With Martin G. Moore

Episode #260

Setting The Bar: Raising the standard of leadership excellence

If you’ve been searching for ways to invigorate your people and drive optimal performance, this episode is for you.

When you understand your people’s dynamics deeply, you open doors to enhanced communication, collaboration, and performance.

This isn’t just leadership; it’s a transformational shift that empowers you to harness your people’s full potential.

If you’re unsure where to begin, I’ve got you!

Today’s podcast episode is an exclusive replay of a live training session from our impactful 3-day bootcamp: Motivate to Elevate: Proven Strategies to Energize Your Team and Maximize Performance.

You’ll hear what we covered in Day 1 – Setting The Bar: Raising The Standard of Leadership Excellence.

In just 30 minutes, I teach you to evaluate the current standard that your people and organization work to, and you’ll get a laser-like focus on what a high performing team really looks like.

I’ve also included a free downloadable from the training, ‘Your High Performing Team Assessment’. Download it below!


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Episode #260 Setting The Bar: Raising the standard of leadership excellence


We’re hearing from our global leadership community that motivating your people is one of the biggest challenges at the moment.

And when your people aren’t motivated, their work is sloppy, their productivity is low, they’re missing their targets–not just the stretch targets, but even their easier targets. They’re missing because they have a level of apathy. They feel personally dissatisfied with what they’re doing, and they tend to focus on a whole bunch of small things that don’t really make a difference.

But when your people are motivated, you can really tell the difference–they have a completely different energy. They’re enthusiastic, they deliver on their stretch targets (they deliver on every target), and they hate missing them. They’re fanatical about it. You can feel their growth, their capability, their development, and they want to get better all the time. They’re hungry to learn and hungry to grow.

The reason we created the four-day bootcamp, Motivate to Elevate: Proven strategies to motivate your team and optimize performance, is to deal with the critical subject of motivation. And, of course, although it’s only one piece of the bigger leadership puzzle, it’s a great place to start… especially if you’re seeing your people dragging their feet and missing their goals.

There are absolutely no silver bullets–you know that. But I’m going to give you some action steps to make this happen, which, if you apply, you’re going to get some results. There’s no doubt about it.

This newsletter is based on the live transcript from Day 1 of the Motivate to Elevate bootcamp. It’s still not too late to join the daily live sessions, which will also give you access to the webinar replays for a limited time (unless, of course, you’ve got a VIP pass, in which case, you will have lifetime access to all of this content, along with an extended Day 4 session).

The next two days are scheduled as follows:

  • Tuesday 22nd August (USA) and Wednesday 23rd August (Australia, New Zealand, Asia)

    • The Motivation X-ray. What is it that really motivates your people?

  • Wednesday 23rd August (USA) and Thursday 24th August (Australia, New Zealand, Asia)

    • Performance Amplified. How do you enable growth and measure progress?

However, even if you don’t join the remainder of the bootcamp, this will be a useful stand-alone resource, giving you a good sense of the first steps to motivating your people.


The first thing is to assess the culture. There are a number of indicators that I look at to determine whether the culture is healthy or unhealthy. And in varying degrees, of course, it’s on a continuum.

The very first thing is that I look at the culture and determine whether or not it is a results-driven culture or an activity-driven culture. Do we do the work just because it’s work we’ve always done, or do we do the work because we’re absolutely focused on getting the benefits, the outcomes, and the value that comes out of the back end from that work?

Just be really careful about having a process focus because I see a lot of larger organizations falling into this. They think that if they develop better processes, then things will improve. That’s only part of it, right? If you develop a better process, all you’ve got is a better process. If you can’t use that process to get a higher value outcome, then you may as well not do that work. And you may as well not invest the resource.

The second cultural area I really like to look at is the level of accountability. In a really good culture, you will have people who step up and aren’t afraid to take accountability. They want the accountability; they want to be able to make decisions and determine their own destiny and to drive a result through to the end, because they know that’s where the satisfaction is.

