Is It A “Performance” Or “Conformance” Issue?

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I worked with a client who was a dynamo in Sales. She truly could sell you a ‘pet rock’ and a month’s supply of food to feed it! Needless to say, her customers loved her. And her company loved her. Every year, she consistently received the company’s premier ‘President’s Award’ reserved for top sales performers. By all accounts, she was the company’s MVP. So what could possibly be wrong with this picture?

She was seen as a “maverick” by her peers.

Her peers considered her to act independent of the team often furthering her own interests at the expense of others. Yes, she was a recognized “rock star” that made the company a lot of money. But her way of going about it was alienating and damaging the team dynamic and health – and ultimately, the collective team’s performance. And don’t even get me started on what kind of message the company was sending to her peers by both tolerating and rewarding her behavior!

Folks, that’s the subject of today’s blog. For as much as I like to stress the importance of performance, sometimes the issue is not performance but a lack of conformance in attaining those results. I know it may sound a little confusing so let’s dig a little deeper.

Of Course, Companies Value and Reward Performance

Let’s face it, sometimes rewarding solely for “bottom dollar” performance sends mixed messages to employees as to what companies truly value. Candidly, I often face this conundrum when working with high level, high producing, and high performing clients.

The God’s honest truth is companies do give a “longer rope” to those who significantly contribute to the bottom line and company growth. Does this mean they completely condone “rebel’ performers”? Or the unhealthy effect on other team members?

Sadly, companies do sometimes “look the other way.” However, in time – sometimes a lot of time – the companies do step up and address the unhealthy behavior. But the catalyst is often the sheer extent of collateral damage the rebel has created, often outweighing the good they produced.

The truth is business performance carries the heaviest weight in corporate America. Right, wrong or indifferent, that’s just a fact. Companies exist to make money . . . and the employees who help further that goal the most are the ones rewarded the most. It’s as simple and complex as that.

So you could conclude that corporate America almost encourages “maverick-ism” and “non-conformity” because of the competitive, money-making nature of capitalism. That’s not a completely wrong conclusion until you consider the total effects on an organization.

“Maverick-ism” Can Create More Damage than Good

So back to the case of my high-level sales client; who can blame her for being a “maverick?” She created results and her company, year after year, rewarded her for these results. Why should she change?

Because extreme “maverick-ism” impedes team-work, collaboration, and the empowerment of others. In these cases, “conformity” becomes the “big ask.”

This “performance” vs “conformity” conundrum is especially apparent in professional football. Ever witness a selfish but highly talented wide receiver go on a public tirade that his team is losing because he’s not getting the ball enough? How’s that for demoralizing the entire team when this arrogant athlete considers the team’s success to be completely dependent on him! The reality is this wide receiver has lost complete perspective around what really matters . . . you win or lose as a team, period. Highly astute head coaches, who understand this fact, eventually get rid of the “non-conforming” wide receiver. Or risk being criticized – even ousted themselves – for an inability to control their players.

I hope you now see that “conformity,” as used in the context of organizational health and leadership, is a necessary and important component to organizational and team health! By no means am I saying become complacent and allow your business performance to drop. Rather, realize that unless you are working solely for yourself, you are and always will be part of a team if you are in the corporate America setting.

Yes, continue to “think outside the box” . . . “rock the boat” . . . and challenge the status quo. Just do it for the right reasons which is to further the interests of your team and your company, not just yourself. 

Identifying “Healthy” Team Player Behavior in Yourself

So what are some tell-tale signs to determine if you are a healthy team player? And, more importantly, seen by others as team player?

Honestly rate yourself on the following 10 healthy ‘conformer’ traits below:

Healthy ‘Conformer’ Traits Strongly Agree-Strongly Disagree(10 to 1 Scale)
I tend to move in the same direction as my team 
My peers agree that I am easy to communicate and work with 
My team agrees that I am easy to communicate and work with 
I am not known as someone who goes off and does my own thing 
My team would say I take them into consideration when making my decisions and taking action 
I often communicate from a ‘we’ vs ‘me’ perspective 
My team knows my intentions are not selfish but collaborative 
I am supportive of team efforts as much as my own efforts 
My team is fully aware of what I’m working on/not working on 
I am trusted and respected amongst my team 


Your Leadership Challenge:

Being a “high performer” and a “healthy conformer” is a balancing act for sure. But I hope you see that both are critical from the organizational and leadership health perspective.

You’ve completed the “self-assessment” for yourself. Now here’s the biggie. Take the challenge of asking one of your teammates to rate you. Then have the courage and discipline to take the steps necessary to close any gaps you might have. 

I’m Here to Help You Own It: Privately send me your challenges, questions and comments at I can’t guarantee I’ll have all the answers, but I will be candid, truthful and genuine.   All of us can inspire, lead and achieve and drive higher performance and organizational health if we simply work at it.

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