Apple vs. RIM – How Performance Orientation Impacts Organizations

  • By Mike M
  • February 2022

The collection of people’s Performance Orientations in your organization is dictating the speed, angle and level of success you’re achieving.

As I was finishing off my last blog post about the UN and introducing the concept of Facilitators (a person’s Performance Orientation) in the world, I tried thinking of another scenario that we’ve observed recently in the business world that would show the difference between companies with a higher percentage of Facilitators as leaders and those with Initiator leaders (there are of course varying degrees of both). Apple and Research In Motion (RIM) popped into my mind as a great example.

To recap, Facilitators are people whose strengths are setting up and managing processes and ensuring systems are followed. They do this because there are typically measurable and predictable outcomes and this is where they feel safest, and where they’re at their best. Initiators are those people that are results focused rather than activity focused; they’re comfortable with taking on higher levels of risk and exude confidence when faced with ambiguity. They also tend to “suffer” from an insatiable appetite to continually produce better results, which means they tend to be more disruptive in organizations as they challenge the status quo. We assess these Performance Orientations through the use of the TRAITS People survey.

With that as a background, guess which company, Apple or RIM, has a larger concentration of Initiators in leadership roles? We’ve all heard the stories about Steve Jobs and his extremely high level of accountability and willingness to take people on. From his biography we also know the only people who got on his radar were those that could stand up to his overbearing ways. An obviously high concentration of Initiators has pushed Apple to become the world’s most valuable company.

Meanwhile RIM went from an organization with a hot product and operating system to one that is struggling to maintain a name for itself in the smartphone market. In four short years their share price dropped from $140 to less than $14. A higher percentage of Facilitators in leadership roles would have caused them to pay more attention to the present, enjoying the fruits of their success and not on how to continue to raise the bar in the future to sustain or increase their success.

Too many organizations are experiencing success based on momentum from outside forces. They’re mature businesses in a mature market; they have a good product and service their clients well. The challenge comes when the market changes (with a big increase or decrease in growth) and Facilitators tend to cling to what’s tried and true, stay too involved in the work that has predictable outcomes, and subsequently wait for outside forces to provide them with the answers.

People dictate the speed, angle and level of success you’ll achieve in your organization. Are you paying attention to the mix of Facilitators and Initiators in your organization? Do you know which roles require one or the other and have you put the right orientation into the right role? When people aren’t matching the speed and angle you’ve set out, Performance Orientation is more often than not the cause.

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