What Stops People Working At Their Very Best?

As a leader, you would hope that every single person in your business is working at their very best, but you know only a small percentage of people likely are. Of course, there are many reasons why a person’s performance may drop below their potential, and they can be both personal and business-related. Still, you can lift contribution and participation significantly by some straightforward actions.


Active Knowledge Question:

What do you think are the key triggers of performance?



We have come to accept that, in many cases, employees will contribute something much less than their full potential. As a result, average has become the norm, and during the COVID-19 lockdowns and the continuing ‘hybrid’ working modes, I suspect performance has even dropped lower for some people.

Accepting average as the cultural norm can only be a downhill journey. As you expect that many people will not deliver their best, you provide a benchmark that will never be lifted. As new people join the business, the prevalent culture of average will quickly be communicated and either they will be assimilated or leave.    

The reality is that as you permit your expectations/standards to be lowered from A to B to C, those who want to contribute their best will either not join or leave as soon as possible.

You should view every person working in your business as having untapped potential. Real talents, skills and an energy that they can bring into the business if provided the opportunity. 

Your expectation should always be the “best of the best working at their very best always”. Every individual person should be striving to contribute their very best no matter what role they may play. And this cultural norm will only continue to lift the levels of contribution and participation as long as it is fed and supported. A culture of better every day.


Action One: Instil an expectation of everyone contributing their very best and being supported to do so.


Best Of The Best

To commence the journey of seeding, growing and compounding a culture of the best at their best requires what I believe is a significant shift in the character of many in leadership at all levels. 

Self-interest must be removed, and humility must be instilled.

Self-interest is a poison that will ensure people rarely contribute their best. If the people I am working for and with are only interested in themselves, their recognition and reward, there is no reason for me to put ‘my all’ into my work. It will always be something less and often simply what I need to do to keep my job.

Humility, however, is the spark that opens the door for others to contribute. A willingness to listen, engage and encourage is what humility brings to the business. It allows others to dig deep and contribute, knowing it will be permitted, acknowledged and celebrated. And as one sees someone else contributing, they will begin to think of what they can do.

As self-interest is eradicated and humility is instilled, a message is being sent throughout the entire business that it is open to every individual to participate and contribute to their utmost.

We must always remember that the core competitiveness of a business rests solely in the combined talent and effort of every single person working within and with that business. And that the role of leadership is to muster and enable that talent and effort.


Action Two: Eradicate self-interest wherever it may exist and seed and encourage humility.



When we turn our attention to performance and, therefore, the level of participation and contribution, we must be conscious of the ebb and flow that will influence performance and act in unison with these elements. 

  • Seasons: Seasons in business and people’s lives will influence their ability to lean into any activity. These seasons may include spectacular success, devasting loss, boredom, reflection, rest and restoration, excitement, never-ending effort, surrender, resignation and simply fatigue. Seek to understand what season a business/team/individual may be in and recognise its impact on them.
  • Balance: Balance across the various goals that are pursued is important. A spinning wheel that is out of balance will quickly wear itself out. If a pursuit of goals remains out of balance for an extended period, then this imbalance will degrade performance. Be conscious of what is being pursued and bring balance into focus when considering where to lean into.

Two other elements are also vital when seeking to create a culture of the best at their best:

  • Belonging: Few business leaders focus on building the strength of connections that exist within their business as a profit-first motive tends to be their focus but to do so can seed an unstoppable momentum. The strength of connections arises from a belonging, a sense of purpose, a place that is yours, and pride and fulfilment that you achieve by being part of a team doing something worthwhile. Enable people to belong by creating this environment.
  • Success: The way your business defines success steps out of motive and is critical in setting the right culture. If success, for example, is defined as being in senior leadership, then only a handful of people can be successful and striving for one of those places will only seed self-interest. Instead, success should be defined in a manner in which everyone can achieve success in their lives.


Action Three: Become conscious of seasons and balance and adjust for their impact.

Action Four: Create a real sense of belonging for every person.

Action Five: Define and rejoice success in a way that allows everyone to participate and contribute to their greatest ability.



There is a competitive engine within every business that sets the floor and ceiling to the performance of that business. If it is running well, performance will be lifted, but if it is ignored and in disrepair, then the floor to performance will quickly collapse.

It comprises the agents that will create the environment for everyone to excel. Key elements that will impact participation and contribution are:

  • Purpose and Motive: A succinct purpose tied to customer need allows everyone to contribute to something that is real and, when supported with the motive to compete, to also deliver their very best.
  • Leadership: only worthy leaders who are free of self-interest and who focus on uplifting and enabling others will bring the potential that resides in a business to be released.
  • Rewards: must be available to everyone who contributes their utmost and not held only for a select few.
  • Barriers: that restrict people from contributing must be actively dismantled, and these include bureaucracy and paradigms, and of course, once again, self-interest.


Action Six: Create a righteous purpose and supporting motive.

Action Seven: Create an equality in rewards and actively dismantle barriers.

Action Eight: Recognise the existence of the competitive engine and focus on bringing it into tune.


As a leader, you can significantly lift the contribution and participation of everyone in your business, and the performance that will flow therefrom, simply by paying close attention to those factors that will open the doors to their efforts and not shut them out.

An entirely new level of performance.

Want to become a part of the Entrepreneurs+ Community and learn how to make your business competitively fitJoin now.

All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel