What Drives Extraordinary Performance?

It’s not threats. It’s not blackmail. It’s not exhortation. These are games that require no more than the complicity of the other players. They are testimony to a bankrupt imagination.  What is it then? It’s necessity – the kinds that make a difference in thought, feeling, or behavior that take many forms and have several sources. Here are some of them.

  • The most pervasive and powerful of all the forms of necessity is habit. It is our habits that behave us. We are merely the visible evidence of their pushes and pulls. Our habits function as the necessity that produces what we do (or can’t do), what we think, what we feel, and what we say.
  • A person’s competencies are also a source of considerable necessity. The more competent people are to do something, the more likely they are to do it. Conversely, a person who is not competent to do something is not likely to do it.
  • A person’s conscience is a formidable source of necessity for that person. The more conscientious a person is, the more necessary is his or her way of doing things.
  • There is a destiny in every way of thinking. There is a destiny in every person’s history and present circumstances. There is a destiny in every organization’s history and structure and mode of operation. If you seek a certain destiny, you have to have aligned the conditions that will produce that destiny. Necessity is in the way circumstances work themselves out.
  • Consequences. Of all of the sources of necessity, none is more potent than the imagined or foretold consequences. When there are no consequences for poor performance, there is little that a leader can say about consequences that will carry any necessity.

For these and like reasons, the leader knows –

  • that the best path for gaining predictable and enhanced performance is to surround oneself with people for whom that level of performance is simply necessary, or
  • to inculcate that level of internal necessity, which requires more leadership capabilities than most people can muster, or
  • to be the kind of seductive leader who so enchants followers that they assume the necessity for always pleasing that leader with their performance.

A leader knows that it must be one of these ways – and that extraordinary performance will always be a function of necessity.

-Lee Thayer