April 4, 2023

Four Ways to Get Your High Performers in Alignment

3Pillar Chief Evangelist Scott Varho sat down recently with Bruce Tulgan for his podcast, The Indispensables. Scott and Bruce discussed what it takes to develop a company culture where high-performing teams are the rule rather than the exception to it. Based on their interview, Bruce wrote a recap of the discussion for Forbes titled Four Ways to Get Your High Performers in Alignment.

You can read Bruce’s recap, which originally appeared in Forbes, below.

Working with a team of high-performers is the dream of many managers, but getting those superstars to work well together isn’t always easy.

Scott Varho, Chief Evangelist at 3Pillar Global, has plenty of experience working with highly-skilled technical experts. Varho recognizes if your brightest minds aren’t only engaged but aligned at work, you will never get their best results.

“People think technical skill is the key, but applied technical skill is really what you need,” Varho asserts. “A lazy genius doesn’t do anything. They’re just a genius on a couch. But if you can take somebody who’s really smart, really capable, and fully apply them in service of your objectives, that’s where you get exceptional outcomes.”

These are four ways Varho has gotten the high performers on his teams in better alignment.

1. When everyone’s in the room, focus on the shared goal.

One of the most important steps you can take toward establishing a culture of alignment and collaboration on your team is to make it clear: When we’re in the room together, it’s about the shared mission, not individual stakes. In Varho’s words, the goal is to establish “high performing teams arranged around a sense of purpose.”

“Engineers and designers working together closely tends to be fraught,” Varho says of a common theme in his work. “So, my work is establishing a culture that really emphasizes the mission, why this squad of humans collected, what we are trying to achieve. And if you can move that sense of purpose beyond the group to the shared purpose of the mission, then you’re not showing up as an individual trying to show how good you are.”

2. Go ahead, make it personal.

Of course, no matter how connected to mission and purpose a team is, there will always be individual stakes involved. Trying to deny that people come to work with wants, needs, and egos will only make you seem out of touch. If you want people to continue playing their role in service of that larger mission, Varho advises leaders to be honest: work is personal.

“Anyone who tells you work isn’t personal is lying,” Varho laughs. “Work is incredibly personal. I try to provide that personal purpose and meaning by saying, ‘Hey, this matters. We don’t work on technology that doesn’t matter. It’s worth it. It’s worth applying that discretionary effort, that humility, that curiosity, and that courage that it takes to build great products.”

3. Generate value for clients and employees.

Creating value for clients and customers isn’t the only measure of success. Truly successful companies understand that generating value internally is as important as generating it externally—and those goals don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

“I spent a lot of time in our delivery centers asking, ‘What is important about this work and how can we invest in it in a way that feels authentic to the craftspeople, but also delivers a benefit to clients?’” Varho explains. “Because really, if we’re going to build a company that’s super successful, it must be one that invites both parties in deeper and deeper levels of collaboration.”

4. Make sure you’re all speaking the same language.

Anyone working in today’s increasingly collaborative workplaces knows that two people can be literally speaking the same language, but misunderstanding each other entirely. Particularly in highly technical industries or between highly technical teams, jargon and same-but-different processes often result in miscommunication that isn’t discovered until it’s too late.

“What I find so fascinating is watching two people speaking English, not understanding each other, but thinking they do,” Varho muses. “It was this English-to-English translation that I found myself doing across this divide between hardware and software. Though both groups were technical, they did not speak the same language.”

Don’t assume that because your teams are highly skilled, educated, or experienced that they fully understand one another’s work. Making a habit of checking in on clarity will go a long way toward saving everyone’s time and energy.

Listen to The Indispensables with Bruce Tulgan, featuring Scott Varho here.

If you’d like to hear more of Scott’s perspectives on technology, product development, and building a culture of sustained innovation, tune in to our Innovation Engine podcast, which he hosts.