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Three Keys to Sustainable High Performance



As a business leader do you wonder: “How can I create a culture that consistently produces sustainable high performance?

I recently interviewed leaders from nine high performing organizations who shared their accomplishments and challenges in creating sustainable organizations.  Clearly three areas consistently require a leader’s attention.  They are:

1) Actively managing the balance sheet to increase financial stability and growth opportunities; 

2) Developing the potential of the company’s team members and board of directors to ensure high quality products and customer service;

3) Effectively engage in succession planning.

As my conversations with these leaders expanded, quickly it became apparent it was not possible to focus on one of these elements without addressing the other two.  It also became apparent that the leader’s ability to manage her own mind and energy was equally important to the success of all three activities.

Clearly, a holistic approach was required.

What is a holistic approach?

It means a leader learns to relax his own patterns and habits of mind and action that get in the way of high performance and to support patterns that create high performance.  (More on that in my next post.)  It means a leader is open to new ways of doing things – all in service to her organization’s critical vision and mission.

It means establishing explicit opportunities and expectations for all team members to be actively engaged in their own and the company’s growth.

Sometimes lack of engagement can be subtle.  One leader cited team members who were uncomfortable developing a more entrepreneurial mindset when it was clearly required for the business to thrive into the future.  Developing such skills within the team would enable this leader to retire with more certainty the organization would be healthy in the long-term.

This leader was constrained by divided loyalties: knowing his staff intimately and what they were comfortable with was not what was best for the company. This created an unsustainable internal tension within the company resulting in lost opportunity.  It kept him stuck in a place where it was not clear how to effectively plan his own succession.

Not bringing this internal tension to light with his staff and board essentially robbed the staff and board of being active participants in the creation of sustainable high performance within the company.  This result would benefit everyone involved, including the community they serve.

When such misalignment is present, the emotions of fear, anxiety and confusion become dominant.  

Beyond the technical ‘nuts and bolts’ of changing a business model or planning for succession, something else needs attention.  A more integrated approach is calling!

Where are you on the continuum of sustainable high performance?

Take a moment to do this quick assessment and find out.  Be honest – no one will keep score but you!

Simply pick the sentence you most identify with for each section and add up your cumulative score at the end.

A. I don’t really know what my business model is. (1)

I think about how to generate more revenue. (2)

My team and I actively experiment with optimizing our business model and measuring what works. (3)


B. Net income has been consistently declining.  Help! (1)

Looking over the past 5 years net income has been up and down.  (2)

Net income is growing consistently year after year. By all measures, the company is financially healthy.  (3)


C. Too often my team and I are not on the same page. (1)

There are established well-functioning structures for open communication within and across teams.  (To understand what this means Go here.) (3)

We have too many meetings. I hardly have time to get work done!  (2)


D. Nobody does much beyond the minimum to earn a paycheck OR the energy across the team is high but all over the place.  (1)

Staff at every level of the company are learning, growing and becoming better at their jobs, reaching their desired stated targets. (3)

My team is too comfortable maintaining the status quo, OR working so hard they may burnout. (2)


E. I am trying (really hard) to figure out how to put a succession plan in place. (2)

There is a well-developed and defined path for leadership transition, both in emergencies and in planned departures. (3)

Are you kidding? We are too busy to think about this. (1)


5 – 7 – You are just starting off on this journey.  Take time to learn what are your next best steps.

8 – 12 – There may be some essential components missing for you to reach sustainable high performance.

12 -15 – Bravo! You are on your way to sustainable high performance.

Interested in furthering your journey toward sustainable high performance?  Contact me for an invitation to an executive roundtable Friday June 5th from 8 to 10 am as we focus on the ‘Essential Elements of Sustainable High Performance’ in Research Triangle Park, NC.  Especially appropriate for nonprofit executives, you will have an opportunity to meet your peers and walk away with actionable next steps to increase revenue, improve work place culture and performance.  Learn more here.

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