When Performance Falls Flat: The Surprise Missing Ingredient

Increased performance! Improved performance! Better performance! Faster, better, bigger, best.  If you’re like most people, that’s what you want for the performance of everything from your car’s engine to your employees at work. For good reason, particularly inside your organization. Especially given that increased performance directly affects corporate bottom lines, innovation, and opportunities. This awareness has led organizations for decades to focus on measuring and improving performance, even though this attention on measurement has not necessarily led to the desired outcomes. There is a good reason for this, which you may never have considered before: You may unknowingly be quantifying only half of the inputs to the performance equation, and missing critical key indicators.

Your partial success reflects that you have some things right, but there may be so much more that you’ve never considered before, even though your company may have amazing competency frameworks for every job, which are quantifiable.  You may have even defined KPI’s and implemented entire Performance Management Systems to measure performance, to clarify task and work expectations and ensure people have the resources they need to be top performers.  Still, performance may fall short of predictions and potential, and you might lay awake at night wondering, “What’s missing?”

Let’s ask two crucial questions to get outside the box, and see if it can prompt some new answers, places to look you may not have considered before.  First, “Where does performance break down most often in your organization?”  As you think about your answer, let it lead you to this question: “How much of it is the result of people’s interactions, communication or the inability to work fluidly together to solve complex challenges?”  As you look at these two things, what do you notice?  If you are like most people, you would say that a large percentage of performance breakdown is due to relational factors.  As you draw that conclusion, you realize that you have also just revealed the missing half of the performance equation!  It is all about the impact individuals have on each other and the organization, and the way their choices influence energy and performance.

This is a sometimes a difficult place to look because relational-oriented factors are hard to quantify.  Sometimes, they are not valued.  Yet, ignoring them is like driving through a construction site, and picking up a nail in not one tire, but two.  Imagine having one tire deflate, quickly followed by the second one, and ending up with two flat tires at the same time. Of course, when that happens you can’t get up to and maintain high speed. This is like having task and relational factors both breaking down at the same time, which almost always begins to happen if the relational elements are not attended to.  However, when task and relational oriented key predictive indicators are both given “air” in a balanced way, organizations, teams and individuals increase in momentum and velocity. Performance exponentially increases.

What relational KPIs increase the likelihood of high performance?  Our seven years of research with over 4,000 people across the globe suggests that a successful solution includes individuals having these three components:

  1. Clearly defined task and relational purposes
  2. Leveraging Strengths Strategy® to energize self and others, and to mitigate the experience of weakness
  3. Adding to synergy through serving “us/others” (as opposed to merely driving for one’s own individual gain)

What if you could replace the traditional scarcity-oriented, low-trust approach to performance management with excellence and energy management through Interdependence?  What if you could give feedforward, rather than feedback, and replace deficit-oriented performance management with excellence management?  You may not realize that smart organizations are already moving in that direction!

In this emerging Human Economy, can you really afford to minimize the magnitude of the relational impact on the performance equation?  If you don’t want your performance to fall flat, you may want to join the companies who know how to engage the hearts of their people, help them connect to one another and manage the relational side of the performance equation with wisdom and clarity.[1]  After all, those who get it are surging forward, and killing the competition. Those who don’t, will fall farther and farther behind.  Which way will it go for your organization?


You can request more information about how to create a performance strategy using a formula that includes both task and relational measures by emailing info@peopleacuity.com and having a conversation with one of our Strategists.  Watch for future blogs to learn more about each of the three relational KPIs.

NOTE: this blog was written by DeAnna Murphy, Lisa Gregory, and Steve Jeffs, the People Acuity thought leader team.

DeAnna Murphy, a 23-year organizational development veteran and CEO of People Acuity, has led the 7-year research process with the People Acuity Analytics team. It has involved over 10,000 individuals around the globe participating in original qualitative and quantitative research, exploration of over 1,000 academic and practitioner articles, top-rated marketing reports, and analysis of 200 of the best-selling books in leadership, self-help, business, and psychology. People Acuity, an affiliate of Strengths Strategy, is in 31 countries, and includes over 300 practitioners across the globe.

Lisa Gregory is a thought leader and Manager of Product Development and Delivery at People Acuity. With 17 years of business experience as a trainer, coach, advisor, entrepreneur and corporate leader, Lisa has extensive experience in learning and development, at both strategic and implementation levels. She has worked with leaders in 80 percent of the Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies and has broad and deep knowledge of the challenges facing top executives, employees, and managers as they strive to bring their best to an organization and to their own lives.

Steve Jeffs is the Chief Scientist, Senior Faculty and is co-leading the international expansion of People Acuity. Integral to the People Acuity Analytics team, Steve recently presented the validation of our Foundations of Interdependent Teams Scale at the World Congress of Positive Psychology. He is a registered Psychologist, multi-award winning Executive Coach, energetic facilitator and scientist. Fascinated by interdependence and synergy, Steve is completing his Doctorate in this field, and applies this learning, consulting with organizations and in Executive Coaching with Senior Organizational Leaders around the world. Steve lives in Dubai, UAE, and operates globally.


[1] See: https://hbr.org/2014/11/from-the-knowledge-economy-to-the-human-economy.