Four Ways to Thrive Under Performance Leaders

Four Ways to Thrive Under Performance Leaders

Many people find themselves being led by leaders motivated by Performance (RED).  These leaders are motivated by achievement, accomplishments, advancement, and movement.  They get frustrated by the status quo and often times get impatient with a lack of progress.  If you find yourself on a team led by a Performance leader you may find it difficult to be supportive of some decisions or the culture that that is produced.  What do you do if you find yourself in this situation?  This blog post is written for you who find yourselves struggling to know how to interact or even survive under this condition.  I want to do this by way of a case study approach.  With permission, the following letter sets the context for learning.  Let us call this person “Stacy”.

“I had a meeting a few weeks ago with someone who is wired very differently than myself and leading a growing organization which I have been investing in for the last few years. I have a great amount of respect for this individual but now find myself struggling with whether I can continue to support the organization partly because of our recent interaction (I’m a solid blue lol). In conflict my sequence is blue, green, red and I experienced all 3 stages within our hour together but thanks to your book and working from disorientation to reorientation we were able to end “well” and I was able to find my footing again so much faster than in the past. This other person is red/green and unfortunately it was like we were speaking two different languages and more sadly about an area where I feel quite vulnerable (deep ministry hurts). “

“To give you a little background I had brought something to the attention of this person and three other leaders by email because I believed the integrity of the organization was being compromised (this was something I believed over my entire time with the organization) and I believed I needed to obey God by “speaking up” (something I’ve resisted my entire life). I thought this subsequent meeting was called because this person wanted clarity about the situation so I was actually looking forward to it (I believe I’ve been obedient to God in the whole long process so I felt I had nothing to hide or fear). However, throughout the meeting I felt like I was being interrogated about my motivations and character. As we ended our time together, I agreed to pray about possible lingering anger and bitterness/unforgiveness but left feeling really confused and disappointed, like the wind was knocked out of me. I felt so misunderstood and demotivated because I felt my thoughts/views were not valued or appreciated. Because I am a true blue I will continue to do my best for the time commitment that’s left but I see that as the end of the road for me. “

“My question for you has to do with blue’s in leadership roles. I am not one to seek out leadership roles but for the sake of others will bolt on more red and try different things (starting new groups, being more goals driven etc). In this case I have invested and sacrificed a considerable amount of time, energy and finances over the last 3 years but now feel very unsettled and certainly not valued so I’m thinking it’s time to move on. Because I’m a blue I believe blues need a voice in places of leadership where I typically see mostly reds or combo reds. I’ve been told often how sensitivity is a gift but I need to learn how to toughen up…”

I chose Stacy’s letter because she represents a common experience for many people who are not RED but are led by RED leaders.  RED/Performance leaders can be very strong and can be a challenge for those motivated by People, Process, or Perspective.  There may be a common goal shared, but how to go about the objectives and working together in harmony is challenging because of different values – what is most important to the members of the team. We could have chosen a letter from a GREEN/Process person and it would look similar, but with different details.  How do non-RED people work together with someone leading from a RED motivation?

Here are four ways to thrive under Performance (RED) leaders. 

  1. Speak to the performance motivation.  When you communicate with a Performance motivated person, remember to put out in front what is most important to them which is success.  You may be motivated by People and want to emphasize how decisions impact people, but that communication is likely to be screened out.  The Performance person is focused on success so talk about success.  For example, if you are concerned about how people are being stepped on to get to a result, you may say this, “I believe that we will be more successful if we do ___________ so we have the support of more people.”  If you are concerned with the process used to determine the tactics, you may say, “I believe that we will have greater success if we first do ________________ which will give us the best way forward.”  Connect your concern to the success of the leader’s goals.  Be careful of not speaking in such a way that it comes across like you are trying to block their success.  Sending an email that copies other members of the team might be interpreted as a tactic blocking their success. 
  • Speak with confidence…   Performance leaders speak directly and with confidence which can be intimidating.  You may even feel that their tone and voice of the leader is inappropriate.  Performance motivated leaders can overdo the strength of confidence and sound arrogant and have their mind made up.  However, most Performance leaders are open to change if results will be better.  If you don’t speak with confidence about your perspective, your ideas may not get serious attention.  Speak directly and don’t beat around the bush out of fear of being shot down.  Don’t do it with anger or too much emotion, but deliver your perspective with confidence.   
  • Value what you bring to the table.  It is likely that you may have felt devalued in the past by the way the Performance leader has spoke to you in the past.  They may not intend to devalue your contribution, but often they fail to communicate in addressing what is most important to you.  Before you speak, you must come to the place of truly valuing your contribution.  Your voice matters and by voicing it with confidence, you can help your organization be more successful.  To often members of the team fail to value their contribution enough to risk sharing it.  Also recognize that your ideas may not be embraced.  That is alright, but not sharing your viewpoint will demotivate you to be a good team member. 
  • Choose to use strengths for your own MVS.  You have many different strengths to choose from when relating to others.  Our default is to use the strengths that are natural to our Motivational Values system (MVS).  If you are People oriented, the strengths that are more assessable are behaviors like helping, caring, and being supportive.  But you can use strengths that are natural to other MVS’s by connecting them to your own motivation.  As a People oriented person you can chose to use confident because you want to protect the people who will be hurt and left behind.  Or you could chose risk-taking when it isn’t a natural strength for you, because you see an opportunity to help more people.  By connecting your motivation with strengths that are natural to you, you will find it genuine to engage more readily.  Borrowing strengths that are not natural to you takes emotional energy so you will likely do this only when necessary, but it may be necessary when you feel strongly about something. 

I often get the question about whether all teams should be led by Performance/RED leaders because they get things done.  My answer is no.  You can be an effective leader from every Motivational Value System.  Each leader will have strengths and weaknesses and will need to borrow strengths to be effective.  Too often leaders shy away from leading because they don’t know how to use strengths natural to other personalities.  We lose great leaders when this happens and we submit to the stereotype of having to have Performance/RED leaders.  Teams led by other types of leaders can win and succeed but they will do it using other strengths and building teams with different strengths around themselves.  Depending on the task, a team leader that is not Performance based may be preferred.  For instance, a goal that is complex might require a Process oriented leader or a goal to build a care network might better be served with a People oriented leader.  But a Performance oriented leader could succeed as well if they adapt with different strengths. 

Let me just say a word about the Performance oriented leader that would help them succeed more often.  Performance leaders need to become more aware of the negative impact they can have on others.  They can be perceived as arrogant and abusive.  The rush to move ahead often is perceived as cutting corners and reckless.  If you are Performance motivated, you will succeed more often by listening to the team around you and valuing their input and perspective.  They see clearly things where you probably have blind spots.  Together we can achieve greater things.  In the end that is what you want. Let’s not lose “Stacy” from our teams.

Bruce Terpstra

Our President, Dr. Bruce Terpstra, has 36 years of pastoral ministry experience. He is a veteran of 17 years in denominational leadership and developed more than 70 new churches in the New York metro area and has given oversight to almost 400 pastors. He holds a doctorate in Leadership Development and is also the founder of 3KeyCoaching and the author of Three Passions of the Soul.