Is Outperformance Toxic?

Should you be killing yourself to achieve outperformance?

Two recent incidents prompted this post.

Firstly, someone asked us whether the pressure of trying to achieve Outperformance is not a toxic pressure?

Secondly, we became aware of yet another corporate work-pressure-caused suicide; this time a 25-year old gentleman named Saurabh Kumar Ladhha, consultant at McKinsey & Company in India and 2nd level work-connection of one of us (although we never met). Another human being who became a statistic - and this hits harder when there is a (even very small) connection.

Thus, this post is to clarify any misconceptions of toxicity that may exist.

How to achieve Outperformance

Yes, achieving 'high performance' probably implies extremely hard work and extreme pressure.

Conversely, though, 'Outperformance' (in the sense that we have claimed that word) implies working smarter rather than working harder. The last part of the previous sentence is, by now, a cliché. Often it carries no real meaning when the phrase is used.

We, however, have tried to give 'working smart' a full book's worth of carefully considered meaning. Our book explains how Outperformance can be achieved without sacrificing your body, your mind, your relationships, your well-being, or your soul.

So we encourage you to work through the book.

How NOT to Achieve Outperformance

There is good reason why we don't look kindly on statements such as 'crack the whip'.

In a post where we briefly define Outperformance we took a strong stance against what we termed "corporate ugliness" and we, for example, pointed you to David Gelles' book on Jack Welch (Ed's note - a psychopath with a serious mental illness).

This Answer is NOT Blowing in the Wind

Yes, there will be times when one has to work hard. Very hard. Even very long hours.

But, if you don't do so because you choose to do so, it is wrong.

There are good reasons why we argue against corporate dictates.

There are good answers. These answers are the very good reasons why the first chapter in our book is titled "Love Made Visible", why we have chapters denouncing evils such as "The Evil of Taylorism" and why we call out "Corporate Hell-Holes", and why we have a full chapter on "Art in Business", with a sub-chapters (there) called "Art and Love", "Beauty and Love", "Emotion and Motivation" and "Intrinsic Motivation". We also cover "Soul Craft Creation". The list is longer.

The Right Answers are also Good Answers

And then the whole bus clapped?

So, now, if you think that all of this may sound like 'snowflake' / 'hippy' / 'hocus pocus' stuff then we have news for you.

The way in which to succeed is based on scientific concepts.

But, furthermore and more importantly, we show how these approaches have led to, what is probably, one of the biggest corporate successes in recent times - definitely in South Africa but also much wider too.

So, ignore the art and the science if you wish - and focus on the results if you want.

This stuff damn-well works. And the approach hopefully won't directly lead to the types of tragedies referenced at the start of this post.

Keep a Clear Head

Yes ...

Fitter happier
More productive
Getting on better with your associate employee contemporaries

As per Radiohead's warning (while firstly noting that their track, above, is a cynical mocking of our aspirations and, secondly, assuming that - given the reference to them in the heading to the previous section - this is not now a Radiohead overkill):

We need to keep a clear head when we desire to outperform (or not to outperform). Whether we choose to do so, or not to do so, is the question. But, how we choose to do so is also the question. The whip or the better way?

We believe that, to the extent possible, one has to avoid Koyaanisqatsi (a life without balance).