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Each business is a mirror for its leader

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” ~Jim Rohn

Over and over again, business owners come to me with the same problem (though they may describe it differently). Some say, “I don’t have the right people,” or “I can’t hire good people”. Others tell me, “These people just don’t get the job done. They need constant hand holding…” Some are more direct, “My team stinks.” There are lots of ways to talk about it; but the truth is, the problem is the same for each of them. When your team is not performing, the problem is you.

If you want better performing people you need to perform better yourself. People tend to choose leaders similar to themselves. When you are demonstrating personal integrity by doing what you say you will do, completing the assignments you have given yourself, and holding yourself to a high standard, then those who come work for you will do the same. This may not happen with the employees you have working for you now; but when you are demonstrating those traits, that will attract team members who share that capacity. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. If you let things slide, miss deadlines, pile too much on your plate and then rush around at the end, you will attract people who do the same. Improving your team is simple. You just need to up your game.

I want to be clear: this is not some fuzzy “law of attraction” nonsense. It’s actually common sense. High-performing people want to be in an environment with other high performing people. People who hold themselves to a high standard attract others who hold themselves to a high standard. Even terrific performers—when placed in an environment that isn’t held to a high standard—will often perform down to their environment.

If you want a higher performing team, you need to perform at a higher level.

What do you mean “perform at a higher level”?

Your team needs to see that, as a group, we are moving forward. “A-players” want to join winning teams, so we need to be able to demonstrate that we are winning (by whatever definition you are using for the term “win”). To attract top performers, you need to be able to describe what it means for your team to “win”. Does it mean your company gets bigger? Or does it mean that you stay the same size, but get paid more? It could mean being able to work on the most interesting projects for clients who really value us. Whatever a “win” is, we need to be able to describe it, measure it, and demonstrate progress toward it.

To do that we need to be held accountable. We need to say, “This is the goal, here are the actions that are going to get us there, and my responsibility is…” Then pick up that responsibility and allow ourselves to be held accountable to those actions.

Performing at a higher level—for anyone—means that we have a point of view, a vision, a goal, and that we can describe how we’re going to get there. As business owners, it is vital that our team members see us as we commit to actions that will lead to achieving that goal, and that they see us submit to measurement and evaluation. And then—whether our actions exceeded, or failed to meet, our goal—they need to see us respond to accountability and evaluation.

Roadblocks to getting there

Upping our game like this is no joke. This level of performance requires a lot of us. It’s exhausting and scary to put yourself out there like that. If we want to keep our performance high, (so that we are attracting high performers), we also need to make sure that we are putting fuel in our tank so that we can sustain this effort over the long haul.

High performance cannot be sustained without good health. This means: getting adequate sleep, regular exercise, making healthy food choices, etc. There’s just no way around it; if your body is failing, or even operating at reduced capacity, you cannot maximize your impact. So we need to maintain healthy rhythms of sleep, rest, recreation, exercise and eating in order to attract other high performers who want to have healthy rhythms in those areas too.

Performing at a high level means taking care of more than just our physical bodies. One of the unique aspects of the human animal is that we need relationships. We are social animals and our connection to others helps meet real needs that every human has. Our needs to feel safe, loved, and celebrated are best met in personal relationships with family, friends, etc. When we don’t get those needs met outside our business, we end up trying to get them met inside our business. No matter how often you talk about your business as a “family”—it isn’t. It’s a work group. If we try to get our needs for love and appreciation met there, we are on a road to disaster.

When our body is in good shape, and our emotional life is well cared for, then we have more capacity (i.e. more energy and focus), to give to our team. We can get more done! But we will also be more effective in our communication, more consistent in our behavior, and generally a better person to be around. It is all the bi-products to upping our game that will help us to attract better quality people.

If you are looking at your team and thinking, “How do I fix this mess…?”—take a step back and look in the mirror first. You might find a similar mess. If you choose to ignore what you see in ther mirror, I can guarantee that all the energy you spend “fixing” the mess of your team will be wasted. But there’s good news. And that is, that if you address the “mess in the mirror” first, then cleaning up the mess of your team will not only be much easier; but your solutions will be much more likely to stick.

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