Don’t Put Your Career on Autopilot:
Steps to Your Next Level of Performance
By Joe Takash
you’re in the sales or service business, did you know consistent
research reports that 97 percent of unhappy customers don’t
complain? Or, if you’re in a leadership position, did you know that
the higher you go in an organization, the less honest feedback you
are likely to receive from your internal clients or employees? This
frightening data shows that you could be under-performing, and not
even know it.
most talented professionals can operate on “autopilot,” unaware of
their impact. They may work hard – just not necessarily smart.
Oftentimes, seven to 12 tips are not necessary for dramatic
performance change, particularly when two simple steps can make a
profound difference. A prime example of this is Maria, the mother of
three children and a branch manager for a large bank.
Maria dives into the affairs of her kids with fervor, fully engaged
in homework, soccer games, science projects and bake sales. What her
kids love most is her spirit. Her laugh is infectious and she smiles
frequently. She is consistently positive and always encourages them
to believe in themselves, take chances and to try new things. Maria
is a great mother.
however, Maria struggles in leading people. She enjoys her job, is
educated and intelligent. Yet, while her employees believe she is
honest and hard working, the team’s performance and individual
morale is shaky. She is viewed as “guarded” and in constant “work
mode,” creating an atmosphere that is sterile and awkward. Maria is
at a loss for why this is and is frustrated because she is highly
driven to succeed.
great at home but is not elevating to the next level of performance
at work. People at the bank believe that she lacks self-awareness,
but they are wrong. What she lacks are two critical steps to get to
that next level of performance.
One: Self-Knowledge and finding the “why” Many of us are
self-aware, but we lack self-knowledge. What’s the difference?
Self-awareness is knowing what you do right or wrong. Self-knowledge
is knowing what you do and why you do it. The difference between
these two creates breakthrough opportunities to remove barriers that
may be success stoppers.
fastest, most efficient approach to gain higher self-knowledge is to
constantly discover the “why.” However, there is a caveat. People
are generally uncomfortable with providing critical feedback and
most subordinates may never be brutally honest with their managers.
Consequently, many leaders keep achieving mediocre results by doing
the same thing.
Maria. She knows that her relationship with her family is well
because there is a trusting and open atmosphere of support,
encouragement and love. So she has knowledge of the “why” factor
which garners a successful outcome. Work, however, is a different
story. She is aware that morale and performance must be improved but
because she comes across as non-approachable, she’s unlikely to get
others to provide helpful advice. Maria needs to discover the “why.”
Getting objective feedback: Perhaps if Maria had a 360-degree
assessment done – when she is evaluated anonymously by her peers,
superiors and direct reports – she would learn the truth. Maybe she
would discover that the smile, the enthusiasm and the spirit she has
at home is not brought to work. She’ll likely discover that her
“business only” attitude stymies her work environment and puts her
employees on edge, which inhibits their performance and potential.
leaders become approachable, teams typically communicate better,
trust and loyalty is higher and performance improves because an open
atmosphere is created, one conducive to allowing mistakes and
fostering a stronger team dynamic. This could help Maria greatly.
Possessing self-knowledge is crucial, but it’s only the first step.
The proof of higher performance requires the execution of
Two: Results Based Behavior: If behavior doesn’t change for the
better, results don’t get better. The challenge here is that many
people are not sure of the right application and, so even if Maria
discovers the “why,” she needs a clear roadmap with behaviors to
build her leadership and team performance. Specific results-based
behavior for her might include:
Have regularly scheduled individual
staff meetings and commit to them as you would client
staff members what their goals are and how to reach them. Be
sure to capture this in writing for retention and follow-up.
Project the enthusiasm and positive spirit that you bring at
home to the workplace. This should be reflected in your tone of
voice, smile and how you greet others.
post-it note on your computer to thank or recognize team members
at least twice a week.
deadline-driven goals and express to staff that you must all
work together to hold each other accountable.
formal schooling usually lacks the relationship and leadership
skills instrumental for professional success, the instructional
manual for how to create a positive working environment, build team
trust or recognize employees is often underdeveloped. Determining
absolute behaviors to get results requires being a student of
self-development and an interviewer and listener of others.
want to “own” our successful accomplishments; these two steps can
take you to your next level – if you are willing to dig deep. They
are simple in theory, but also require openness, consistency and
improvement and reinventing yourself is what life is about and, in
an unstable economy, it may be the best business investment you can
Read other articles and learn more
[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis.
Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and