In many organizations, you can have an all care, no responsibility culture. That’s where everyone looks at everyone else to make the achievements, everyone looks to everyone else to solve the problems, and when there is an issue, everyone hides and hopes to not be seen. You want an accountability culture which is single-point and strong, You don’t want an all care, no responsibility culture.

Another cultural element I look at: is this a learning organization or a knowing organization? You’ve got the difference between knowing teams and learning teams. In knowing teams, knowledge is power. People protect their knowledge, and they protect their power base, and they don’t share it.

They like to sit there being very, very wise but not actually doing anything with that to help other people reach their level of wisdom. A knowing culture is very stagnant, whereas a learning culture is a dynamic culture where everyone wants to share and grow and learn from each other, and they contribute generously and fearlessly at any point in time.

The next cultural indicator I look at: is it an autonomous culture or a micromanaging culture? You can tell this by looking at where the decisions in the organization flow to. Are people making decisions that are appropriate for their level at the point at which they make them? Or do those decisions have to flow up the line two or three layers to get to someone who has sufficient authority or sufficient power in the hierarchy to make a call?

There’s a very big difference between micromanaging and inspecting progress, and we might talk about that a little bit later, but certainly micromanagers get into the detail and make sure they’re in control of everything that’s going on. Inspecting progress, on the other hand, doesn’t mean you take your eye off the ball, but it means that you’re asking different questions about how people are going with their work.

And then the final cultural thing I look at is where is the minimum acceptable standard? At all levels of management that I’ve worked in, I used to love the practice of management by walking around. You can learn so much just by walking through a workspace and seeing what people are doing, seeing the energy that they bring, the sense of urgency that they have, the amount of interaction. You can just gauge so much just by that.

Obviously, in these post-pandemic times, it’s much harder. And this is one of the things that I think suffers by not having people co-located. It’s great that we have a good mix of work from home, work at any location, and work in the office. But by the same token, when you do get the opportunity to get people together, use that wisely. Take advantage. Make use of it. All right?


Once you’ve worked out what the culture looks like, it’s really important to understand what the current performance is. I always like to have a look at the historical results of a team or the broader organization. You’ve got to do a bit of homework to drag all this up, but it’s really worth doing. You can learn a lot about an organization by seeing how it performs.

For example, if you look at year-on-year comparisons, where are we going? Or prior corresponding period comparisons: trend is your friend. You want to see a trend of improvement, a trend of uplift in performance, not a trend of stagnation or a trend of decline: it’s normally pretty easy to spot.

I’m a huge one for drawing comparisons, because you can become insular very, very quickly. And if you just look inside your own team and you’re very focused inside that, you don’t compare yourself to anyone outside. You don’t know whether you’re performing well or not. All you know is that you’re doing the things that you’ve always done. You don’t necessarily know whether they’re having an impact, and you certainly don’t know how you’re going against other teams who are similar in your organization, and more broadly in the industry.

If you can find benchmarks, that’s fantastic. Any sort of industry metrics you can get your hands on are useful. And they’ve got these in all sorts of areas. You can find productivity metrics, you can find financial performance metrics, you can even see how many HR support people are allocated per 100 employees. All of this stuff is available.

If you do a little bit of searching (and it’s really worth doing), then the next thing about performance is to assess the latent capacity of your people. When I say the “latent capacity”, that’s the capacity and the talent that you haven’t tapped into yet, or no one before you has tapped into it. This is easier to see if you’ve worked in multiple companies, of course, because you’ve got a better basis for comparison. But, remember that when you go into any role, you get corrupted fairly quickly.

There’s a great example of a manager who was hired years ago several layers below me when I was running CS Energy. He came out of the oil and gas sector, and he was a really good hire at the superintendent level. I had the opportunity to speak to him on a site visit in his first couple of weeks. I simply asked, “How’s it going? How are you settling in?” And the color just drained from his face.

