Performance vs. Trust

Have you ever considered if you prefer colleagues and team members based on their performance or trust?  

I was challenged the other day by a video presentation from Simon Sinek.  He was recounting a discussion with Navy Seals on how they determine who participates in the most elite teams.  In this discussion, he presents a quadrant with performance (how well you achieve their objectives) on one axis, and trust (what kind of person you are) on the other.  Of course, he found that individuals with low performance and low trust are the least desirable and people with high performance and high trust are the most desirable.  After that, the conversation got interesting.  The Seals told Simon that they preferred individuals with moderate performance and high trust, and even low performance and high trust, over individuals with high performance and low trust…indicating that trust was more important than performance.

I found this research very interesting. It would lead you to think that an organization would recognize and value employees who focus on trust vs. individual performance. In fact, you would expect that companies would be inclined to promote and reward individuals who build trust vs. achieve individual performance. 

In my experience, that’s not generally the way corporations work.  Instead, we find that most compensation packages and promotion opportunities are built on performance metrics…how well someone met their objectives.  In fact, often times in business those with good relationships, strong partnerships, and trust are often times criticized for being too close, too clique-ish, or too accommodating.

I remember working with a colleague in my industry that used the threat of enforcement action (like so many compliance officers do) to barrel through any roadblock.  They were pushy, demanding, rude, and aggressive.  They focused on their goals exclusively and disregarded any interaction with the rest of the organization or collaboration on other initiatives.  They had been engaged to do one job and were so focused on that personal achievement that nothing else mattered.

Interestingly enough, they accomplished everything they set out to accomplish.  They met every expectation of the regulator and management, and were applauded for those efforts.  Unfortunately, once the threat of enforcement was lifted, they found it difficult to get anything accomplished.  People were not willing to collaborate with them or include them in strategic conversations.  There was a distance between them and the rest of their organization.  There was no trust. 

In fact, the bridges they had burned, during their commitment to performance over relationship and trust, were too significant to rebuild.  It became apparent that it was time to move onto a new organization.  During my conversations with this individual, you could see the confusion.  For their entire career their focus had been on personal performance and achievement.  They had been successful at achieving many organization goals but continued to find themselves struggling to fit in, to maintain a stable team, and to collaborate with others.

The truth is, to some extent, I’ve been in this situation myself and had to learn how to transition from a performance mindset to a trust mindset.  I can’t say that I am completely there.  There are times where my personal performance still feels important to me…primarily because this is what is encouraged by the company.  

I have also learned the importance of emotional intelligence and of building relationships to make collaboration and innovation easier.  I have learned that encouraging my team to success is equally rewarding as being successful individually and whether or not this is reflected in my performance ratings is not the most important thing to me.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Do you value individual performance or your trust in an individual? How have you succeeded in your personal performance while valuing the relationships and trust you have with others?

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