10 Performance Improvement Hacks Successful Leaders Rely On

How winning leaders think differently.

Successful leaders know the go-to moves for performance improvement. They’ve perfected their methods because they’ve had to constantly improve to stay on top.

For them, improving becomes automatic. It’s a way of life.

They know greatness isn’t winning once—it’s winning consistently. And, they know the best life is a life of challenge and growth because it pays off in a steady stream of bigger and bigger rewards.

Winning is a lifestyle.

Winners win consistently with performance improvement.

Growing teams are full of energy and excitement. Until you find 2-3 people who want to win, your team won’t grow.

Performance is at its highest because everyone is working together on something big. Each member feels important and knows they play a key role in the team’s success.

When performance improvement is neglected, teams aren’t challenged. They lose their spark, their energy. Production starts to decline.

The best people will want growth and eventually leave to find other opportunities that can offer it to them. The ones who stick around will feel unmotivated and often develop bad habits that kill team productivity.

Most leaders would admit they need to improve. Deep down inside they know they and their teams are capable of bigger and better things. But, at the end of each day, what did they actually do to grow and improve? Usually it’s nothing.

It may be that they don’t think the timing is right. They’re waiting on some things to clear up before making any changes. They just keep waiting, and waiting, and waiting, but the perfect time never presents itself.

Maybe it seems like a lost cause. They don’t think their people are capable of improving. They think, ‘They’re doing their best.’ And they never challenge them to do more.

Or maybe they like the way things are—simple, easy, hands-off. They think, ‘They know what to do. They don’t need me.’

But leaders who don’t improve eventually fade. It is inevitable. And it happens so slowly they don’t realize what’s happening to them until it’s too late and they are in a slump.

Leaders who don't improve eventually fade. It's inevitable. Click To Tweet

Grow or Die

Every day great businesses close because they didn’t improve their marketing fast enough to beat the competition. It doesn’t matter that their product was better. Without the sales, they can’t stay in business.

Good, loyal employees are passed for promotions all the time because someone else’s team out performed them. So what if they’ve been at the company longer? The people who get the most done are the ones who get rewarded.

The people who get the most done are the ones who get rewarded. Click To Tweet

If you want something bad enough, you better be willing to do more than what’s expected or your competition will sneak up on you and beat you.

You either grow or you die. Improve or stagnate and slide back to mediocrity.

You either grow or you die. Improve or slide back to mediocrity. Click To Tweet

The Most Successful Leaders Have a Growth Mindset

I went to a lot of schools growing up because my father was in the Air Force, and we moved all the time. Everywhere we went, I played sports all year round. Unfortunately a lot of the schools were small, and we didn’t have the best coaching.

This was before the days of ESPN and 24-hour sports on TV, so we never really thought about the opportunity for playing beyond high school—and I played with some really great athletes.

It was 20 years later before I realized I never heard a coach say to me or anyone else on the teams I played on, ‘Hey, if you really buckle down, if you really work hard over summer, you might be able to get a scholarship.’ We were never told, ‘Hey, there are camps coming up where you can improve your speed, where you can improve your skills. And, if you put enough work in, there’s no telling how far you can go.’ That was never discussed.

The impression we had was that you were either fast or slow. The fact that you could improve and become faster, better, stronger was never presented other than just come to practice and work hard.

We were never challenged to make the extra effort that leads to the really superior performance that’s required to get scholarships.

As a result, I don’t remember anyone that I played sports with in high school ever getting a scholarship, and a bunch of them should have.

The coaches had no vision. As a result, they didn’t pass a vision on to us.

They never challenged us to see how good we could be.

Now I wonder what would have happened if they had.

One thing I do know is we would have all made a much bigger effort to improve, we would have gotten a lot better, and we would have won a lot more games.

The truth is anybody can improve, and some can even become great, by having a growth mindset.

Renowned psychologist and Stanford University professor Carol Dweck says people with a growth mindset achieve more because they believe that effort leads to improvement.

Because they have a growth mindset, winners put in the extra effort that’s required to get better and win.

The ABI Principle

The best leaders don’t think about performance improvement once a quarter or at the end of every month. No. They are always improving.

Even Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Paul Simon (of Simon & Garfunkel), who in 2011 was named one of the 100 greatest guitarists by Rolling Stone, is still taking guitar lessons at age 70.

The ABI Principle (always be improving) is the difference between winning occasionally and winning consistently. It’s how Serial Winners approach everything they do—their careers, their hobbies, their relationships.

Over time winners develop an instinct to recognize their mistakes and look for ways to consistently improve in every area.

This is what the progression looks like:

Develop a Winning Instinct

The best leaders make improvements on a daily basis to stay ahead of the curve, to shift the odds of success in their favor, and to consistently meet their goals.

Anytime you start something new you are inefficient and unproductive because you are just getting going.

