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Delivering high performance is a question of leadership capital and not that of human capital. In all cases, leaders must somehow figure out how to get the most out of their teams, put them in the best places, create the right environment for each member of the team to deliver up to his utmost.
Very often, in professional life as in athletics or musical performances, a leader has access to the best talent, yet fails to meet the projected performance. Conversely, often we see a company reach astonishing results with average competencies. An ineffective leader can render useless high valued members of a team, just as an excellent leader can manage to get the most out of individuals by placing them in, and creating, the right culture.
So what exactly is this environment or culture that leaders have to create to guarantee high individual and team performance? It is an environment that stimulates the individuals within that context to improve their performance and that of those around them. It is the pursuit of “Better, Stronger, Faster”.
Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah celebrates after being awarded the golden boot award for most goals scored in the season after the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on May 13, 2018. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
For a leader to create a high performance environment, he has to have the ability to sense, to measure, to analyze, to motivate and to change. Such leaders master the art of getting their people out of complacency modes, act on status-quo and indifference, and create a sense of belief while instilling hope and self assurance.
Driven by such style of leadership, many of the team members will then be able to make the physical, mental and emotional transformation, manifested by subtle, and sometimes significant, changes in their behaviors.
Take the case of a music student who changes schools and suddenly delivers outstanding musical masterpiece, or the employee who was let go from one company because of lack of motivation and unacceptable results, only to be the star and rain maker of another, or the student who gets kicked out of a school for reasons of bad grades, only to emerge somewhere else as a genius, or the athlete who is let go from one team because he did not meet on-field production expectations, only to be a star with the next team.
Such was the case of footballers Riadh Mehrez and Mohamed Salah. Two FA players who were practically run out of town by their respective coaches for lack of results, only for both players to win best FA players of the year the following year. Mehrez left La Havre after three years in League 2 and having scored 6 goals in 58 games, only to find himself in a physically and mentally more demanding environment of the world’s best league, score 40 goals in a 120 games, and winning the best player award.
Similarly for Mohamed Salah, after being benched by Murinho and practically given to Roma for next to nothing, only to return to the FA league, with Liverpool, win a championship ring, best player award and the respect of his fellow footballers and fans alike.
What had changed in a matter of months for both players with identical competition, and the exact same opponent? Have they acquired that much more talent to go from “giveaways”, to become the best of the class?
Although the players may have gained experience playing at the highest stage of football, and their talent may have improved, it was how they felt, their behaviors towards themselves, their teammates, and their approach towards their responsibilities and their individual and team objectives that had changed.
Let’s take a quick analysis of Mohamed Salah, and his relationship with both Jose Murinho and Jurgen klopp.
At Chelsea, Mohamed Salah was never considered an integral part of the team. He was a bench player who played mostly in junk time, either when the team was either winning or losing by a lot. That played on the player’s confidence. During training sessions, Mourinho hardly ever spoke to him directly, leaving that to the assistants. And when he did address him; it was usually to denigrate him in front of others. Jose Mourinho was a star’s coach and in his eyes, Mohamed was not a star. Consequently, the player played down exactly to the coach’s expectations, not because he could not do better, but because he was full of self doubt and did not wander out of his comfort zone in fear of retribution.
In Liverpool, and under the tutelage of Jurgen Klopp, Mohamed found his groove. The bounce was back and the spark was found. The real Mohamed came out of his shell, took decisions on his own, was encouraged when he made mistakes, and the fear was gone. The environment was positive, even at times when they lost games. Klopp used many of the losses as opportunities to build the psyche of his players, not to destroy it.
Two distinctive styles of management and leadership at play, one is rigid and expects all players to fit into a system, a culture, a way of being and behaving, no matter their backgrounds; and another built on flexibility, sharing, setting of small achievable goals, and on positive reinforcement.
Founder and President of 4DLH, holds a Master’s degree from Harvard University in Operations Management, and a Bachelor degree in Applied Mathematics from the University of Massachusetts in Boston – USA