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If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dangers for High Performers

Personal leadership for self-directed high performance is what every organization wishes to see in its employees. If you google ‘high performance articles’ you get 375,000,000 results.

High performers. They aren’t born as high performers, they don’t always know how they do it, it’s not just willpower, and there is not one formula with golden ingredients. To achieve a peak performance you don’t have to be a perfectionist nor a control freak, high performers do show weakness, and they can’t make it happen on command. This should take care of some of the myths surrounding high performance, so that we can now focus on some of the dangers lurking for high performers.
I’ll mention five dangers that anyone faces who’s working to achieve high performance, whether we’re talking a business leader, a basketball coach, a gardener, a tennis player, or any person in any role working to secure top performance:

 1. Fear of failure – This fear is fed by the belief that failure is detrimental to your image and your career, that it’s a sign of weakness, and that it will likely lead to a negative performance review and a bad reputation. Of course, depending on your organizational climate and culture and depending on your personal situation, your mistakes can be viewed as depicted above. But more often than not, risk-taking and charting new territories while learning from mistakes is considered valuable and worth the risk of wrong decisions and actions.

2. Selfishness – The “I might do something for you, if you’ll do something for me” attitude. With this attitude you limit yourself to tasks, connections, and deals in which their immediate benefit is at least as great as the benefits for others. This generally doesn’t work well, not in networking nor in teamwork or any other setting. Instead, if you keep your eyes and ears open to advance other people’s interests, if you genuinely want to benefit others and help make them successful, your relationships will likely be authentic, strong, and reciprocal and you will achieve much more.

3.Tool seduction – You can get so hung up on your tool such as a rigorous work schedule, that weekly meeting, a risk-analysis instrument, or your power point presentations that you easily lose sight of the fact that a tool is just that, a tool.  The bigger purpose that the tool is meant to be supportive off gets lost and the idea of different tools possibly contributing to that one purpose can be foreign to tool-addicts. Keep your eyes on the objective, and on the different possible routes to get to that destination without becoming a blindfolded boxed-in tool addict.

4. Lone heroism – If you believe that you have to achieve everything by and through yourself in order to be perceived as strong and successful you not only face a long, lonesome road but you’ll possibly stall half-way to your destination. If you want to grab that one and only gold medal, if you neglect other people’s contributions and accomplishments, if you neglect to give them credit, and if you act upon that need to constantly prove yourself and be in the spotlight, you will likely find yourself alone, mistrusted, and misunderstood even if you are at times successful in reaching a near peak performance.

5. Cowardice and comfort – Being happy being comfortable and safe, with little interest in stepping out of your comfort zone has to this day taken no one to peak performance. Lacking the courage to stand out from the crowd, to be the lone voice of disagreement, to actively seek dissenting views and minds that think radically differently than you do or lacking the courage to use constructive conflict in meetings and decision making processes is counterproductive to achieving high performance. This sixth danger ties into some of the previous ones, such as the importance of teamwork and of a healthy mindset including risk-taking and allowing mistakes to be made. Your comfort zone, that place where you know you won’t fail, is confining you and holding you back, it’s serving you as a jail.
So why would I talk about the dangers rather than about the necessary ingredients for high performance? The answer is straight forward: Awareness. Awareness of yourself and the dangers you face when working hard and hopefully smart towards high performance is key. We’re talking awareness of the effects that your mindset, style, and approach have on yourself and on others. We’re talking awareness of what’s going on with others. And we’re talking awareness of what’s going on between you and your environment while striving for high performance. I trust it you can translate these dangers to their productive counterparts.

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