What I’ve learned through the growth, operation and sale of various businesses is that while more minds are better than one, you still need what Seth Godin refers to as a “linchpin.” In his book by the same name, Godin describes the essential practice of having a singular person lead a product rollout in a company. Without this singular person driving timeline and results, your company will miss important deadlines and deliver an ineffectual product.
If you can see the wisdom of Godin’s insights, your next step is to ask, “what kind of linchpins do I want on my team?” The obvious answer is high performers. But if this is so obvious, why are so many business leaders settling for average and mediocre performers just to fill seats today, only to regret it tomorrow?
Below are six reasons why you should create a culture of high performance and embrace the mantra that low performers and underachievers can exit stage left.
1. You’re a sports team, not a family.
This is why I am a season ticket holder. When leading a high-growth company, remember that you may have admiration for each other as family members do, but if teammates can’t put points on the board, you either need to switch teams or retire. This is true for everyone who catches the entrepreneurial bug. We’re competitive, we want to push our potential and we need people around us who strive for the same goals.
This high-performing sports team approach has been cited as a key to Netflix’s massive success since it published its culture deck stating that “adequate performance gets a generous severance package.” Like it or not, Goldman Sachs has been annually cutting the lowest performing employees for years, and its success is indisputable.
2. The purpose of a company is to grow.
Healthy things grow; unhealthy things shrink and die. A lesson I’ve learned along the way is that you get to choose which metrics are the most important for you to grow, and not all of them are important. Profit may be your metric. Users may be your metric. Geography may be your metric. But no matter the metric, if you are not growing, you’re dying. If your team is not being measured against your chosen growth metric and expected to perform at a high level to continue to grow, you’re dead.
3. Nepotism does not work in capitalism.
Nepotism can work in a mom-and-pop donut shop, but even then, if Kevin can’t count, he should not be working the cash register no matter whose son he is. If you want your company to build wealth and make a difference in the world, you have to be willing to fire your cousin and move away from the fable of the three musketeers. Focus on hiring those who will help you grow.
4. High performers desire measurement and drive performance.
The research shows time and time again that high performers and high achievers crave constant feedback, measurements and rewards. They want to know the score and be paid for putting points on the board. This cannot be avoided. If this feels like a tough pill to swallow, remember that they also raise the performance of your entire team. In a 2017 Harvard Business Review article, researchers found that “simply adding a star performer to a team boosts the effectiveness of other team members by 5-15%.” What could that mean to your bottom line?
5. Low performers drive high performers away.
Eagle Hill’s 2017 National Attrition Survey found that low performers lower overall workplace morale and are the number one reason for attrition. I have personally found this to be true countless times. When you force high performers to carry the weight of underperformers, you’re counting the minutes until they join someone else’s team. That’s why I say low performers and underachievers can exit stage left.
6. You need money, and lots of it.
The unexpected will happen. Something will burn down, someone will get sick, a law will change, your industry will get disrupted and so on and so forth. Bill Gates understood this and reportedly flew coach even after Microsoft had become a public, prosperous company.
They call it Murphy’s law — something will go wrong, and it’s not a matter of if, but when. Think of it this way. If you try to drive 250 miles per hour across the country, at some point you’re going to get impounded. That’s why it’s important to have cash on hand to bail yourself out of any tricky situations that arise as you scale up your business. High-performing linchpins will be essential to delivering the results you need to move at great speed, while also ensuring you have the resources to handle surprises.
I could make a list of 50 reasons why you need a high-performance culture, but hopefully this is all you need to get started. Go team!