Monday, May 9, 2016

Politely bringing someone down

Last week, I mentioned the five levels of performance:

  1. Unconsciously under-performing
  2. Consciously under-performing
  3. Consciously performing
  4. Unconsciously performing
  5. Super-performing

That's an important scale to use to help your team members—and your organization as a whole—to improve. But just as we can use the five levels of performance to help an organization or a team member to improve, to raise their game, you can just as easily (perhaps mistakenly) bring someone down.

So yes, you can also use this for eeevil. I don't espouse this kind of behavior, but I think it's important to remember that the five levels of performance might (sometimes) have a negative impact:
Someone who is unconsciously performing is doing an excellent job without realizing that they are at a higher levels than others. Someone who is super-performing is "in the zone," like a baseball pitcher throwing a no-hit game.

And that's where eeevil people can do harm. When a pitcher is throwing that no-hit game, taunting them won't impact the pitcher's performance. Professional sports players ignore that kind of thing. And it's rude, anyway. But if you politely recognize recognize the pitcher for the great game, talk specifically about their unhittable slider, how their curve ball really does seem to move on its own, how every third pitch is a fastball … Whether or not it's true, be specific and be polite. The goal here is to raise self-awareness of performance and knock the pitcher "out of the zone."

The pitcher is still throwing a good game, but now the pitcher is thinking about what they are doing, how they are selecting their pitches, how they are throwing the ball. The pitcher becomes consciously aware of their performance, and shifts from "Super-performing" or "Unconsciously performing" to "Consciously performing." That's a lower performance level. And at this lower performance level, the pitcher is more likely to over-think their performance and make mistakes. Maybe the pitcher will start to second guess themselves, wondering "Am I doing this right?" This can shift the pitcher further from "Consciously performing" to "Consciously under-performing."

So simply by politely calling out all the great things the pitcher is doing in that no-hit game, you have changed the behavior. Just don't use this to help your kid win their little league game. That would be using this knowledge for eeevil.

Instead, take this as a warning for how you apply the five levels of performance. When you have someone on your team who is at "Unconsciously performing" or "Super-performing," be careful about how and when you recognize them. With the "baseball pitcher" scenario in mind, do you really want to interrupt your star performer who is "in the zone" to tell them what a great job they are doing? Will your well-intentioned on-the-spot recognition take that person out of the moment, so they start to think about what they are doing and how they are doing it?

Choose your moment carefully so you don't accidentally take your super-performer down to a lower performance level simply by telling them what a great job they are doing. Find a way to thank them indirectly, then wait until they don't need to be "in the zone" to properly recognize them and highlight their superlative performance. You don't always need to recognize excellent performance when you see it. Instead, say "thank you" then circle back at the end of the day for a more specific appreciation of their work.
image: Bryce Edwards/Flickr (cc-by)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.