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Conversations for Creating STAR Performers
Go Beyond the Performance Review to Inspire Excellence Every Day
By SHAWN KENT HAYASHI
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2012Shawn Kent Hayashi
All rights reserved.
Engaging Star Performers
Imagine yourself having fun—what comes to mind?
Now, consider what causes you to want to perform well at work. Does work trigger the same emotions that playing does for you?
I've asked these questions of hundreds of people. One conversation jumps out at me as I reflect on all the ways people have answered these questions. A bit of background before I share the conversation I had with John as I was volunteering at an Odyssey of the Mind (OM) state competition. I am a passionate volunteer for Odyssey of the Mind. OM is a national creativity building competition for teams that are focused on solving long-term and spontaneous problems. On this particular day, I was matched with a partner whom I had never met before—this was John. He was 20-something and a recent college graduate. In our volunteer role, we were responsible for checking in teams for events and giving them the details about what they would need next. John had a very casual style of communicating, and he often appeared uninterested in whatever he was doing. However, after observing him for a while, I realized he really was on top of every detail and knew where each team was in the lineup and what information the team needed next. Despite the opposite appearance, he did feel a sense of accomplishment in what he was doing. John had the process and pace down pat even though he was not projecting himself confidently. His communication and body language with people did not match the results he was producing. He was a star at the tactical work we were doing, but no one would have thought that during an individual conversation with him.
Sometimes John and I were very busy. Other times there was nothing to do. That is when I asked the question, "John, in your work, what causes you to want to perform well?" I could tell from the flash of his smile that he knew his answer immediately: "When my boss is watching, or when the girl I have a crush on is watching. The girl I want to date works in the same place I do." I asked, "If they were here today, what would have been different?" He replied, "Oh, ... um, I would have shown that I knew what I was doing, and I would have been more friendly to everyone who came up to our table for information." Then I asked, "John, when you are working, do you feel the same feelings that you do when you are playing?" He immediately said, "No! Work is work. I am glad when it is time to go so I can then relax and have fun."
In these conversations in which I've asked people what causes them to want to perform well, I've received two types of responses. Some people, like John, have said they wanted to please or perform for others. John paid attention to his impact only on those he wanted to impress, to people outside himself.
Other people have said they wanted to perform well because they had their own internal standard to live up to. When I asked Olivia the question, "What causes you to want to perform well?" she pulled out a personal statement about what she is committed to in everything she does. Her statement included these points: "Deliver outstanding service in everything I do, remember that I have choices and I can make my own decisions, and be aware of my own feelings and allow them to inform my actions rather than create reactions." Her statement has been a reminder to her of the person she aspires to be every day. She has been internally motivated by this commitment she made to herself. Keeping the commitment has been like a game she plays with herself. For Olivia, it has been fun. She knows she is capable of being a star for her own enjoyment of the feeling that comes from having lived up to her own standards. Olivia has had a conversation with herself about the person she wants to be and how she wants to perform. She has used this personal commitment to meet her own standard for her own performance, while John has been using someone else's views of him to determine his star-ability.
Olivia is playing, and John is working.
John was not focused on or aware of challenging or impressing himself, while Olivia wanted to challenge and impress herself every day. In the long term, Olivia's consistent commitment will cause her to surpass John's level of productivity. As a manager, coach, or leader, what can you do to help your team members internalize the desire to perform well? Ask them! Ask, "What causes you to want to perform well?" After you have heard everything they have to say, ask, "When was the last time you had fun at work? What were you doing?"
Can you get a picture in your mind of your favorite coach?
If you are a manager or a leader who is responsible for developing people, imagine yourself as a coach. Why? Coaches are focused on the following:
Building effective teams
Engaging people in their own growth and learning
Building new skills
Developing high-potential performers
Helping performers who want to achieve higher levels of success
Coaches ask questions like the ones I've been asking so that reflective learning occurs. They also explain and demonstrate how to accomplish desired goals. Being a great coach and manager requires knowing how to focus your team members on the right things to produce the desired results.
An Emotional Wake
When I was 20-something, I had a boss who asked me and the other members of the team to write our own individual statement for what each of us wanted to accomplish in the upcoming year. He asked us to think about what we wanted to be outstanding at doing and to write a personal statement of commitment. Then he asked us to use the Be, Do, Then Have formula. Who would we need to be, what would we need to do, so that we could have the desired results? A week later, the boss videotaped each team member sharing his or her own Be, Do, Then Have statement. We watched the videos together, and he gave us our own copy. This activity enabled each person to internalize his or her own motivation to be the kind of performer who would produce the desired results no matter who was watching. It made our work seem like playing a game that was fun. Our emotions were engaged in achieving our goals at work.
Richard Boyatzis, PhD, a distinguished professor from the Department of Organizational Behavior at Case Western Reserve University, walked on stage to deliver the keynote address to an audience of executive coaches (including me) with Aretha Franklin's voice blasting in the background:
What you want, I got it. What you need, you know I got it ... All I'm asking is for a little ... R-E-S-P-E-C-T ... Find out what it means to me ... R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Take care, ohhhh, Sock it to me ... A little respect, oh yeah.
As he danced wildly, clapping his hands above his head on stage, he shouted that great leaders move us through our emotions. Learning retention is higher when we engage the brain with music and humor. As a manager and leader, you may often wonder how to inspire people to work on what would be beneficial to them. Great leaders understand that emotions are the connectors that engage people. Employees are not persuaded by your logic and data. Instead, they take action based on their emotions, and then they use the research to justify their actions. Emotion is what causes change.
For over 30 years, Dr. Boyatzis has been researching what causes sustained desired change. He says that arousing, invoking, stimulating, and provoking the desires to develop and change require openness, adaptability, and tolerance for ambiguity. To get to the place in ourselves where we are open like this, we are triggering what he calls the "parasympathetic nervo
Excerpted from Conversations for Creating STAR Performers by SHAWN KENT HAYASHI. Copyright © 2012 by Shawn Kent Hayashi. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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