What is New Performance and How Can We Live It? Interview with Benjamin Rolff

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Julia

1. Benjamin, you are a consultant and coach for Performance Culture, Purpose and New Work. The term New Performance has become a buzzword, not only in the world of work. What does New Performance mean for you?

Many people think of New Performance as high performance or "higher, faster, further. For me, it's more about using the opportunities in the changing world of work to not only work differently, but to work better. In the end, we should be able to perform in a healthier, more sustainable and more meaningful way. This can be achieved with increasing flexibility, whether in terms of location, time or, to some extent, content.

Another aspect of New Work and New Performance for me is Purpose. It is about the question of what for and why? - What is my inner drive that makes me do my work every day? And what are we doing this interview for, for example? From the why comes a sustainable drive, which for me is the basis of New Performance.

In a nutshell: New Performance is a healthy and sustainable view of performance, made possible by the changes in the world of work.

2. That sounds very desirable and as a coach you help many people to implement this mindset. How can I start New Performance yourself?

That is an important question, because New Performance always starts with each person themselves first. Everyone should first reflect on their own needs, their own performance and their own way of working. As I said, one's own purpose plays a particularly important role: What motivates me at work, what drives me? Which skills and passions do I want to give more space to? And what are the moments when I work in flow or make super contributions, when is it rather the opposite? 

The same goes for the health level, when am I mentally at my best? Do I prefer to have my quiet time and work from home or do I miss the social aspect? Can I switch off in remote mode at home or do I then often work overtime unintentionally? Do I feel overwhelmed with the constant change in a hybrid work model?

Those who can identify their own needs and find good ways to deal with them will work healthier and find their flow faster. In the best case, these needs and ways are communitized, whether in a team or a company. Because New Performance does not mean being egoistic, but in the team everyone should open up to find suitable solutions. It should be considered which working models are possible for all and how concepts can be adapted for this.


3. What can companies do to promote Purpose and a New Performance culture?

First of all, it is important that companies trust their employees and give them a space to openly express their needs. Ultimately, however, it's about finding transparent and collective solutions that move the team forward as a whole. To do this, managers in particular must extend invitations and provide formats so that employees can express their own concerns and needs. This is intended to promote the corporate culture; employees can take advantage of this offer, but they don't have to, since these issues are also personal. An open exchange of discussions can also be an opportunity to strengthen the culture of trust and performance in the long term. 

The second step is seriousness, which means not only talking but also acting. After the current situation and needs have been identified, solution models should then be implemented promptly and followed by action. For example, rituals can be changed, such as introducing a meeting-free Wednesday for more focus work or regular meetings on a specific topic. But also the adaptation of the hybrid work model falls into this area. What I find important at this point is that it is not about finding a solution forever. Rather, experimentation and reflection should be done in an iterative way to find ways to achieve sustainable performance.

4. You have spoken with many German companies about this topic. What is the status quo in Germany?

I still see the situation as very heterogeneous. Many companies were already working digitally and flexibly before the pandemic, including many service companies such as consultancies or sales-oriented organizations.

But then there are also many companies that work traditionally, where the majority of employees work from headquarters. Many manufacturing companies fall into this category, where differences in corporate culture are becoming apparent right now. For some, freer ways of working were an issue even before the pandemic; these companies were already looking at modern ways of working back then. Today, other companies want to get back to the old normal as quickly as possible and bring their employees back into the office. Often this has to do with a lack of trust, but also with the requirements to make good work flexibly possible.

Finally, of course, there are many smaller groupings that are going their own way. Nevertheless, these major trends can also be observed in Germany. 

5. A small jump in topics: Performance tracking is an important topic for many companies. There are many companies that fear that the performance of their employees could decline in the long-term home office. How does New Performance deal with performance tracking? 

In order to measure work performance, one would first have to define exactly what performance means in the first place. Especially in knowledge work, the concept of performance is becoming more and more complex, partly because the boundaries between work life and private life are becoming increasingly blurred. Time and presence have less meaning in the new world of work. We probably know this very well from our own everyday lives: many ideas are not only generated at our desks between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., but also when we are not sitting in front of a computer, in the shower, in the park during our lunch break, or after work during a conversation with a friend. You can no longer time and place performance, where and when does it start and where does work end?

But what remains a very critical aspect of effective performance management is collaborative goals. Many teams use the method of OKRs, or Objectives and Key Results. This can be a really useful tool to make goals transparent and measurable and also to illustrate the contribution of individual team members. Nevertheless, it remains very complex to measure and evaluate the performance of each individual for the big picture.

I therefore think little of classic performance evaluation, but much more of performance development. Individual growth conversations, performance development, coaching and the like therefore make more sense. As a manager, I should find out what kind of person is sitting in front of me, what does this person want, how can I help so that this person can develop his or her full potential.


6. Performance is also an important matter in triathlon. Do you see parallels between sports and New Performance? If yes, which ones?

Exactly, I am an enthusiastic triathlete myself and was able to learn strategies from competitive athletes that are very useful for the working world, but have not yet arrived there by a long shot. 

Competitive athletes cannot afford to jeopardize their own performance and health. An enormous part of an athlete's career is to take care of oneself, regeneration and recovery. Therefore, training is controlled and targeted, sometimes intensive but also much regenerative. In the working world, however, I observe the exact opposite. We deal with our performance in an untargeted and unstructured way. Employees are expected to give full throttle without interruption until at some point they are so exhausted that they simply need more rest. This is exactly why the numbers of psychological stress, burnouts or depressions are rising. If a competitive athlete did this, their career would probably be over within a few years.

We therefore need to make our performance sustainable and this is exactly what triathlon teaches me. If I train too much, my body will show me that pretty quickly. With this in mind, we need to start thinking of working life as an endurance sport rather than a sprint!


Thank you very much for the great interview, Benjamin! If you want to learn even more about New Performance, you can stop by Benjamin's blog or LinkedIn and get even more food for thought! Also, listen to his fascinating stories on his New Performance Sportify and Apple podcast.

Julia

Julia

Marketing

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