I am doing some research for a work project on retention. I am racking my brain trying to find a study I read a few years ago that said:
Rock Star employees - best performers - generally underperform when they quit for another/better job BECAUSE what makes them the best performer is not their individual skills. It's their social network, relationships, and the system they have created around them that is a "human performance machine."
It said something like this. I hope to find it. But even if I do not find it, we can explore this more here on the blog (I can still call it my blog even if I have been woefully neglecting it, right?) because it makes perfect sense. We don't need no stinking research study to come to this conclusion. Having the study helps, of course, when you need to share this with others who are not so convinced (read: lack common sense).
What are the implications of this for leaders? I can think of two.
First, as leaders who want to optimize performance, we need to ensure that we do everything we can to help new employees build their social networks and connections QUICKLY and WELL. Performance is fueled by our teams, tribes, networks, and relationships. If employees don't have enough or strong social connections, they will not be able to do their best work.
The second implication is that as leaders, we are also performers. So this stuff applies to us. And this is where the title of this post came from. As I was searching for the study, I reflected on my career and regrets that I came to this realization so late. In fact, I stunk at it for much of my early career. I am a natural recluse and it pains me to know how relationship oriented this WHOLE WIDE WORLD is!
OK, that's dramatic, but please hear this. If you are a natural extrovert, you might not get what I am saying. I grew up with a definition of success that did not feature other people in it.
I know, quite ironic that I have spent much of my career writing about management and leadership, which are, social acts. I think I coined that phrase, in fact: Management is a social act. The whole thing, the 14 books, the career missteps, have been lessons for me.
So as I reflect on this obvious truth - performance is fueled by human connections - I torment, too, because I know that I have to work at this and be deliberate about building and managing my working relationships.
I have colleagues and friends who are naturals. I admire and envy them. Envy is such an ugly emotion, don't you think? OK, I think I will try to just admire them and perhaps learn from them.
When I make an effort, I am quite good at the care and feeding of my social connections. Introverts can be GREAT at this, but they need to write reminders on their calendars to do it. It might not occur to us otherwise. This, by the way, does not render the effort fake or unworthy. It's called conscious coupling. (Couldn't resist.)