Book readings

The Art of High Performance

Read Time:7 Minute

The book, “Get High: How to coach yourself for high performance in your work,” authored by Ms Sangeetha Shankaran Sumesh was launched at Madras Management Association on 28 October 2020. Mr Anil Srinivasan, musician and educator, Mr V S Parthasarathy, President and Board Member at Mahindra & Mahindra, Ms Pavitra Singh, CHRO, PepsiCo India, and Mr Prakash Iyer, a leadership trainer, were the panellists. Moderating the panel discussion, the author of the book Ms Sangeetha Sumesh posed many interesting questions to the panellists and they answered all of them. They also took a lot of questions posed by the online audience. Excerpts from the panel discussion:

What are the characteristics of a high performance business?
Mr V S Parthasarathy: If someone has vision, passion, tension, attention and immersion, he / she can be a great leader and a high performer. The leader must have a clear vision and passion for success. He needs tension, as he has to aim for stretch-goals. He should have attention for details. He must have maturity and be humble.

A high performing organisation must be marked by five words and they are: Yield, Climb, Unmix, Fable and Prime.

Yield is about the results—the ROI, ROCE, etc. Climb refers to going up or growth; Unmix is making things simple; Fable is about telling stories about what happened and inspiring people; Prime refers to having compliance as a rule book and governance as a gospel.

What makes a person a high performing leader?
Mr Prakash Iyer: Though many things can be said about a leader, the ability to deliver consistent results is an important quality. Leadership is a relentless focus on results. Leaders must take ownership and put in place a process and a ‘no excuse’ culture. They must be able to stretch and maximise the resources available. They must make the people and business better and deliver great outcomes.

What makes a high performance team, in spite of the differences within the team?
Ms Pavitra Singh: For every high performance, you need both the mind and the heart. The balance of both is important. It is about balancing contradicting variables.

High performance teams have overarching goal, mission or vision around which the team rallies. The goal brings down the silos and keeps the team together. It leads to a win-win relationship amongst the members.

• They work on 60% agreement but 100% commitment.
• They feed on their own energy.
• They celebrate each other’s success.
• They are realistic but not cynical. They follow collective resilience.

How can people maximise their performance?
Mr Anil Srinivasan: They need to be on a HIGH. It means that they must be excited about their vision. They must build success structure, keeping people who will help them to realise their full potential and succeed around them in that structure. They need to set their metrics right and measure their performance. Without metrics, performance is meaningless.

People always say they don’t have time. If they have special talents, how can they prioritise their time and make use of those talents?

Mr Anil Srinivasan: With the pandemic and the lockdowns, there has been a surge in people going back to their passion. Invert the problem of the pandemic on its head. Now is the time. Please seize it and use it as an opportunity.

Knowing why you are doing what you are doing and making your teams aware of it, is crucial as a leader. Being purposeful in each activity that you undertake can lead you to high performance.

How can leaders curtail their biases?
Mr Prakash Iyer: Leaders must develop self-awareness. They must stop focussing only on themselves and try to figure out how they can help others and make them happy. Leaders must espouse positivity and expect good things to happen. Vulnerability is another quality they must possess. They need the courage to admit things that they do not know. It is not a weakness.

How can high performers get noticed and recognised in corporates?
Ms Pavithra Singh: It is important for everyone of us to get recognised, in whichever field we are. My mother, as a professor, would prepare extensively for her classes, learn, unlearn and relate to students in different ways.

Applying the same to corporate, high performers must work with the same kind of diligence and commitment. They must collaborate with others, help others to succeed, use company resources in the most optimal way and bring positivity around them. They must have the perspective of organisation first, team next and individual last. Such persons stand up and they easily get spotted and recognised. We should also remember that performance is based on context.

How can you balance organisational function and empathy?
Mr Parthasarathy: We should not mix-up sympathy and empathy. A doctor has to cut a gangrene to save the patient’s life. It does not mean he lacks empathy. Even a layoff or downsizing has to be viewed in this context. If an organisation can be better off by such measures, it is a welcome development.

After these measures, let us assume that the organisation has bounced back to growth. Now if the leader pauses and says, “By the way, when we restructured, we retrenched some people. Before we recruit new people, can we see if we can take back the retrenched persons?” That, according to me, is real empathy.

The Art of High Performance

Now let us see what the author Ms Sangeetha Sumesh has to say on high performance.
Leaders, do you want high performance in the work that you do? What does it take to be a high performing leader?

How can a leader create and manage high performing teams?Be it teams, leaders or organisations, everyone would like to be a high performer in their domain. By mastering the art of high performance, the team and organisation are driven, focussed and excel in their work, thereby achieving the desired results.

An organisation is only as successful as its leaders and the leaders are only as successful as their teams. Thus by driving high performance in teams, a leader can be successful and also contribute to the organisations’ success. So how can a leader drive high performance? If high performance is an art, what are some of the key ingredients?

Here are some pointers which can enable leaders to be high performers in their work space.

  1. The Art of Purpose
    Purpose is everything. Knowing why you are doing what you are doing and making your teams aware of it, is crucial as a leader. Being purposeful in each activity that you undertake can lead you to high performance. Deep dive and question yourself to get to the real purpose. Know what each action means to you and your team.
  2. The Art of Communication
    Effective communication plays a vital role in nurturing high performance in the teams. Assumptions, lack of proper understanding and unclear way of expressing can come in the way of delivering excellence. Communication should be specific, concise and easily comprehendible by the team.
  3. The Art of Influencing
    As high performing leaders, one must be adept at the art of influencing teams. Leaders can sometimes have an associated ego that prevents their best to be brought out. Hence, leaders must be mindful of it in order to have good influence with the teams and guide the teams for the best results.
  4. The Art of Getting Things Done
    A successful leader is one who can get things done and deliver accurately and on time. In order to drive excellence within the time frame, a leader must be capable of getting things done to the best of the teams’ abilities and drive efficiencies within the team.
  5. The Art of Leading Teams
    A leader must know the art of leading teams towards high performance by leveraging on the strengths of each resource. A good leader should not be biased and needs to lead by example. By walking the talk, a leader must inspire the teams for high performance.
  6. The Art of Growing
    In order to grow further, a leader must step out of the comfort zone. Negative beliefs need to be done away with. Encouragement and positive thinking along with bonding and nurturing the team with high performance culture will pave way for growth.
    High performance is not a destination but a journey by itself. By being better than yesterday and by being the best version of yourself in whatever work you do, you are on the path of high performance.