He said, “I can’t believe it, there are so many gaps here in the processes and I’m really worried about this, and I’m concerned about that, and I’ve really got to get on top of this.” And he seemed quite shaken. I ran into the same guy about six weeks later and I asked, “Mate, how’s it going?”. He said, “Oh, fantastic. Everything’s going well.” And I said, “But six weeks ago you were almost apoplectic about the state of things here.” And he said, “Oh, yeah, well, now I understand it better.” What had really happened is that he’d been corrupted by the status quo. “Oh, we do it this way for this reason, we do that for that reason.”

The moral of the story is, when you’re assessing capacity, it’s better if you have a fresh set of eyes to help you. So, assess the capacity of your people, because your best people on any given day are going to give, maybe 80% of what they’ve got. Maybe 85%, right?! Imagine what your worst people are giving you. And if you can get an extra 10-15 percent out of every individual, you’re really going to see some performance supercharging.

You have to look at individual quality and capability. If you’ve been working with great people or in great teams before, then you’ll be able to extrapolate this and see what you’re dealing with, where you are.

Finally, in terms of skills, capability, performance, I look at skill gaps. Where are the greatest risks? Where are the areas that we have key person risk? Where are the areas that we’re going to run into a position where we don’t have sufficient skills for that particular core area?

Of course, CS Energy is running a bunch of coal-fired power stations. So, what are you going to do? There are no engineering students coming out of university saying, “I want to learn how to be an engineer in a coal-fired power station.” Right? It’s hard to get the skills in. And so, the capability and knowledge and skill that you have in the organization is declining and dying. Instead of trying to build that up inside the organization, you’ve got to look for smarter ways to do it, which we did.


The final thing is to get a realistic sense of where you can get to in the next period. So, you might have a multi-year transition in place here. There are no silver bullets, right? You’ve got to break this into small stretch targets. Any target you set has to be achievable; it has to liberate talent, and it has to be something that you can get your people engaged in. They’ve got to feel as though it’s doable. If they feel it’s not doable, they’re not even going to try. They’ll just shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, who’s going to be able to do that? Not us.”

We’ll have more on this tomorrow. You’ve got to set these improvement targets across all dimensions, which we’re going to talk about in a minute, by month and by quarter. Make them easy to see and easy to bite off, and then constantly ask, “What can we do to improve? What would that take?” What you’re looking for is this culture of continuous improvement. You want your people to constantly be thinking, “What can we do to improve?”


The minimum acceptable standard has to come in two areas: behaviors and performance.

In terms of behaviors, the first thing I look for is openness and honesty. Information gets filtered no matter what. All the information that comes up the line to you has been through several sets of hands, and several sets of eyes. It’s not malicious, but people need to choose what to tell you. And when they choose what to tell you, they will filter things out. This is why honesty and openness is so important.

The next behavioral thing is a singular focus on value. I see this as a behavioral issue. Are you strong enough to do the things you need to do to go after the value that you’re trying to achieve? Or are you just going to take the easy path? Let people do what they want to do? The singular focus on value is really behavioral.

In leadership, there’s the willingness to challenge the status quo. What you’re looking for is change-resilient people. You want people who are going to make change, and drive change, and accept change, and be comfortable in change. This is one of the things you have to think about in your behavioral standards.

You want people to behave in a way where they engage in robust debate and challenge, right? You want them to bring out the value of the diversity in the team. When you look at a team, you can have a Noah’s Ark of diversity… but if you can’t find a way to liberate that, and bring that value to the table, well, you may as well not have it. In order to access the diversity premium, everyone’s got to be prepared to contribute.

Contribution isn’t just accepted, it is expected.

Another behavioral issue is dedication to outcomes and willingness to shoulder the burden. You want people who are going to take personal responsibility for what they do. And when it comes to accountability and blame, you don’t want people who are always doing this: “Someone else’s problem… I didn’t do it, it wasn’t me. There was something else that came and thwarted our efforts.”

You don’t want that. You want someone who’s going to stand up and say, “I’ve got this. I’m taking it forward. I’m going to do it for good or bad, for better or worse. I’m going to own the outcome.”

