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Enabling the Hyper-Performers: The New Productivity Paradigm

Updated: Aug 4, 2020

A popular saying tells us "If you want something done, find a busy person". There is wisdom in that. The largest reserve of capacity often sits at the bottleneck. The higher and more impactful the bottleneck, the higher the opportunity to increase productivity by tapping into that reserve.

In 2014, John Bershin published the seminal article: “The Mith of the Bell Curve: Look for the Hyper-Performers” arguing that top performers in most companies are typically not the top 10% that are coming out of performance reviews, but rather a very small number of highly impactful “hyper-performers” who actually deliver the vast majority of the value for the company.

One needs only to look around to see the hyper-performers.

They are experienced, T-shaped skilled superstars with spooky understanding of the industry, strategic, outward looking, mavericks of their core profession, who know how to get things done in the complex corporate world. They work across teams with ease a get fired up with opportunity, proud of their mastery and thrilled to be doing something never done before.

You usually find them in senior director or operational executive roles and, sometimes, in critically important technical and innovation roles. From such positions they leverage their creativity, their passion for the business and their love for the employer's brand, which, in time, ends-up defining their own personal brand.

Hyper-performers are, of course, informally known by everybody, and companies do their best to retain them and keep them motivated. This is, however, easier said than done.

One means of rewarding hyper-performers is moving them up the corporate ladder, “promoting” them to higher-end executive roles. The problem with that is that they often end up spending most of their time and energy with political errands. If the promotion works well, they turn into valuable visionaries with smooth political skills. But the high-impact hyper-performer is gone. If it does not work well, you get a mediocre politician, crippled by the inability to concentrate on what they do best: tackling the core problems and opportunities of the company.

It is not as bad as the Peter’s principle says it is, but the real problem is that, with this promotion system in place, there can never be a concentration of hyper-performers in a company, as the high-end executive positions are only a few. And skilled politicians ARE needed there.

Another way of motivating hyper-P’s is lateral rotation. It is often an attractive proposition for people who are experienced with the company and can easily enlarge their skills set, further growing in mastery, while they enjoy the thrill of doing something new in a known world.

This is less than ideal though. It simply does not work well for high performance. Sometimes it feels like asking Ronaldo to play goalkeeper for a season just so that he does something else for a change. And sell it that he is going to appreciate the experience when he will get “promoted” coach, one day.

The challenge is increasingly being recognized as companies are pushing towards digital transformation. Especially with the rise of Agile, "autonomy, mastery and purpose" has become the overarching motivational framework of today.

Who can argue that multiple types of hyper-experts, working together and innovating continually, with a high level of empowerment and authority are not what it takes to excel in today’s highly technical, always-on, IT enabled world?

No wonder why the high-tech companies are the pioneers in this shift. They have long been looking for alternatives to the traditional corporate rewards and career paths. The Spotify model was one of the first credible attempts, even if proven to be failing in its purest form. Another way forward was putting in place new systems that develop and reward the hyper-performers, such as nurturing an environment filled with collaborative T-shapes (see Google).

These are pioneering attempts to tap into what could be one of the biggest productivity treasure-troves in the current corporate world. The performance reserve of the hyper performers. And how to have more of them working together.

As we stand today, corporate reward systems remain sternly inefficient and, more often than not, demotivating for top contributors due to a combination of ineffective means of recognition and high levels of energy wasted in political frictions. This is how companies are losing their most valuable talent.

But does it really have to be like this? What if a more meaningful way of engagement was available for hyper-performers? One that could motivate them to bring-in their maximum contribution without having to deal with excessive political friction and productivity loss.

What if there was a way to reward the key achievements without triggering internal fights for the spotlight and toxic competitiveness? It would require a different type of working engagement - as safe and reputable as external consulting but with as much involved as hands-on as intrapreneurship.

Again, some high-tech industries have figured it out. IT architects and software developers are working “on contract” fully plugged-in as part of their corporate client’s team. High-end freelancers are taking over more and more complex projects and tasks. But none of these bring credible alternatives for filling the high-powered “driver-seats” that create the backbone of today’s corporations. The roles of the hyper-P’s.

There is an unmet need here... one that Amin Toufani is trying to adress with his Rent-A-Disruptor™ (RAD Team) model.

This is what is proposing to corporations realizing they need a talent paradigm: an easy way to tap-into the ultimate pool of hyper-performers and a new, more efficient way of working with them.

The proposition is as straightforward for the high-P’s as it is for employers: why not play the dream game, one score a time, and transform the industry in the process? You can be your brand, too.

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