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The Path to High Performance

| | Personal Leadership
The Path to High Performance post image

If you want to get on a path to high performance, there is one thing you must first accept:

Whatever your current level of performance may be at this moment, if you aspire to something greater or to be better you have a performance gap.

Being honest with yourself about your gap is an important first step in closing it.

After all, how can you close your performance gap until can accept you have one and are willing to honestly explore it?

Yet for many, that gap can be extremely hard to face.  Perhaps it’s because in facing the gap we must confront one of our greatest fears as human beings – that we are not enough.

The pursuit of truly high performance is an act of courage – the courage to stand for who you could become as you come face to face with who and what you are not right now.

To make things easier, whether as an individual or an organization, we often focus on making incremental improvement rather than taking bold leaps.

The strategy for making incremental improvement is to set stretch goals – ones we know we can make if we just work harder and smarter.  It’s not that an incremental improvement approach is a bad idea.  In fact, it is a valuable practice for ensuring you continue to make progress.

The drawback to this approach, however, is that while you may stretch yourself and even improve your performance this way, you will not likely break through to a whole new level of performance.

The next level of performance, whatever that may be for you, is inherently elusive and beyond your reach.

Attaining it requires that you let go of the comfort of knowing how in exchange for something far less certain, yet far more potent – the belief that no matter how big your gap may be, you will find a way to close it.

To achieve high performance you must be willing to let go of who you are in exchange for who you could become.  And you must be willing to let go of the past you know in exchange for the future you can only imagine. tweet this

How do you set goals that take you beyond incremental improvement to truly transform your performance?

The best way is to make a bold promise to accomplish something that…

  1. Really matters to you.
  2. You truly don’t know how to achieve yet.
  3. You know there is a possibility you will fail.

If you want to put yourself on a path to high performance as a leader, consider creating a performance gap for your leadership.

Here are two questions to get you started:

  • What is the next level for you in your leadership?  Define the end state as clearly and as richly as you can.
  • What bold promise could you make that would require you to let go enough to reach for that next level?

What comes after that?

You make that promise to yourself and someone who will hold you accountable and you get to work.  Just remember to enjoy the journey.

After all, isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?

What do you think it takes to put yourself on a path to high performance?

 

Image credit: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_arkela’>arkela / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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Kenneth Barrios   |   21 April 2014   |   Reply

Very interesting article. I’m really big into growing myself and my people into better leaders and find the concept of ‘letting go’ a cool way to approach the problem. I guess if you continue doing things they way you currently do them, you will just remain the same. I do think it is hard though to know what the next level really looks like until you get there. Or if you are lucky enough to have a mentor that would show you first hand, then the imagination would become concrete. Otherwise such situations are thrusted upon us and we have to learn under fire. Agian, great post. Thank you.

Susan Mazza   |   21 April 2014   |   Reply

You raise a great point Kenneth – it can indeed be hard to “see” what the next level looks like. It does require imagination and committed observers such as mentors and coaches can certainly help because they are likely to see your gap (and often your potential) more clearly than you can.

One of the ways to create the gap in your leadership when you don’t have committed observers is to promise a result that meets the 3 criteria I offer here. When you promise something beyond what you already know how to accomplish your gap tends to reveal itself.

Thanks for you kind words about the article.

Beth Miller   |   23 April 2014   |   Reply

Great article with fabulous questions. One additional step early on in the process would be to seek feedback from others to gather additional information on your gaps. Often high performers can be harder on themselves than those around them.

Susan Mazza   |   23 April 2014   |   Reply

Great addition Beth. The people around us who are committed to our success can see things we cannot. And excellent point – high performers do tend to set very high standards to begin with and often judge themselves with a higher set of standards that then do others. Thanks for stopping by!

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