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High Performance Employees Need High Performance Management

– By Andre A. de Waal

A High Performance Organisation (HPO) is one that achieves financial and non-financial results that are markedly better than those of its peer group over a sustained period of time, by focusing in a disciplined way on that what really matters to that company.

A key component of attaining this goal is obviously to hire and retain the right people – people who want to be challenged, need to have responsibility and at the same time ask to be held accountable, and want to perform better. Since they perform better, they contribute more to the organisation’s effectiveness and help it to become a true HPO.

But employees like these don’t grow on trees. You need to inspire them.  These are people who want to be challenged and kept on their toes. They’re not afraid to be pushed to perform better and achieve extraordinary results.  They continuously want to develop themselves, to achieve the best they can, and because of this, contribute to the success of the organisation.

Taking high performance employees for granted isn’t wise. Retaining them requires focussed attention.  They need interesting work, challenging tasks and increased responsibilities and reminding that they should be proud of their own achievements and those of the organisation. In short, high performance employees demand high performance management.

team_2High performance leaders stimulate self-confidence, an entrepreneurial attitude, firmness, a can-do attitude and a winning mindset in their employees. They raise the performance of their people and themselves by setting high standards and stretch goals. They let people feel they are part of a bigger picture and inspire them to achieve greatness as part of the organisation. They possess a crusading enthusiasm and take time to win people over.

There are two main ways how you can inspire your employees: by changing your own behaviour to become more inspirational and by creating conditions for your employees that increase their motivation. That means things like:

  • Being passionate about the goals of the organisation and generating enthusiasm for these in your employees.
  • Connecting with your people by showing real interest in them and finding out what motivates and inspires them.
  • Actively looking for their ideas and opinions.
  • Taking personal risks by doing things differently and operating outside ‘normal’ organisational boundaries and outside your comfort zone – and letting them do the same.
  • Making sure inspirational moments are succeeded by follow-up actions, so your employees see that you act upon your inspiration.
  • Reminding your people it is all about ‘we’ and not about ‘I’.
  • Becoming a ‘story-teller’ who is able to package messages in an appealing form that captivates your employees.

As far as motivation goes, consider things like:

  • Painting an attractive picture of the future of the organisation for employees and their place in it and providing the rationale as to why certain goals have to be pursued.
  • Giving your employees interesting and meaningful work that challenges and vitalizes them. This work should require them to do things differently, with more risk and uncertainty, which gets them out of their comfort zone.
  • Setting stretch goals for your employees and give them more responsibilities and freedom to schedule their own work, while including the possibility of setbacks that they will have to overcome.
  • Providing them with the possibility to get into contact with the beneficiaries of their work, i.e. the customers, so they can see the results of their work.

So, how do you inspire and motivate your employees to achieve extraordinary results?


Dr Andre A. de WaalDr Andre A. de Waal MBA is Associate Professor of Strategic Management at the Maastricht School of Management and Academic Director of the HPO Center (Center for Organizational Performance), an organization that researches and gives advice about high performance organizations.

He started a five-year research project (involving 1470 organizations in 50 countries) examining the factors of sustainable high performance. The result of this research, the HPO Framework, will be published in his upcoming book What Makes A High Performance Organization – Validated Factors of Competitive Advantage that Apply Worldwide.


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