Cultivating high performance in your workforce

CPO: High performance isn't just an aim— it's a journey you continuously need to focus and build on

Cultivating high performance in your workforce

The role of HR leaders in the modern business landscape has truly transformed from the old days of ordinary administrative tasks to now, where the HR function is conceiving and implementing strategic initiatives that will ultimately shape the organisations of the future.   

Miranda de Nooijer, chief people officer at Worldline NZ, believes building high-performing leadership teams is at the forefront of this transformation.

For de Nooijer, driving high performance isn't just a goal — it's a journey that you to need to continuously focus and build on. "Positive engagement and a strong culture naturally follow," she told HRD.  

De Nooijer’s interest in leadership and high performance was sparked early in her career at GE Capital, where a focus on people was ingrained in the organisation’s business processes.

“It's not seen as separate – their annual review is a review of the business performance as well as that of their employees, with a big focus for leaders on the potential of the team and to nurture and grow that potential,” she said.  

Her experience at GE, then later at other large organisations such as BNZ, Fonterra, PwC and now Worldline, has taught de Nooijer that high-performance teams are built on a foundation of trust, open communication, commitment, and accountability.

Challenges for HR in building high-performing teams

“One challenge HR leaders could face is that they will need to first earn the trust of the CEO and exec team to embark on the journey towards high performance,” said de Nooijer.

“They will need to be honest and transparent which could make them feel vulnerable. You can only achieve this once you earn their trust, and they feel comfortable to take part, to commit to, but also continue on, the journey”.

Another challenge that de Nooijer highlights is that HR teams often get bogged down or have too much of a focus on operational issues. She believes that prioritising high performance is the key to reducing an organisation’s operational woes.  

“In my view, leadership, and also driving a high-performing team, should be their main priority,” said de Nooijer. “As an example, if teams don't have a clear direction, executive teams don't make decisions, if there is no commitment, then that can lead to more non-performance, which then, again, leads to more operational issues.”  

De Nooijer also highlights the need to strike a balance between policies and processes, and pragmatism, giving the example of succession planning.

“Some HR teams or leaders focus on the process side — they have endless spreadsheets or systems, and slot people in boxes by a certain deadline — but then they forget to check if the employee they’ve slotted into a leadership role is even interested. Succession planning, if done right and in a pragmatic way, is hugely valuable for your business and it all starts with having quality career conversations,”

What sets high-performance leaders apart?

De Nooijer has observed over the years that high-performing leaders never stop focusing on growing their own leadership.  

“They are always focusing on bringing the best out of their teams, bringing the best out of their people, growing their talent, growing people who are actually struggling, helping them, coaching them to meet the expectations, so they have direction, and ultimately, they're highly engaged,” she said.  

This is something de Nooijer takes very seriously at Worldline where leadership and leadership growth is a key strategic pillar in her people strategy.

“As a People Experience team, we are continuously focusing on coaching and training our people leaders as they are key in providing our employees a great experience. We’ve just done training around unconscious bias, a HR101 workshop, Mental Health First Aid courses and we are about to run a workshop around quality feedback conversations.”

5 dysfunctions of a team

De Nooijer has experience with many leadership models but Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is one that she constantly comes back to. The model highlights five interrelated issues that hinder team success, and teams must address these dysfunctions if they want to achieve better organisational outcomes.  

“It encapsulates the pillars of trust, healthy debates, commitment, accountability, and results. It’s very easy to understand, and it’s very effective,” said de Nooijer.  

The five dysfunctions of a team:  

Absence of trust: The fear of being vulnerable prevents team members from building trust with each other.

Fear of conflict: The desire to preserve artificial harmony stifles productive ideological conflict within the team.

Lack of commitment: The lack of clarity and/or buy-in prevents team members from making decisions they stick to.

Avoidance of accountability: The need to avoid interpersonal discomfort prevents team members from holding each other accountable for their behaviours and performance.

Inattention to results: The pursuit of individual goals and personal status erodes the team's focus on collective success.

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