Now for the interesting part: the performance standard. You’ve got to have a framework for this if you want to lift the standard that your people perform at. You’ve got to be able to articulate and communicate exactly what that means. And this is sometimes really hard to do unless you have a good, well-worn framework. Hey, it’s really hard even if you do have a really good, well-structured framework.

We developed a foolproof framework in Module 8 of Leadership Beyond Theory, which shows you how to do this. The performance standards apply to each leadership level. For each level of leaders, for example, frontline leaders, or senior executives reporting to the CEO, you’ll have a different standard, which is the same for every leader at that level. And it’s going to be a standard that people can understand what you want.

You have to create separate categories, because you want a multifaceted assessment. What you’re trying to do is define what’s acceptable, and what a good job looks like. This is the day job, right? So, what does ‘good’ look like when we’re talking about financial performance?

At the CEO level, ‘good’ might be getting a return on capital of 16%. When we’re talking about a team leader, good performance in the finance category might be meeting the budget that’s set. At different levels, it’s measured differently, but the multifaceted categories that you rate people against are the same.

For example, at CS Energy we had six categories in our performance standard:

1. Safety

2. Leadership

3. Management

4. Commercial

5. Building capability in others, and

6. Working across boundaries

On each of those, leaders were rated on a scale from one to five. One is, “Hey, you’d better put immediate attention into this or this is not going to end well.” And five means, “You’re performing exceptionally well”. You must have a minimum acceptable standard that, on average, each leader gets a score of 3.5 across all dimensions… or they’re not doing their job.

The multidimensional aspect of the performance standard is really useful because what it says is, “You can’t just be an awesome commercial person at the expense of everything else. You don’t get a free kick on your leadership just because you know how to make money.” This is a critical mindset if you want to get a rounded leader who’s doing the job of leadership.

You’ve got to make it clear to everyone what this means. So, of course, you’ve got one-on-one meetings where it happens. Formal, informal, wherever these meetings take place, it’s your opportunity to make it clearer what you’re actually looking for. These meetings have to be regular; they have to be happening all the time; and you’ve got to be constantly making those micro adjustments.

If you think you’re going to explain to someone in a six-monthly or yearly review how they’re performing and give them guidance on that, you’ve missed the boat and you’ve lost your opportunity… and it’s never going to work. This has got to be an ongoing thing. It’s the leadership dialogue.

Obviously, you’re working within the constraints of your organization, so you’ll have to get guidance from your boss or look at the existing organizational standards. Just make sure that you’re doing things the right way that are consistent and accepted and that you’re not going to run into trouble. But you’ve got to have real diligence in rating your people. They’ve got to have diligence rating theirs. And different leaders are harder or easier in the way they evaluate performance. So, you have to be aware of that, and make sure that you’re picking up those anomalies and doing some sort of normalization.


Setting the standard is the first step in motivating your team to higher performance. A great real-life case study of lifting the performance bar to improve outcomes is from one of our Leadership Beyond Theory alumni, Jess Hubbard from Effective Freight Solutions.

Jess was having real difficulty getting all her people to perform to the minimum acceptable standard, and she had really patchy performance going across all the team members. But after doing Leadership Beyond Theory, she was able to clearly define what that minimum standard is. She was able to clearly communicate it with each of her team members, and then she was able to put a process in place to help improve their performance. Either that, or if they didn’t lift their performance, to manage their performance so that they could reach the standard or be exited.

To say Jess’s business has improved its business’s output is an understatement. They’ve doubled their revenue since doing the program three years ago.

We had another student, Victor Tran, who said the program helped him to improve the consistency in both the standard, and the way he messaged that standard to his team. As a byproduct, this has enabled Victor to implement a simpler and more focused work program where priorities and value levers are absolutely crystal clear. And that’s exactly what you’re looking for. When you raise the standard and get it to a point where your people understand it with absolute clarity, that’s exactly what you’re looking for.


