When Winning Overshadows Performance

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Mike Krzyzewski, head basketball coach at Duke University, is known to be a great leader, demanding coach, and a stickler for performance.  One of his quotes that resonates in both sports and business is “When you win, sometimes it overshadows a poor performance.”


Today, I see companies face this challenge, perhaps without even realizing it.  There are companies who strive to be a best place to work or employer of choice; thus, they put a huge focus on employees, creating a “win” culturally.  They are attracting and retaining employees and people are happy, which is critically important.  However, some of these firms are experiencing poor performance. They aren’t growing or aren’t as successful as desired financially, and they wonder why.


Companies that focus on creating a great culture without holding people accountable or aiming at performance miss the mark.  Don’t get me wrong, building a positive culture is essential to success, but if it lacks the context of performance, potentially the only “win” is having a happy place to work.

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Performance is about delivering, whether it be on goals, on quality, on customer engagement, with excellence on the required results (financial or other).  When you are a performer, it’s about owning these outcomes and being accountable.  When you are a manager, it’s about how you are helping your employees leverage their strengths, enhancing their engagement, and holding people accountable with a performance-orientation. When you are a leader, it’s about creating a great place to work AND fostering high-performance.


You can win through culture initiatives, but you can only achieve your best as an organization if you integrate a focus on performance.  One without the other limits potential.  How effectively are you doing both in your organization?