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What Really Inspires Higher Performance?


Alex Hutchinson’s October 29, 2012 Jockology column “Negative Feedback, Negative Performance” in the Globe and Mail got me thinking how true this is for employees (and kids!) as well as athletes.

Even though it may appear to be easier initially, effective managers know a one-size-fits-all technique doesn’t build a high performance team.    

“According to sports psychologists, the line between physical and psychological is blurrier than you might think…Getting your motivation and mental state right can give you a powerful boost but getting it wrong…can hobble you…It’s easy to hurt performance with the wrong kind of feedback…The first step is to figure out what presses your buttons…While some athletes may actually respond well to negative feedback, it’s about giving the right feedback at the right time and in the right manner to get the best out of each individual”.

Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni’s new book “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go” adds to those observations with hands-on info and techniques.  They say that:

  • It’s about the quality of conversations between a manager and employee
  • These conversations should:
    • Lead the way to new insights and awareness
    • Explore possibilities and opportunities
    • Inspire responses that drive employee-owned actions
  • You don’t get points for length of interaction;  you get more points for stimulating thinking
  • Managers should ask questions to promote reflection and keep the focus squarely on the employee
    • Hindsight:  This self-perception helps employees move forward
    • Foresight:  Nobody wants to pursue a career for which no need exists! 
    • Insight:  This is where Hindsight and Foresight intersect
  • Employees should do 90% of the talking
  • While most employees crave feedback, many Managers feel on tenterhooks giving it
    • Many shouldn’t just focus on “what” specific behaviours will impact career development, they should also focus on the “so what”, the impact of the behaviour on results

Finally, Rick Newman’s “Rebounders” looks at failures and how they can lead to later success.  He talks about:

Wallowers who:

  • Get rattled when something goes wrong
  • Aren’t used to solving their own problems
  • Complain
  • Blame others
  • Rarely question their own judgement
  • Overestimate their abilities
  • Fail to move on 

Rebounders who:

  • Accept the failure and learn
  • Analyze situations to understand how they have contributed to the difficulties
  • Control the emotional side of their struggle rather than trying to get even
  • Keep pushing, doing
  • Don’t cling to ideas that don’t work
  • Recalibrate
  • Prepare for things to go wrong
  • Are comfortable with hardship as long as they feel they’re getting closer to their goal
  • Are willing to wait, learn along the way, persist
  • Have heroes and/or mentors
  • Have drive and resilience as well as passion
  • Bounce back
  • Are more capable once they’ve endured this

 One point that resonated with me was Kaye and Giulioni’s:

  • A dozen 10 minute conversations over the course of a year are more effective (and efficient!)  than 2 hours in one session mapping out goals for the coming months

So…three perspectives, each of which makes really good sense.