The Key to Great Performance

Apr 3rd, 2018


“Nothing can stop anyone who has a love and passion about their work.”
Jerry Lewis

The Key to Great Performance

As the financial year comes to a close, it is an opportunity to review performance against plans. Even if performance is on track, what can you do as leader to create the conditions in which you and your team not only achieve good performance, but excel?

As an executive coach, I work with people who have often achieved a great deal in their careers. Many of my conversations involve the theme of purpose – people who wish to fulfil aspirations that are important to them and which they are passionate about. When it comes to high performance, technical skills and expertise are vital.  However, awareness of what drives you, and your team members, makes a significant difference between good and great.  Here are 3 key factors:


Intrinsic Motivation:

Research in motivation distinguishes between extrinsic motivation – doing something because it leads to an outcome (such as money) and intrinsic motivation – doing something because it is interesting or enjoyable. Intrinsic motivation is what brings you alive. If you give priority to what energises you, you will be not only a far better leader at work but it will boost all areas of your life.

Recently, a client was offered a promotion that would have placed her on the board, recognition she had wanted for a long time. When we met, she was curious as to why she was not excited. In my Vision Intensive Programme we explored her drivers and values and discovered that she loved being a catalyst for growing businesses as opposed to managing them. And there was an area of the business that had been identified as high potential but, as yet, no-one had been identified to drive it. My client’s excitement was palpable when she spoke about this opportunity. The business had the potential to grow across Europe and she could put her mark on this and build her team from scratch.  We therefore focused on how she could influence attaining this position which leveraged her strengths. She achieved the role and is now full of energy, confidently achieving targets the business did not forecast until the following year.

What strikes me is that, even when people are highly astute, how little time we spend figuring out what those drivers and motivators are.


Purpose and Tenacity

What do you care about?  What difference do you want to make?   Being driven by a clear purpose enhances performance in all areas of your life and gives you the tenacity to persist.

This applies to your teams. If you can discover the factors that drive your individual team members, you will unlock satisfaction and productivity. Hold one to one meetings with your teams ask questions on what they most enjoy and why, probe, be curious – and help your team members become aware of their own motivations.  A highly self-motivated person does not need to be managed because they have their own fuel.  I recall one of my most successful managers was driven to give his three children the best education in the world and had set up a separate bank account to fund this.  He was tenacious about this and when we spoke about income targets we would focus on this not on the financials – this focus energised him far more and led to highly motivational and productive conversations.



At the beginning of a coaching programme with clients, I always begin with a foundation meeting where we identify and measure their values and levels of motivations as well as the tangible goals they wish to achieve in their role. They are intrinsically linked. To be the best you can be, look holistically at your life. What is important to you, what motivates you, where are your priorities, and are you living in line with those values?

Frequently, people say their priority is family and health and yet they give little attention to it. I have been working with a successful client who is earmarked to succeed the CEO and we are working together to transition him into this role.  When we talked it emerged that his greatest priority and his greatest challenge was reconnecting with his daughter who was now 18, and his work had taken him away from spending time with her.  He reflected on the quality time they would spend together when she was younger and how they had drifted apart.  When I asked how much time he was giving to this, it became obvious – next to none. He identified specific actions he could take – by prioritising and reconnecting with his daughter, this has now given him increased energy for everything else.

As a leader you have a golden opportunity to create an environment aligned with your own values and beliefs. I was fortunate to attend a talk by Nicola Horlick recently at the Women in Business Lunch. She talked about meeting the challenge of a career in the city with six children, and very poignantly told us the story of losing her eldest daughter to leukaemia at the age of 12. Her main message was how important family was and the priority we need to give it amidst the challenges of a career. She referred to the culture where people put a ‘meeting’  in their diaries when they were going to a school play.  As CEO, she makes sure family life is seen as critical for all her employees, and this is a key value and therefore a driver for her in the running of her business which is highly results oriented.

If values are not aligned, this can often lead to an adverse impact on performance. The MD of a successful Division in a global organisation held a strong value of autonomy and freedom. He led his team in a collaborative way and gained strong performance and results. Yet following a merger, he realised that the new leadership and culture did not align with his values and rigid controls were implemented. His motivation for his work – and the team’s productivity –  gradually decreased because this value was not recognised as a core strength to attaining high performance.

The difference this awareness can bring and building it into a coaching programme has significant impact on all the other goals.  When we review progress at the end and see the difference in how their scores for values and motivation have increased in line with their business goals clients often express surprise and delight.  And more importantly, these results sustain and last because of the intrinsic motivation that has increased.



When every key area of your life is being energised and nourished, you are fully charged. As a result, you excel.  Give priority to what makes you feel alive and see the difference it makes – you will be not only a far better leader at work, but better in all areas of your life.


Potential Plus International work with ambitious, progressive companies and individuals who want to be the best in their field.  See what our clients say about their experience of working with us.

Please contact Oona Collins at for an exploratory conversation.