Barriers to High Performance. Are you one?

High Performance is a well-researched and constantly evolving theme. In our findings and daily consulting practice we realise that identifying and reducing or eliminating barriers is where breakthroughs happen. When we do this teams and organisations can move off the “plateau” and on to their next performance goal and achieve outstanding results together.

The challenge is we (organisations and leaders) generally focus on the “Hard Elements” like skills, structure, process and training for teams. What we at Ignite Purpose see being avoided are the human or “soft elements” like insight, growth mindset, feedback, grace, accountability and most of all extreme ownership around impact.


Connection is key to High Performance. We know that logic alone is not why people operate in performance. Rules don’t inspire action, yet rules (expectations) and discipline are needed to create measurement and structure. What inspires action is the emotional connection and emotional connection is what people struggle with. How often have you thought people need to be more authentic and connect? How hard might that be? We see an inherent fear of connection. Without connection how can we build a trusting team environment where failure is used as an opportunity.

Fear and Shame

A fear of what others might say, a fear of belonging, a fear of failure and underpinning this most definitely is the concept of shame. When we feel connected, calm and safe we are able to truly be successful. We can hear and see and our ability to solve problems with others is what creates a culture of high engagement and performance. What we have seen in our findings is that when there is OWNERSHIP of fear and the impact of our behaviour, then there is a breakthrough in high performance. The barrier to connection and ownership in our simple yet very compelling analogy is that of the pufferfish.


Curiosity killed the pufferfish. Do you always need to be right? Do you feel that when you are not in control you suffer from FEAR and this translates into behaviours that FREEZE your ability to connect, learn and grow?

Extreme ownership

I (we) can be guilty of this. When this happens…

My thought processes speed up, I stop listening to “hear” and start competing to speak, I feel strained like I’m listening for the sound of a fly’s wingbeat at an airport. My lens in which I see the world becomes a fish bowel fixed in its ability to construct. I am Ego and look just like a fully bloated pufferfish. This is a mental image of my ugly self, bobbing uncontrolled like someone shoved a hose up into my gills and my poison barbs of self-protection take over.. I then choose to take Extreme Ownership… it transports me back to the moment I duly give myself a shot of the antidote; a mix of vulnerability and curiosity before I infect those around me. I know if I don’t the impact will be a toxic tank filled with ineffective self-focused behaviours which will not allow movement, freedom to create, alignment and simple joy.

The sad thing is, we have all experienced the cramped tank of multiple pufferfish trying to avoid each other!

Taking extreme ownership of your impact and owning vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. Let’s be honest, we all have emotions about everything that is going on around us. Sometimes these emotions are intense, but more often they are subtler, definitely our fear of worthiness and relevance is floating in our subconscious brain. When we don’t own vulnerabilities and fears and do not own our impact and we most certainly can’t be authentic and open with others. We are not able to forge the connection needed to:

► Hear without judgement

► Own our fear of relevance

► Enable our success

► Work in a high performing environment

► Keep our ego in check

In high performance the most critical barrier to break down and get over is ourselves. Being authentic and vulnerable doesn’t mean it’s a licence for bad behaviour, controlling etc. It means we are able to own our fears because we are filled with courage. It means we will create calm to hear others without fearing self-relevance. It means we can show our hearts and lead/ live from a place of connection and openness. It means we take full accountability and ownership for our impact and we don’t blame and fear.


When we are more open, we can own our fears and EGO, we can focus on others vs ourselves we ultimately create a better work, team and high-performance environment. We know trust is the foundation to a functional team and business, we know that trust is birthed from when people take full accountability and ownership for impact and are open and authentic. We know that you can’t make someone accountable, we chose to be accountable for ourselves, we choose to own our pufferfish and poison of fear and ego. Get over ego, reduce the drama, engage to perform. Seek perspective and insight, reflect and grow. These things are your choice, your moments to own.


Be honest with yourself, are you the barrier to high performance in your team, organisation or even in your own world. If so, why not start reflecting, seeking perspective and choose to be an enabler and difference maker. It won’t be easy, yet the journey will be worth it.Lead yourself, impact your world.

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