We all say we want to build a high-performing team and, in fact, I can’t remember seeing a resume or attending an interview when I was in corporate that a leader didn’t say, “I specialize in building high-performing teams.” And most of the time it just wasn’t true.

Some people define a high-performing team as a team where everyone gets on well. There’s widespread agreement on most things. Everyone reaches consensus about decisions (and decisions that are made by consensus are the worst decisions). No one argues, and there’s no tension. That’s not a high-performing team. That’s a team that is mediocre at best. There’s no other way to say it.

In a high-performing team, you get a completely different set of dynamics. For a start, high-performing teams start with high-performing individuals. If you don’t have high-performing individuals, then you haven’t got a high-performing team. It’s impossible.

Some leaders say, “Oh, but all of my people are high performers.” It’s probably not true. It was never true in the teams I ran. Even if I got to 80% high performers, there was always someone who was marginal. And I worked day in, day out for years on this stuff. That’s what I focused on first and foremost. I realized the power of leverage.

To motivate people, you’ve got to throw them in a team where they’re in a team of performers. Everyone wants to be on a winning team, not a mediocre, so-so team. And if they’re on a team like that, their motivation is going to get sucked out of them really, really fast.

When it comes to the high-performing team, you’ve got to have high-performing individuals. And if you haven’t, then you’re kidding yourself. So, just have a think about that. To get high-performing individuals, you have to do a lot of work: a lot of work in explaining the standards; holding people to account for the standards; calibrating them; coaching them; helping them to understand where they’re succeeding and where they’re not succeeding. Helping them to work out where their gaps in capability, knowledge, and skill are, and to help them lift their performance so that they can be high-performing individuals.

It takes a lot of work, and not everyone makes it. If you’ve got everyone on the team you inherited and they’re all still there, it’s likely that some of them aren’t performing. It’s just the way it is. It’s the normal distribution curve of life. So, just have a think about that.

But, as a leader, you get to choose. You get to choose how strict and diligent and how high you want to set that performance bar. You get to choose that, and that’s okay. But just be honest with yourself about what it is you are actually choosing. Do I have a team of high-performing individuals? That’s the very first bar you’ve got to get over.

The second is that high-performing teams get superior results. There’s no other way to say it, and there’s no substitute for it. You can’t have a high-performing team without superior results. And when we talk about ‘superior’, what are you measuring yourself against? Well, it’s easy. You can measure yourself against other teams inside your organization. That’s okay, that’s one way of looking at it.

But you really want to have something a little bit more solid. I was never happy comparing myself to someone down the road. It was always going to be a case of, let’s compare ourselves to the top people out there. What are we doing compared to the top teams? How are they performing? And if we can get a benchmark and look at those, then we’ll have an idea whether our performance is superior, or just average.

Once you put this team together with high-performing individuals who want to get superior results, you’re going to find that these high-performing individuals actually motivate themselves. They’re the ones who keep going and keep doing the work and keep driving everyone else forward. It’s a self-sustaining, virtuous circle, and if you can get into that, it’s sensational.


If you want to access the workbook from the first day of our Motive to Elevate Bootcamp, you can find it here. There are two exercises:

  1. Assess your team. There’s a high-performing team assessment, and that’s a really good one just to go through and say, “Okay, I think I’ve got a high-performing team. But do I really?” There’s a handful of questions there to answer. And, just remember the two primary criteria: High-performing teams have high-performing individuals, and high-performing teams get superior results. There’s a number of other questions there for you as well.

  2. What’s the standard you want to set? What’s the standard you want to set? As I said, as a leader, you get to choose. Every leader gets to choose. And just because a leader above you chooses a lower standard doesn’t mean that you can’t choose a higher standard, because you want to aspire to do better with the people and for the people you’ve got on your team.

Our purpose at Your CEO Mentor is to improve the quality of leaders, globally, and for any change to happen, you have to change your perspective, implement new techniques and lead differently.

Your first step to commitment is completing the workbook exercises, and joining up for the remainder of the Bootcamp, if you haven’t already!

Join The Bootcamp!



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