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Disrupting Performance Management

Were you ever tasked with finding a way to do more with fewer resources? Is improving results every three months a priority for your company or department? If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you have been challenged with finding a way to increase your or your team’s performance at a very fast pace. Yet how can you achieve this without cascading a level of stress and pressure that can lead to mistakes, burnout, lack of initiative and disengagement or in a nutshell, the opposite of high performance in the long run?

Luckily there is some good research that can help managers drive high performance by removing rather than adding more pressure, led by Shirzad Chamine, a Stanford lecturer, executive coach and C-suite advisor. I found its results in increasing performance so insightful that I decided to pursue a certification in this coaching methodology, so I can better support my teams and clients. I am sharing here some of the things I’ve learned as I trust it will help you gain awareness on whether as a manager you are enabling your teams to perform better in the short term while making sure people continue to give their best and stay motivated in the long run.

Find out your PQ Score

The answer starts with becoming aware of the impact you have on your team’s performance mindset, or what the Positive Intelligence methodology calls the PQ Score. The score measures the percentage of time within a day you or your team spend in positive feelings such as calm, focus, curiosity, creativity, empathy, sense of purpose rather than negative ones such as stress, frustration, fear of failure, anxiety, shame, guilt. This in turn can influence people’s performance levels, from the ability to identify solutions or make decisions on their own, to the level of engagement and speaking up during team meetings.

To give an example, if you have a low PQ score, when the team misses the results one quarter, you are more likely to send an email stating that the results are disappointing and you expect the team to do better. With a high PQ score, you might decide to schedule a team meeting to review the results and curiously find out together whether this is an exception or a trend that needs a quick turnaround plan.

Extracted from the book Positive Intelligence: Why only 20% of teams and individuals achieve their true potential by Shirzad Chamine

Discover your automated behaviors

When I started to learn how to snowboard, for about one season I was unable to make turns, no matter how hard I tried. Eventually I realized that my lack of progress was due to my preservation instinct automatically kicking in and preventing me from taking the counter-intuitive action of leaning towards the slope instead of away from it. My automated behaviors were preventing me from moving to the next level of performance.

Similarly at work, we tend to carry out our tasks on auto-pilot or under pressure, from back-to-back meetings to answering emails, without finding the time to stop and ask ourselves why we are reacting in certain ways and whether our actions, thoughts and feelings help us and our teams perform better. The research on Positive Intelligence identified 10 ways, personified as Saboteurs and suggestively named Judge, Avoider, Controller, Hyper-Achiever, Hyper-Rational, Hyper-Vigilant, Pleaser, Restless, Stickler, Victim, in which our automated ways of doing things can undermine our performance and ability to drive team engagement and improve results. You can find out your predominant ones by taking the free assessment here.

For example, if your score in the saboteur assessment test is high for Pleaser, as a manager you might notice that this automated behavior and thinking pattern makes it difficult for you to give constructive feedback to your team or be explicit in your expectations from them. While making you popular in the short run, your people will never know what to improve on or what you expect from them in order to succeed in their role. Someone with a high Pleaser score can also have a hard time refusing additional projects or tasks for fear of not being liked by managers, colleagues or peers, which has the risk of burnout in the long term.

If you score high for Controller, it is very likely that you feel the need to drive actions yourself rather than delegate. Even if you delegate some tasks, you might have a tendency to micro manage and expect them to be carried out in a certain way. While this might help you be in control and manage critical situations to generate results in the short run, it is most likely at the expense of your team’s motivation, engagement and self-confidence. In time you will notice spending a lot of your day telling people what to do and replacing the ones who leave.

Draw your own conclusions

Take some time to contemplate on the results of the two tests. Which findings or comments resonate most with you? What intrigues you about the automated patterns highlighted above and what is your view on the impact they have on your and others’ performance? And most of all, how comfortable are you to continue managing your team the same way while expecting better results?

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