REPOST: Performance vs Trust

by Ron Potter
A Note From the Editor:
As we recently mentioned, we are reposting popular blog posts while Ron is recovering from some health issues.

Those are not my words.  Those were spoken by Simon Sinek.  If you have not discovered Mr. Sinek, look up his website.  I read him and Share Parrish more than any other blog writers out there.

Navy Seals

Simon talks about working with Navy Seals.  Navy Seals are probably the highest-performing teams on the planet.  In his work with Seals, he asked, “How do you choose the guys that make it to Seal Team 6?” Seal Team 6 is the best of the best.  The Seals drew the following graph:

Leader or Teammate

Nobody wanted someone from the lower left: Low Performer and Low Trust.

Everyone wanted someone from the upper right: High Performer and High Trust.

When Simon asked them which type of person they want as a leader or teammate, they all said they would prefer someone on the right side of the chart than the best performer who had low trust.

Keep in mind that these are the highest-performing teams in the world.  But they would select Trust over Performance when it came to a leader or a teammate.

Corporations Have it Backward

In my thirty-plus years dealing with corporations and corporate reviews, they have all been heavily weighted toward the left side of the chart.  They graded and promoted people based on their performance rather than the trust they exhibited or expected.  It’s interesting to note that the Navy Seals termed that upper-left leader or teammate as toxic!  Regardless of high performance, if the person wasn’t trustworthy, they were toxic.

Performance Reviews

Why do corporate reviews focus so much on high performance rather than high trust?  I’m sure there are many reasons but the two that I see as most prevalent are:

  1. Corporations often want high performance (get the job done now) over anything else.  Part of the reason is that public corporations have bowed to quarterly reporting.  If the return isn’t better that quarter, the leadership is often called on the carpet by Wall Street and the Investors.  They don’t want to be in that position.  Therefore, they promote people who produce high results, regardless of the internal costs.  Remember that the Navy Seals labeled them as toxic.
  2. It’s easier to measure performance than trust.  With performance, it’s easy to check the box.  Was the goal met or exceeded?  Was it done on or ahead of schedule?  Easy to measure and identify.
    Does the person generate trust within their team?  Hard to predict.  The results may not show up for a long time.  Corporate leaders want results this quarter, not three years from now.

Trust Builds Long-Term Performance

I’ve worked with a few leaders who ranked high on the trust scale.  There are more stories, but two that come to mind include one leader who I worked with about a decade ago.  Three members of his team are now CEOs of three different companies.  He built trust!

Another CEO I worked with started two companies and built leadership teams that now run or are high-ranking leaders in several corporations.

Both of these leaders (and there are a few more) built leadership teams based on trust.  That doesn’t mean they ignored performance, but trust ranked higher when it came to evaluations.

Visit Simon Sinek’s youtube talking about Performance vs Trust.  Then evaluate what kind of leader or teammate you happen to be.  Then think about the type of leader or team you want to be a part of.  If you don’t like the answer to either of those questions, make a change!  If you’re the kind of person that believes outperforming everyone is what will make a difference in your life, you’re in for a shock.  You’ll end up very lonely.

If you’re the kind of person who exudes and promotes trust, you’ll find yourself much loved!

Lonely or loved.  You make the choice.

This post was originally posted here on May 7, 2020.

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