Organisational Performance: extraordinary achievements by ordinary people
When thinking about performance, what naturally springs to mind in many cases are the achievements of top sportsmen and sportswomen.
Their relentless pursuit of new records, pushing the boundaries of what was thought to be the limit further and further, triggers admiration and inspiration.
True, not everyone has been blessed with their gifts, but that is not what makes them the extraordinary people that they are. What is extraordinary is what they manage to realise with their potential.
There lies the true lesson about performance: it is first of all about getting the best out of yourself.
Performance means progress. Performance feeds progress, progress, in turn, feeds performance. It’s a virtuous circle. A virtuous circle everyone is capable of entering and building upon.
So, how do we get there?
Performance is always relative to a benchmark. For sportsmen and sportswomen, it is the record they want to break or the competitors they aim at beating. It does not always mean a world record or beating the world champion. It sometimes means a personal best, a tournament or league record or beating your nearest ranked competitors to climb over them in the league table. “Extraordinary” starts as soon as one does better than previously. The key is then to sustain this dynamic.
Setting the right benchmark, identifying the right goal and “whom to beat” in the process is key for achieving and sustaining performance. Setting too ambitious a goal too fast is a recipe for failure. And failure is good, when it is possible to relate the reasons behind it to he way one has used its potential, not when the conclusion is that the goal was unrealistic from the start. In the former case, it is likely that the next attempt will be successful, in the latter case, demotivation and frustration are likely to contunue weighing on even less ambitious objectives. “Small” successes work the opposite way. They increase the drive and appetite for more and make it possible to increase the self-confidence to take calculated risks towards bigger successes.
Even when your goal is realistic, performance is not guaranteed. There is a whole build up required towards performance. And that build up is even more critical in team sports, where not only individual, but also collective efforts will define the outcome of a competition.
Champions have not been born overnight, their way tot he top is a gradual progression, made of falls and rises, during which they learn about themselves, their strengths and weaknesses and improve, as a result.
The build-up revolves around the process of alignment. It means creating a shared understanding of the objective and everyone’s contribution to it, of the strengths, weaknesses, the risks and opportunities at hand and how to play on them, in light of the opposition. It means knowing yourself, your teammates and your opponents, to define your game plan.
Finally, there is practice, practice and more practice. No matter your level, the only way to reach the next one is by clocking up “playing time” and training. This is where you test all of the above in a safe environment, where failure or mistakes do not have consequences, except giving you precious information on how to improve ahead of the real test.
This is, in a nutshell, how you achieve performance. Top sportsmen and sportswomen do this too and they are incredibly good at it. At the end of the day, they are ordinary people who have realised their potential by getting the best out of themselves. And everybody can do it with theirs too and get that “champion” feeling in their own league: performance is made of extraordinary achievements from people managing to push their boundaries.