So you think you understand performance?

“If my future were determined just by my performance on a standardized test, I wouldn’t be here. I guarantee you that.” Michelle Obama

The former first lady talks about “performance” like most people do at work. What she means is results and when performance gets confused with results, bad things can happen. Results actually suffer.

Reading time: 5 minutes

What goes on

Results matter. Of course they do, that’s why organisations and people obsess over them. But the best also obsess over performance – the things they need to do to get the results they want and they spend most of their energy on doing the right things, not just thinking about what’s on the scoreboard.

In the world of work people seem to spend a lot of time talking about the scoreboard rather then spending energy on getting better at the things that will improve what’s on the scoreboard. Bonkers.

Five performance truths

The brutal reality of high performance life – this is what you need to know

  1. Performance is not the same as results. Performance is doing the things you need to do to get the results you want.
  2. Knowing the result you’re aiming for is important and it’s even more important to understand and be passionate about how to get it.
  3. Great performance needs more than skills, experience and know-how. Mindset, energy levels, environment and support is vital. The best invest in getting this right every day.
  4. KPIs aren’t results. They’re Key Performance Indicators – measures of how well you’re doing the stuff you need to do to get the results you want.
  5. Your performance is your choice . You can’t choose the result but you can always choose the performance.

Three things to do

  1. Start talking about performance as performance. Not results. Take the lead on this and start to ask whether people around you are talking about performance or results. Just doing this can have a massive impact!
  2. Spend time understanding your performance ingredients – the things you need to do to get the results you want. If you like to worry, worry about this rather than whether you’ve hit the numbers yet.
  3. Start to think about how to measure your performance and remember that results are not the only way. Not every part of your performance needs to be measured by numbers – how you feel, your attitude and your behaviour are sometimes great measures too.

A tool to get going

Alan’s story

After a session on performance with an expert in the area, Alan learned about a different mindset and approach. He saw a way to get the best out of himself and his team. By seeing performance as the stuff you need to do to get the results you want, he started to change his thinking and behaviour.

He started to think more about what he needed to do and how he needed to behave that would give him the best chance of winning. He worked on doing these more often and made that his never-ending daily focus instead.

He also changed his language and behaviour around performance with his team. Less talking about results, more talking about and support to do the stuff needed to get the results. His team felt more motivated and in control. Alan felt less under pressure and the results started to follow. Win-win all round, though his boss is still a work in progress.