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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Davies

Peak Performance

In my last blog, I introduced the PIE model; a simple way of thinking about three key aspects of your development - Performance, Image and Exposure. I had originally intended for it to be a single post, but as I got going, I realised there was quite a bit of ground to cover, and so by using that blog to introduce the concept and then splitting the model down into it's three parts, I could write a further blog to expand on each. Today, I'll talk a little bit about improving your Performance!

In the early years of my career, I was naive. I believed that simply by working hard and doing a good job, I would find myself blessed with the opportunities to grow and progress in the organisation. In a meritocratic world, that would be the case and this piece of the puzzle would be the biggest one. Unfortunately, in many businesses, that is not the reality. Politics, profile and playing the game reign supreme and the reward for a job well done is simply the chance to do more!

Despite that, there's a lot to be said for being a high performer. Firstly, it's satisfying to do a job well. In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink talks about the three pillars of intrinsic motivation; Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Mastery is al about being great at what you do, so while it might not (on its own) be enough to get you ahead, it can be a great tool for your own motivation. Additionally, you just never know who might be watching. Sometimes it'll be a key player within your organisation who is looking for a particular skill that you just so happen to demonstrate mastery of. Maybe it'll be an external organisation; a supplier, customer or consultancy firm, who see you working your magic, and opportunities to get ahead might come from outside your business. And being good at what you do can allow you to better manage your life. If you're struggling with your work and grafting until 10pm every night, that's not a recipe for a happy life. If you're able to get everything done in a way that allows you to free up some time to invest in yourself (perhaps through a focus on your physical or mental wellbeing, through activities that help you learn and grow or by spending more time with loved ones) then it'll make for a more fulfilled existence.

So now we've discussed WHY Performance is important, how can we improve it? Firstly it's important to decide WHAT you want to get better at. Every role is different, so when I'm helping leaders to embed a coaching culture, I encourage them to think about the five things that each of their team need to be awesome at, if the team is to be a success. There's no sense investing your time in developing the capabilities of your team in an activity that they do once a year and which doesn't really matter. Invest that time in making them great at the things that they do every day and which really drive a difference! For your own development, this can be a great place to start! List down the five things (frequent activities or tasks that your role requires, or maybe behaviours and traits that high performers in your field regularly display) that matter the most in what you do, and let's build a plan to drive your performance in those!

Before we get into the HOW, take a bit of time to consider the measures of success in each. How will you know you've got better in each of these areas? Customer feedback? Efficiency and effectiveness in completing the tasks? By completing a 360 review on yourself before and after and looking for signs of progress? Something else? Having ways to measure progress is really important to ensure that you not only get better, but you refine your processes for getting better! What you want is to get better at getting better!

Now that you know the areas in which you're looking to grow and the ways in which you'll know whether you're heading in the right direction, let's build a plan for each. One of the best ways to think about it, is the 4Es model, which I've used with a lot of clients in personal development planning. Take each of the five areas on your list, in turn, and view them through the following lenses:

Exposure: What might you need exposure to that you've been missing to this point? New people? New perspectives? New cultures or systems? Think about networks or communities (real or virtual, internal or external, local or international) that you could join relating to your role or area of expertise. Who could you shadow or observe?

Education: This is the most common thing people think about in relation to their own development. What knowledge or skill gaps do you have and how can you plug these? A professional qualification? A book to read or podcast to listen to? An online course on Coursera or Udemy? Some YouTube or Vimeo content? A conference or seminar you could attend?

Experience: Sometimes, just doing the thing is what it takes to get better. In American Football coaching, there's no substitute for reps. Want to get better at catching? Catch hundred balls a day. Could you take on a side project? Ask for a secondment? Deputise for your boss or another member of staff? Use collaborative development interventions like Action Learning sets?

Environment: What could you change in your environment that might help you progress in this area? A change of team? A new coach/mentor/sponsor? Think about your support network and how you might need to tweak this to get different results.

By undertaking this review for each of your areas, you should develop a list of activities that will help drive your Performance. So surely you're done? Well not quite. There are two final steps that it's important to take! Firstly, you need to make these activities happen! Don't make the classic mistake of writing a PDP, printing it off, putting it on your bottom drawer and then pulling it out and half year or end of year review time, blowing the dust off it and trying to pretend that you've done something to make it happen. Bring it to life by taking the activities and plotting them into your calendar. MAKE THE TIME for them. And each time you complete one, plot in the next, until they're all done. When the reminder pings and it's activity time, don't snooze or ignore - you're only cheating yourself - be selfish with that time and make sure you look back each year and see the evidence of your growth and your improved Performance.

And finally, you need to review your progress. Every month, look critically at whether you've done what you set out to. If so, good - what's next? If not, why? And what do you need to do differently next month to get a different outcome?

Put in the work up front in creating the plan, then stick to it and see the results. Performance is all in your hands!

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