For each and every one of us ‘performance’ means something. Whether we’re talking about individual performance at work, team performance or sporting performance, the level at which we operate defines us. Whether that’s a valid way of defining anyone or not is not the subject of this week’s post, it’s simply an acceptance that we all operate at a given performance level. If we are happy with it and it meets the needs of those around us, all well and good.

But if we aren’t happy with our own level of performance what should we be doing about it? This is all about reflecting on our own personal performance and not about how a manager or employer might judge our performance.

Only we can make a difference in what we do to improve our operating level. It has to come from inside us. That’s where the real motivation to improve comes from, not the encouragement or otherwise from others.

What performance level do you want to get to?

Being the top performing individual in your given area or team might be great but how do you compare to others? The level of ‘stretch’ that someone has in their role might be motivational for some or stress inducing for others. Everyone is different.

The same goes for individual performance levels. Someone who is performing perfectly well within a team and who a manager thinks can do more may have no internal motivation to do so. No amount of cajoling will change this.

But the person who wants to get to that next level of performance needs to identify for themselves what that level is.

Stepping up to world class may be the ultimate goal but what’s the immediate step for you right now?

Being the best in your small group is one thing but how will you make out once you take the step into another, even higher performing group? If you want to start that journey to the top you need to decide which performance level you will conquer next – and then keep repeating the process.

What are you doing now that is holding you back?

Whatever it is you are currently doing is determining the level of performance you are achieving. Look at your daily, weekly, monthly schedules and determine for yourself which activities might actually be detrimental to your performance.

What could you drop instantly that would make no difference to your performance? Don’t rush to ditch too many things first though. If you are undertaking activities, education for example, that will be of longer-term benefit then you probably want to keep going with them.

Losing activities that soak up your valuable time for no discernible outcome creates space for new activities that will be of benefit to you.

Be careful though not to ditch everything that you might call “down time”. All of us need time to recover, relax, recuperate and reflect. This isn’t just for the sports world, it’s equally valid in the world of business too. We can all burn the midnight oil for so long but burn out hits eventually.

What are you doing now that you must continue with?

In the same way that you identified value detracting activities you need to clarify for yourself those activities which make a positive contribution to your performance. Delivering what needs to be achieved in the workplace is what it’s all about but in this “stocktake” you need to audit yourself on the HOW you achieve what you achieve.

If you judge there to be a positive ROI performance wise and it’s also beneficial to netting to the next level then you keep it.

If you can’t make that judgement, even intuitively, then you need to question whether it’s of any personal benefit to you at all.

What are others doing already?

Perhaps the most difficult area to look at is the way those who are already at the level you aspire to go about their daily business. The training routine of world class athletes may be something a junior athlete can look at (along with their coach) and then tailor to move them forward in their own development. The sporting analogy here is a good one.

Tennis player Andy Murray was taken outside the UK tennis system by his mother when he was younger as she recognized it wasn’t going to do what was required to develop his performance sufficiently. In his case he moved to a well established tennis academy in Spain at the age of 15.

Recognizing that you want to get to the next level is one thing. Knowing specifically what others are doing is another thing altogether. But it is a possible and if you strive to get to that next level you will have the internal motivation to research what the best are already doing so that you can learn from them.

In large organizations especially it can be difficult to metaphorically put your head above the parapet and look to see how other people drive their own personal development.

Step changes in performance only come about once you modify what you do and measure resultant changes in performance.

By looking at what others do and taking appropriate aspects and building them into your routine (with tailoring) you start to move in your desired direction.

To reach for the stars, as Andy Murray did, you may need to make significant changes, not only in your daily routine but in location, employment and lifestyle. The choices are out there for all of us. It’s how much we want to commit to those choices.

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© Paul Slater and Reflect & Lead, 2015.