The Secret to Leading Your Team to High Performance

What I refer to as the “secret” is really how insightful leaders act naturally, and how high performing teams respond to this kind of purposeful leadership.  With a clear plan known and agreed to by all, tracked, and updated each month, everyone on the team knows just where they stand and how the team is measuring up. High performance team members enjoy work, are energized and engaged, and actively assist each other accomplish his or her part of the plan. Team spirit flows and permeates your department.

Based on a study in the Harvard Business Review, however, most teams achieve only about two-thirds of what they set out to do. If you are scratching you head and wondering how your team can achieve what you intend to accomplish, then the “secret” might inspire some new thinking.  Let me begin by saying that the secret is not a prescriptive list requiring more hurry up and busting butt to make a profit, but rather a call to action intended to inspire meaningful expression, collaborative harmony, and greater joi de vivre.

Lao-tzu (5th century BC philosopher), who is attributed to having said much about leadership, is quoted in the Tao Te Ching as saying:

“When the greatness of the Tao is present,

Actions arise from one’s own heart;

When the greatness of the Tao is absent,

Actions come from the rules.”


“Tao is not a ‘name’ for a ‘thing’ but the underlying natural order of the universe whose ultimate essence is difficult to circumscribe.” (Wikipedia) The key is to understand that when Tao is present, so is natural order – with things manifesting easily, naturally.

Highly functioning organizations operate with lots of heart (spirit), leading to this natural flow of results. Struggling organizations live more by the rules, that seem to describe many organizations with a top down model of do more with less, do it now, make a profit, and make the board and senior management happy.

I will begin by addressing what it is to connect to the Tao, and how to create the environment for actions to arise from heart. Tao is the energy of Spirit, or Life Force, from which we have evolved.  (Hopefully we’ll be around in the next century to evolve a bit more!)  This energy is kind, powerful compassionate, creative and loving.  And here’s the good news: it is us.  That is, not separate from us, but of which we are a part.  Life Force energy is the core of our being, however distant in awareness it now might seem.  But as we each know that what we focus grows, focusing on Spirit grows the awareness and experience of Spirit within each of us.  To capture greater team spirit and bring forth the greatness of the Tao in your organization, use this as your guide to manifesting that SPIRIT:

S oulful in nature

P urpose oriented

I nspired and enthusiastic

R esulting in joy and satisfaction

I ntentionally collaborative and contributing to others

T ypically grateful, looking for the good, and acknowledging others

Both individually and collectively as a team we have a particular mission to fulfill.  Identifying that mission, or heartfelt purpose, aligns who we are with the power of the Life Force.  Clear and powerful intentions rise to the surface; actions occur more spontaneously and effortlessly; and voila: you’re in the natural “flow.”

From a base of intending and creating Spirit in your team, there are additional steps to take in creating and carrying out an optimum yearly plan. I urge you to consider the Best Year Yet® team strategic planning session to identify a new vision, lessons learned, shifting paradigms, clarifying roles, and developing prioritized goals on which you have consensus and agreement. And finally, when you establish a culture of accountability and review monthly goals and responsibilities, it becomes easier to stay on track and achieve what you set out to do.

Energize your team with spirit, create a system in which to act in alignment to intended results, and impress the hell out of your organization. And maybe get a promotion.

About Jim

Jim’s innovative and influential style of coaching and facilitation stems from over 15 years of Management experience in Human Resource and Organization Development. He has written two books, and has coached others in the area of Personal Development for the past 20 years.