Winning gold as a top performer with Kevin Robins

Kevin Robins is a global, commercially astute CIO / CTO with over 35 years experience having worked in 25 countries across Private Equity, Payments, Retail, Banking, Insurance, Logistics and Software. Kevin also has detailed knowledge of Consulting with IBM, and CMG. He has served as a full Board member as well as an advisor and presenter to FTSE 100 & NYSE Boards. With an MBA with Distinction and MBA mentor, Kevin also helps a local charity to give young people the skills and experience they need to gain employment. With his wealth of knowledge, we interviewed Kevin on his thoughts of how top performers truly succeed.

Watching the Olympics earlier in the year got me thinking about top performers and how they succeed. At Olympic level there is often a very fine line between those who win gold and those that miss out. Also watching some of the lesser known sports, it had me wondering how many people there are out there who could have been world champions if only they had been given the opportunity to take up that sport from an early age. Maybe I could have been a Kayak champion but I will never know as I have never been kayaking!

What makes a top performer?

As table stakes the person has to be able to do the job, have the right training and accreditations. On top of that they need experience and this is built up over time. However, I have found the biggest differentiator that sets top performers apart is attitude. You just know when you have someone in your team who has the combination of knowledge, experience and the right attitude that they can move mountains. Look at Adam Peaty, you just know he is going to win even before he gets in the pool. He has a fantastic attitude and his confidence is sky high. Obviously he is well equipped to the job.

If given the chance how can poor performers become top performers?

In my opinion it comes back to attitude again, do they want to become a top performer? Not everyone does and not everyone will make the Olympics. People go through various stages in their life and to some people succeeding at work is not a top priority, they want a job but are not looking to be stars. Sometimes people are in the wrong role and have not been given that “kayaking” opportunity. It is ironic that as managers we spend more time worrying about and managing poor performers than we do our top performers. The future of our business is in the hands of top performers. As a manager one of the most satisfying things is to turn round a poor performer but equally there comes a time where it is best for both parties for that person to move on. Again a lot of it comes down to attitude.

So how do we get our individuals and teams to be top performers?

Going back to the Olympics the top teams and individual performers don’t just turn up on the day and do their thing. They have been training for years/months; they have worked on their technique; they assess and review their performance; they have a great team to support them i.e coaches, physios etc. In order to get our work people and teams up to this level we need to do something similar. Maybe not to the same degree, but we need to create a safe environment in which they can work and develop their ideas; we need to ensure that each person has a technical development plan and a personal development plan; we need to provide training and coaching as required. I also think it is important to create an environment that is fun to work in. I always wanted my top individuals and performers to be proud to work in my team and enjoy doing so. I also think it is important to regularly review and critique our performance, learning and developing as we go.

How can individuals maintain being a top performer?

I am a great believer that good people will continue to grow and develop their careers over time. I also think that it is important to offer an environment that allows individuals to take on new responsibility or learn new skills. In my experience the top performers are not motivated by money, although it is important that they are being paid a competitive wage, but they are more motivated by being involved in exciting work; having the opportunity to develop and being part of successful teams. Individual and team recognition is a key factor in ensuring motivation stays high and winners like in the Olympics, like to keep winning.

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