It’s a great thing to be high performing, isn’t it? If someone is described as a high-performing team member, this carries a huge number of positive associations. In a way, this is understandable – workplace performance has a clear impact on your bottom line. But what if this high-performing team member was someone that you couldn’t trust? Would you be so keen to work with them then? Chances are, you wouldn’t – and neither would anyone else.
Brand expert Simon Sinek gave a brilliant talk on this topic, exploring the issue of performance versus trust. Performance encapsulates the skills-based things that you do in your role – how many patients you see, how much you’re able to charge per treatment, and how much money you ultimately make over the year. There are a huge number of metrics out there to measure performance, many of which you probably use on an almost daily basis within your practice. For this reason, we tend to see it as the greatest driver of what we deem “success”.
Trust is far harder to quantitatively measure. This relates to the type of person you’re dealing with, and whether you’d trust them to be honest, to help you out, and to have your back. It’s often a gut feeling, or an opinion formed through experience. However, because it’s not routinely measured, it’s often devalued, with performance being promoted and incentivised within the world of business.
With both trust and performance in mind, it’s helpful to take a step back and look at your own team. An easy way to visualise who you’re dealing with, Sinek explains, is to imagine a graph with performance along one axis and trust along another; from here, people can be plotted somewhere in between.
Clearly, nobody wants to work with someone who’d be placed down in the low-trust, low-performance corner. Equally clearly, everyone wants the high performer of high trust on their team. However, more interestingly, nobody really wants the high performer of low trust, as this combination results in a toxic leader and team member. Although it might seem counter-intuitive in a business context (where yes, you want to make money), you’re better staking your bet on a medium – or even a low – performer of high trust. This is because although the high performer might seem good within your metrics, over time their toxicity could destroy your team culture, your brand journey, and your entire business.
Trust is a vital part of every genuinely successful team. To be a good leader, you need to let your team members know that they can trust you. Equally, they need to know that they can trust each other, and this means creating a culture in which individual achievement isn’t the main priority. Businesses that promote competitive sales are always going to promote toxic behaviour. Instead, it’s better to set out a dynamic in which each person works to help the others (and for more on this, check out Dan’s previous blog on the canvas strategy). Ultimately, the shared success this generates outweighs the benefits of one person’s returns.
As a practice owner, and even as a team member, you can help by simply being aware of what’s going on. Are you operating within an environment in which everyone feels they have permission to step in and help if they need to? For instance, if one person is struggling with their workload, will others lend a hand? Are people comfortable enough to speak up when they need additional resources?
At Hive, we embrace the principle of “cover and move” (described in Jocko Willink and Leif Babin’s book Extreme Ownership). This means that we work together, rather than independently, so that the entire team succeeds. In this set-up, there’s no room for blame and no team member left behind. It also means that we’re building trust in everything we do. Every person trusts everyone else to help them, and each of us can trust that if we try to help another, it’ll be well received.
The best thing of all is that when a team operates in this way, with a spirit of real collaboration, the benefits extend far beyond the team itself. Within a dental practice, it might mean that a patient’s call is answered or returned more quickly. It might mean that they’re able to be seen sooner, or offered additional services they find helpful. As a result, there’s a good chance it’ll mean that their experience is better and that they come back again – and that’s the kind of success that you can really trust in.