Change Your Performance Mindset

July 6th, 2011

By Dr. Jim Taylor

Performance in BusinessWhen I work with businesspeople and companies, my first challenge is to convince them that profitability, whether individual or corporate, though important, should not be the primary focus. To persuade the often-resistant corporate brain trust, I introduce them to what I call the 3 Ps. Yes, at the top of the business “food chain,” the ultimate goal in the business world and the first P is profitability (or increased profitability). But how to achieve greater profitability. It comes from the second P, productivity, meaning getting stuff done that results in individual compensation or corporate revenues. But what underlies productivity? The third and most fundamental P, performance, is the engine that drives productivity and profitability.

I define performance as “the observable act of carrying out a process; striving for a goal.” There are two essential words in this definition. First, goal, which provides the incentive and direction for action. Second, process, which provides the movement toward the goal. Both process and goal are indispensable for the three Ps.

The key question I’m often asked is: “How can I/we increase performance?” My answer is that it begins by understanding and, if necessary, raising your “performance mindset.” I define your performance mindset as the attitudes and expectations you hold about acceptable levels of performance, productivity, and profitability.  The question you need to ask yourself is whether you have set your performance mindset high enough and, if not, how to go about “raising the bar” in a way that will elevate your three Ps.

It’s been my experience that many individual businesspeople and companies don’t set their performance mindset high enough. They tend to play it safe and, for example, strive for reasonable growth and satisfactory success. But, in my work with business leaders, as well as some of the best athletes and coaches in the world, I’ve found they are not ‘reasonable’ people and ‘satisfactory’ is simply not, well, satisfactory.

Instead, the best of the best strive for unreasonable growth and spectacular success. Unreasonable growth means setting a standard that seems unlikely, perhaps to some even impossible, but for those who embrace it, unreasonable growth drives them far beyond what they could achieve if they were merely aiming for reasonable growth.

Similarly, because spectacular success is also unlikely, businesspeople and companies who are willing to take the risk of setting the bar that high are able to take their performance, productivity, and profitability to levels not imaginable with ordinary success.

Of course, what prevents business and companies from aiming for unreasonable growth and spectacular success is that the risk of failure is high. But those who accept that performance mindset despite the risks understand that they may not fully realize such lofty aspirations, but also know they will likely far exceed what they would have achieved had they played it safe. As the saying goes, “If you don’t reach for the stars, you won’t even reach the top of the mountain.”

Why the change in your performance mindset? Well, these days, there’s no room for less than big goals and maximum effort. As the columnist Thomas Friedman notes, “The world is flat,” meaning there are many businesspeople and companies around the world with whom you are competing and if you aren’t doing everything you can to succeed, many of them surely are.

Also, when many people and companies try to get to the next level, they often simply do the same as they’ve been doing, just with greater frequency and intensity. But that effort violates the law of insanity, “Doing the same thing and expecting different results.” To get to the next level, you must do something different, the first of which is to change your performance mindset. This perspective is best summed up by the old Texas adage, “If all you ever do is all you’ve ever done, then all you’ll ever get is all you ever got.”

There are several prominent obstacles to changing your performance mindset. First, if you are doing just fine, that is to say, earning a decent living and leading a pretty good life, it’s easy to get comfortable and complacent. Changing your performance mindset and the resulting performance takes more time, effort and energy; it can get uncomfortable when you raise the bar. You have to convince yourself that its worth it.

Second, fear can hold you back in several ways. Foremost, many people fear failure and, as I noted above, when you strive for unreasonable growth and spectacular success, your chances of failure grow significantly (of course, your chances of spectacular success grow as well). Also, fear of change prevents people and companies changing their performance mindset. The reality is that when you attempt to change, you may not be able to change at all, you’re never sure in what ways you will change, or how those changes will affect you. If fear is an issue, it will be safer and more comfortable to just stay the way you are.

Yet, the benefits of raising the bar on your performance mindset are significant. If you fully embrace a performance mindset that aims for unreasonable growth and spectacular success, you will be motivated to do the extra work necessary to realize that mindset. As your efforts are rewarded, your confidence will soar and you will experience the emotional rewards of reaching beyond your grasp: inspiration, excitement, pride. And, undoubtedly, you will experience the professional and financial rewards as well. Finally, the payoff for changing your performance mindset will be clear, taking your performance, productivity, and profitability to a new level.

(This article was also posted at Dr. Jim Taylor’s Blog.)

(Visit Dr. Jim Taylor’s YouTube channel to see TV interviews and Prime topic discussions.)

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