“We hired some of the most talented marketing and operations people we could find. But the company is still not growing.” 

“Are you sure they have the skills you need? Meaning, can they really solve the problems you’re facing?”, I asked. 

“Yes. We are sure of that. It’s something else. They are just not working as a team. There’s no synergy. In fact, it feels like there’s friction. It is slowing everything down.” 

Jim was the founder of a major publishing company. Close to 1 million paid subscribers. And while not the #1 player in the industry, they enjoy profit margins in excess of 41%. Still, like most entrepreneurs, Jim was ready for growth. 

About a year earlier, Jim decided to invest in top-talent. A good strategy, especially when you have proven products, sales channels, and systems. You really just need the right people to pour gas on the fire. 

Jim expected an explosion of growth. 

But it didn’t happen. 

In fact, sales had actually gone down – not a lot, but they did slip a little in the last quarter. 

The Hidden Saboteur 

When you have the right talent, the right market and the right offer, but are not growing, the obstacle is almost always what we call “Team Contention”. 

To contend means to strive in opposition against someone or something. 

Team Contention almost always shows up as team players being at odds with each other, and often in small, subtle ways. 

But the real heart of the matter is what we refer to as “Internal Contention”… meaning conflicts happening inside the heart and mind of the individual players. 

Most CEO and leadership teams shy away from addressing these kinds of issues because they are sticky and personal and uncomfortable. 

But one thing is sure: If the individual is not content and happy inside their heart and mind, they will not perform at a high level. What is more, they will almost always focus their anger or frustration or discontent outward. 

The good news is that there is a way to help team players, leaders and managers resolve these “Internal Conflicts” without going deep into their personal life or getting wrapped up in their drama. 

The Magic Word to Resolve Internal Conflicts

The secret lies in understanding the number one emotional need that all human beings have and then satisfying that need. 

Once you do that, all the other goop and gunk tends to resolve itself – at least in the workplace. 

The top human emotional need is this: Significance

All of us have a primal need to be unique, special, important… significant. We need to know that our existence has some value and is needed. 

This is why many people that suffer depression will state that they feel worthless. Typically, their life and lifestyle does not produce or contribute anything. They just exist. 

My wife, Margie and I, are the parents of 11 children. 

Around the age of 2 or 3 we begin helping them feel how needed and valuable they are in the family circle. We do this by assigning them to sort the silverware drawer. They get the silverware from the dishwasher and need to sort and organize it… forks in the fork bin, spoons in the spoon bin, knives in the knife bin. 

When it’s done, we recognize the value.  

“Wow! What a great job you did! Now we have silverware and can eat our food!” 

If it does not get done, we recognize the lack of value and consequences. 

“Oh, no! We don’t have any silverware. I guess we can’t eat food today. I really wish you could help us so we can all eat.” 

It sounds silly, but it is wildly effective (if you’re a parent, give it a shot!) As the children get older, we increase the task and the consequences – both good and bad. 

How to Use “The Significance Framework”

Of course, your six-figure hire is not a 3 year old, but he or she is human and humans never lose the core need to feel significant. 

When the employee is secure in their feeling of significance, they will not lash out. They are centered and able to focus. They mesh with the team and feel confident in their abilities and roles. 

We use a simple, three-step process to help employees feel significant and bring their teams to higher performance. 

We call this: The Significance Framework

First, interview the employee and ask them to share their hopes, dreams, goals and purpose with you. 

Spend time listening and show sincere interest. 

This alone will do wonders. It signals to them that who they are, not just what their ROI number is, is important to you. 

Second, share with them your vision and purpose for the company.  Answer questions such as…

  • What value is the company bringing to the world? 
  • What critical problem are you solving? 
  • What mission are you accomplishing? 
  • How does your company culture and expectations align with that vision? 

This might seem trivial or redundant, but a recent Gallup Poll research project revealed this: 

“Just 23% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they can apply their organization’s values to their work every day, and only 27% strongly agree that they ‘believe in’ their organization’s values.”

Third, align their vision with your vision. 

Discuss together how working for your company helps them achieve their vision for life. Help them see that when they do their work inside your company, they are actually achieving their purpose and vision for their life. 

Sometimes, in this process you’ll discover that there’s no way to align the two visions. In this case, you need to let them go and find a different player. 

But, then alignment does happen, and each member of your team can logically see it and emotionally feel it, you create an incredible sense of unity. 

Each employee feels significant in the work they are doing for the company and significant in the fulfillment of their personal dreams and goals. 

You can easily implement the Significance Framework in your organization. 

Yes, it does take time. 

And sometimes it takes a paradigm shift from you, as the leader, to acknowledge that the most important thing in the world is not your vision… it is your employee’s personal vision (at least to the employee). 

But it will help every member of your team achieve sustained high performance at every level.