Performance: It’s Both Personal and Social

by Sandy Nelson on November 5, 2012

Often times, when my colleagues and I engage with a team or a company with the goal of improving performance, we notice, early on, a tendency for people to see performance as a phenomenon that exists outside themselves. It’s almost as if there is this metaphysical energy that exists in the universe that fuels performance.

By seeing performance as being separate from my mindset and actions, it is easy enough to assign results to forces outside my control. Thus, there is always a way out of ownership.

As time goes by, individuals begin to see and accept that performance is all about me. If I perform to or above expectations, the likelihood that my team will meet or exceed its goals is dramatically improved.

There simply is no unseen entity floating through space that determines the level and quality of performance. Either I own my contribution and work to raise my game on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour basis, or I do not.

By the same token, performance is social. In the world we live in today, being a sole proprietor or individual contributor is the least efficient possible way of having impact. I might be great at what I do, but there is only so far I can leverage my skills and creativity in a stand alone construct.

In today’s world, collaboration is the name of the game. When I choose to join or create a team, the upside potential of my contribution is magnified exponentially. Indeed, when I join a team composed of people of diverse backgrounds and expertise, the opportunity to soar even higher presents itself. Fresh perspectives and structures of interpretation fuel innovation.

All good so far?

Now, here’s the rub. Ownership and collaboration requires awareness, focus and discipline. And, equally important, a complementary set of advanced personal, social and creative skills and practices are essential to achieving and sustaining optimal levels of performance—see my recent post, Making Intangibles Tangibles.

To perform at peak, there are a six key points to keep in mind.

Point One: Own Your Contribution

Accountability is a high impact personal choice. Own success. Own breakdowns. Own failure.

Point Two: Put Self Care First

To perform at peak, the self I bring to the playing field has to be at or near peak. If my physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual states of being are off, so will be my performance.

Point Three: Prioritize Relationship

If I am challenged in building and sustaining productive relationships, collaboration will be an uphill climb for me. Ask for help. Build new skills. Remember, practice makes perfect! Relationships almost always trump competency and are the tickets to career success and advancement.

Point Four: Be a Great Team Member 

If I am well intended but basically naive and less than skilled in serving as a member of a high performance team, my ability to contribute and have impact in a meaningful way will be limited. The place to start is with self. The end point is relationship.

Point Five: Open to New Ideas, Learn and Embrace the Discipline of Innovation

If I find it challenging to routinely and recurrently generate innovative ideas and insights, my opportunity for advancement will be compromised.

Point Six: Build Conversational Mastery

If I frequently find myself in coordination breakdowns, my personal brand will become so damaged that career advancement will be severely curtailed. All action in organizations is driven by conversation. Learn how to effectively frame, bring clarity and precision to conversations. Understand that human beings crave and welcome straight talk.

The work of both the present and the future for you and for me is in seeking and deepening awareness and ownership, putting self care first, welcoming and optimizing relationships and collaboration, opening to the possible and building advanced skills in conversation.

It’s just that simple!

Sandy Nelson

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