailed conversation about how we can help you create your own performance solution for your business.

Jonathan-Rowan Belchers

Jonathan-Rowan Belchers

“I’m driven by the truth that one remarkable leader can change the fortunes of many. And I’m committed to championing those leaders across all continents.”

With an enduring passion for high performance and exceptional leadership, Jonathan-Rowan has advanced the footprint of Lockstep since founding it in 2006. A graduate of both Harvard and Berkeley and a certified business coach, he has 20+ years in the leadership advisory sector and lectures at a number of foremost business schools. He is an artist at heart – an avid reader, musician and painter.

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