You look around and your results stink compared to people who have been doing this a long time. But don’t worry. You are going to get better.

And, even though they have been at it longer, if they don’t keep improving, you are going to eventually pass them and leave them in your rear view mirror.

Top 10 Performance Improvement Hacks

By doing what winning leaders do to improve their performance, you have the best chance of succeeding.

Here are the top 10 performance improvement hacks you can copy from successful leaders to get and stay ahead.

1. Stay Alert and Avoid Problems Altogether

Winding road ahead sign.

Ever heard the old saying, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’? The wise know it’s easier to steer around a problem than wait until it hits you head on, knocking you off track. Keep your head on a swivel and your eyes wide open.

Like a shepherd watching out for his flock, protect your team from dangers that they may be unaware of or unable to do anything about.

As the leader, you have more experience and more information. The burden falls on you to look out for your team’s best interests.

2. Follow Industry News

Find the best and brightest in your industry. Sign up for their email lists; follow them on social media.

If a big breakthrough happens in your industry, you’ll be the first to know and be able to make necessary changes fast.

It doesn’t take much time, and it gives you a competitive edge.

3. Study Your Competition

Your competition is catching up at all times. To beat those who are ahead of you and stay ahead of those chasing you, you need competitive advantages. The best places to find them are those that are in front of you. Remember that ideas are a dime a dozen, and they don’t care who use them.

Ideas are a dime a dozen, and they don't care who use them. Click To Tweet

What are they doing that you’re not? Which of those ideas can you incorporate to give your team more success?

4. Pick a New Skill and Learn It


For the team to improve, the leader must improve. You can’t stay the same and expect your team to get bigger and more efficient. When the leader stagnates, the team stagnates.

Notice and prepare for potential opportunities by learning new skills, and inspire your team to grow with you.

I’m not talking about new skills like learning to play the violin. Look for skills and tools that will allow you to do the things you are doing on a regular basis but do them quicker, faster, and better.

If you want to learn the violin—great. But it won’t necessarily improve your leadership skills.

5. Delegate—But Don’t Assume

Know what’s going on at all times.

You can’t do everything, but you can know everything that’s going on. Keep track of whether or not people are on pace. Know whether or not they are improving. And, track performance in all the key areas.

A business never runs itself at peak performance. No team wins the Super Bowl with their coach home on the couch.

It’s up to you to check in with your team and make sure the most important things are getting done.

6. Unify Your Team with a Big Goal

Row Boat Racers

To keep your team unified and their morale high, you must have them working together, racing toward their next big team target.

They must believe the purpose of the team is to do something big, so give them something big to do!

It may be impossible for them to individually break records and win awards. But by having a big team goal, you give them the chance to make a contribution and be a part of a championship team.

7. Set Individual Goals and Stir Up Competition

When people don’t have something specific to work on, they drift.

Everyone needs to know their particular goal and job to help the team to win. Everyone must know how they will specifically be held accountable and what things will get them special recognition.

Find ways to let your team compete and incentivize them to win. Spend the time to make sure everyone has a special target.

8. Increase Speed

In the big leagues, speed is one of the biggest determining factors of who wins and who loses. Teams that slow down become complacent and often never recover.

Ask yourself, ‘What can we do faster?’

If you slack off, the competition will be right behind you ready to race past and beat you.

There’s nothing better to take the pain out of dull, repetitive, but necessary tasks than by finding ways to do them quicker, better, faster.

9. Streamline Your Workload

Simplify to multiply your productivity. Manage your priorities by regularly auditing what is essential and what isn’t. Constantly refine, improve, and polish your systems.

Leverage technology to automate where you can. See what you can eliminate to save time and money that could be better allocated to other things.

10. Immediately Ask ‘What Could I Have Done Better?’

There is no better time to ask, ‘What did I do wrong? What could I have done better?’ than right when you finish a project or come off a success.

Talk with your people about what you can do better next time and start racing towards bigger and better goals. This reboots your team with energy and direction for your next success, so don’t allow any downtime before you announce your next bigger target.

Of course, if they made a big effort and had a huge success, you’re going to celebrate. But it’s during the celebration that you have the perfect time to announce your next exciting goal.

If you’re coming off of a failure, there is no time to celebrate because the only way to deal with failure is to quickly assess what went wrong and what you could do better. Then you must get back on the attack by tripling your activity so you guarantee failure won’t happen again.

Everyone is born. Winners are made.

Team presentation by successful leader

Successful leaders are always improving. They know performance improvement will compound over time to help them win consistently and lead to new opportunities.

We’re all lousy in the beginning. So what? We all have to start somewhere.

The good news is that you can get better.

There are specific things you can do to improve the performance of your team and set yourself up for success.

Identify performance improvement opportunities and problems, and challenge your team to grow.

They might actually surprise you. And, you might even surprise yourself.

These are the top performance improvement tips I use and see other winning leaders use. What works best for you? 

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