The Secret to High Performance? Stay in your Box!

I was reminded of something recently – getting out of the box – isn’t comfortable.

Now – I know what some of your are thinking – “But, Tim, you need to get out of the box to challenge yourself, to push the limits, to get you and your organization better!”


Or have we been sold this by this eras snake oil salesmen and women (leadership trainers, life coaches, every motivation, and leadership book written in the last 20 years)?

I’m not sure.

Here’s what I know:

1. People perform better when they know their boundaries. (their box)

2. There is comfort in knowing what to expect, with comfort comes sustained performance long-term.

3. In reality, a very small percentage of your employees will actually perform above their average performance being “out of the box”.

We as HR Pros tend to go a little overboard sometimes, in the attempt to “help out” the cause within our organization. That can be both good and bad.  Things are going as well as they could be, so we push to get everyone out of their box and reinvent themselves, in hopes that this will lead to better performance and higher organizational results.

When in fact, many times, it will lead to the exact opposite.  Not everyone is wired to get “out of the box”. In fact probably at a minimum 80% of the workforce should stay in their box, and keep plugging along with their solid performance that they are already giving you.

The trick to great HR in getting great performance is to find those race horses who you can push out of the box, and they show you a whole other level of performance that you and they didn’t know existed.  But if you keep pushing plow horses out on to the track in hopes of turning them into a race horse you, and they will fail.

So, don’t drink the Kool-aid and believe everyone can and wants to be out of the box thinkers and performers. Not everyone does and you limit yourself by thinking in such general terms.

3 thoughts on “The Secret to High Performance? Stay in your Box!

  1. Nice ‘out of the box’ thinking 🙂 I think you are right – boundaries are very important, but i’m far from convinced that everyone has them. I also think there are benefits to stepping out of a comfort zone in order to acquire further skills that you can then take back into the box!

  2. Love this and I think it all depends on what you call “performance.” When you need to get a fairly clear work product out, then people need to know resources available, decisions they can make, etc. In fact, I’d say that you can have a lot of latitude in decision-making and still be considered “in the box.”

    Sometimes you need change in processes, business focus, market… this is the time for getting out of that box. Not every day, that’s inefficient.

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