Make It So

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Jean-Luc Picard had a remarkable superpower: he had only to say, “Make it so,” and things would get done.

To be fair, this power was not entirely unique to him. Plenty of leaders and managers have said, “Make it so.” Sometimes, “it” even gets done, whatever “it” may be. In fact, it’s really less about whether or not “it” gets done, as how well “it” gets done. That’s the real key: not getting something done, but getting it done well.

Okay, Star Trek is fiction. Are teams really capable of demonstrating the sort of performance that we see from the crew of the Enterprise? The answer to that is, perhaps surprisingly, no. The truth is, real teams can do much better, and real teams don’t need a friendly script writer to make sure it all turns out okay. The secret is to develop the mindset and momentum of success. This can be challenging, particularly when a team is new or if a team has suffered a setback. However, even when things are going well, actually harnessing success and making it build upon itself takes more than just luck and good intentions.

Successful leaders manage it not through chance, but through having a blueprint for success. This leadership blueprint is known as the High Performance Cycle. Despite its name, the High Performance Cycle is not something used by elite riders in the Tour de France. At its most basic level, the High Performance Cycle links goals, feedback, employee engagement, and commitment to the organization, into one virtuous circle. Properly managed, each turn of the cycle increases the competence of the individual team members and of the team as a whole. Furthermore, when implemented properly, even failure becomes a form of feedback: information that lets the team adjust its goals and strategies. As the cycle runs, team members take on ever more challenging goals, leading to increasing levels of productivity for the organization.

The trick for the leader is that the cycle isn’t something that just magically happens. The leader is key to each step of the process: when you are in charge, you are the face of the larger organization. Thus, it is the leader who transforms successful goals into feedback that builds job satisfaction; it is the leader who transforms satisfaction into engagement and commitment; it is the leader who inspires committed and engaged employees to stretch themselves and seek out ever greater challenges.

Initiating the High Performance Cycle does not happen overnight and it rarely does happen by chance. It is the result of knowing what to do and being willing to do it. It can be a particularly useful tool for new managers, particularly during the transition from individual high performer to enabling others to perform at a high level. Indeed, one of the most powerful aspects of having a blueprint for effective leadership is that it enables leaders to engage in their most important task: increasing the performance of everyone else.

What can you do to set your organization on the High Performance Cycle?

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