Performance vs. People

Workplaces stuck in antiquated views around ‘how we work’ are driving a disconnect

Nova Davis
4 min readAug 15, 2022
This leadership style clearly isn’t working, even after investing thousands of dollars annually. So, what next?

With attendees attaining only 10% of what they’re learning during leadership coaching programs, what’s the motivation for companies to continue to put out billions (a whopping $356 billion annually, globally) into training? Are they pinning their hopes that maybe this time it will stick, following the footsteps of other organizations by “keeping up with Jones’s” so to speak or just blissfully unaware of what contributes to long term and lasting change, which ultimately is up to the program facilitator to present.

With the workplace landscape changing rapidly and leaders who are paving the way with new ideas, I can’t help but also notice some deeply rooted and archaic views on “how we work” and wonder just how far back those views go and why it’s a struggle for some to let go of.

I recall sitting in a meeting where a CEO had just undergone a surgery and had some complications in the days following the procedure. During the team meet she was applauded by the co-founder for ‘sticking it out’ and continuing to work despite her emergency situation.

Adam Grant, Author and Organizational Psychologist says;

“ Working when you’re sick is not a symbol of commitment. It’s a symptom of a sick culture. In toxic workplaces, rest is a sign of weakness. You’re expected to sacrifice yourself for the job. In healthy cultures, rest is a source of strength. Wellness is vital to doing your job.”

Now, think about the message that the leaders sent their wider team that day. Commitment at all costs, even when you should be resting. These are the organizations that will fall behind as more and more leaders with a fluid intelligence leadership style continue to create companies that are people first.

But how many companies are actually ready for this leadership approach change and are they even aware of their antiquated approach to the workplace? They didn’t create it, after all.

In 1920 (102 years ago) Henry Ford created the 9–5 or the 40 hour work week to protect assembly line workers at a time when the world was in a heavy manufacturing phase. So, if this is still the status quo, how many other workplace ideas are we clinging to that are a century old? A CENTURY OLD!!!

What are leaders views on work, how was work discussed in their household, do they still work with those deeply held beliefs and if not what is their attachment to those beliefs?

I met Megan (name changed for privacy) who was the CTO for a publicly traded company and a very high achiever in all areas. With a young family and juggling the demands of frequent travel Megan hit burnout to the point of adrenal failure. Having already done so much personal work and having stepped back for her recovery before we met, I discovered on a call with her that the household belief towards work growing up was “no fun until the work is done”. Excavating this very personal learned viewpoint was a game changer for Megan and ultimately what lead her to lasting changes in her career and her life.

This is a perfect example of a deeper learning process, with the aide of a trained psychologist and coach that helped Megan to see her own deeply held beliefs that ultimately lead to her adrenal failure and make drastic changes to her leadership approach.

This learned message isn’t exactly anyone’s fault as we’ve seen a dramatic shift in our approach to work from generation to generation and I believe that this is leading to an internal leadership struggle; work like you were taught and at the same time think creatively and openly with a people first approach, leading to the spiral of shame when you’re unable to achieve one or the other or lack consistency by teetering on one side and sometimes the other.

So, what’s the approach if studies are showing us that our leadership style is heavily influenced by our early views on how we work? How can we extract, understand and make opportunities for people who have tons of value but are often asked to be a square peg in a round hole?

Could a workplace counsellor or psychologist be a step closer to putting people first so they can perform at their best or will we continue to invest billions of dollars annually to maintain the status quo?

Until next time,




Nova Davis

Registered Professional Counsellor, Executive Assistant 14 years, Coaching Certification