Performance: The First Piece Of The Leadership PIE

“Performance is your reality. Forget everything else.”
Harold S. Geneen, former CEO of ITT

If you go to Top Hat Terrace, a road in Leicester, England, you will see carvings of 16 different heads. All of the heads belong to the same man — Tanky Smith — Leicester’s first private detective. Tanky was renowned for being a master of disguise. Sometimes he was a jockey, sometimes a priest or a bishop.

You see … in the mid-1800’s, Leicester was a lawless place, full of criminal gangs. In an attempt to go undercover and mingle with gang members in bars and inns, Tanky adopted many disguises, worked undercover, and got enough evidence to prosecute many of the worst criminals of his day and cleaned up the city.

In his own rudimentary way, Tanky mastered the three elements of business success: Performance, Image, and Exposure. In fact, when I keynoted a conference for Nationwide Insurance recently, I was preceded by Maria Urani, the Vice President of Delivery Services, who gave one of the best explanations of the PIE elements that I’d ever come across.

Urani says PERFORMANCE is the foundation for success … in any endeavor. But PERFORMANCE, in and of itself, is seldom enough to guarantee success. You’ve also got to have the right IMAGE … which refers to how others see you … and you’ve got to have the right amount of EXPOSURE …which is all about who knows you.

For this particular “Tuesday Tip,” let’s take a look at the kind of PERFORMANCE that will set the foundation for the success you want. It includes the following elements:

=> 1. Action oriented

Successful people don’t wait for success to fall in their laps, and they don’t wait for their lottery ticket to be chosen. They keep on doing the things that will get them closer and closer to their desired goals.

As David J. Schwartz puts it, “Life is too short to waste. Dreams are fulfilled only through action, not through endless planning to take action.”

Max Steingart took it a step further when he wrote his poem entitled, “Success Requires a Willingness to Act.”

If you want to be successful, you can start at anytime. But you must start. Don’t make the mistake of not doing anything because you can only do a little. Do what you can do. It will always be your attitude at the beginning of any difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome. To be aware of what you want and not go after it, to spend years wondering if something could have materialized, and never knowing if it could have been, is a tragic waste of your life. The worst thing you can do is not to try.

To reach a port, you must sail. You must sail, not lie at anchor. You must sail off in the direction of your dreams, not drift. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Being action oriented is the beginning of PERFORMANCE, but that PERFORMANCE has to be …

=> 2. Consistent performance

In other words, champions give it their all … all the time.

Unfortunately, too many people flounder when it comes to this point of “consistency.” They have their “good days” and their “bad days.” They excel at certain tasks, while other times they “just don’t feel like it.” That’s not only ineffective and unprofessional; it’s also the opposite of how champions behave.

Real champions are characterized by consistent performance in all the roles they play … unlike the two fishermen who were having great problems on Lake Isabella, near Bakersfield, California.

No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t get their brand new 22-foot boat and motor to work well. It was very sluggish in almost every maneuver, no matter how much power they applied. After about an hour of trying to make it go, they putted into a nearby marina, thinking someone there may be able to tell them what was wrong. A thorough topside check revealed everything was in perfect working condition. The engine ran fine, the outboard motor went up and down, and the propeller was the correct size and pitch.

Finally, one of the marina guys jumped in the water to check underneath. He came up choking on water, he was laughing so hard. Under the boat, still strapped in place, was the trailer!

Obviously, these two guys might have performed well at some things in life, but their performance was not CONSISTENTLY effective.

=> 3. Results driven

Successful PERFORMANCE means a lot more than doing a lot of work. It’s also results-driven.

That means you need to have a certain degree of passion that keeps on driving you. As George Lucas, film director and producer, describes it, “You have to find something that you love enough to be able to take risks, jump over the hurdles and break through the brick walls that are always going to be placed in front of you. If you don’t have that kind of feeling for what it is you are doing, you’ll stop at the first giant hurdle.”

It also means you have to keep your eye on the outcome of your work. Chuck Exley, the CEO of NCR, made that clear after listening to another NCR executive give a presentation. The executive had great slides and an even better delivery, but at the end of the presentation Exley nodded and said something brief but profound. He said, “Good story, but it’s hard to look smart with bad numbers.”

So you might ask yourself IF you’re results driven … and if so … how driven. You can’t be like the old Norwegian proverb that says, “The lazier a man is the more he plans to do tomorrow.”

=> 4. Influence others

Whereas the first 3 PERFORMANCE points are somewhat self-focused, this fourth point indicates that PERFORMANCE has an interpersonal dimension as well. Successful performers not only do well but also influence others to do well.

It’s one of the key things I teach on the second day of my “Journey to the Extraordinary” program. As Paul Faust, a project manager at Wells Fargo, discovered, “I always believed in the importance of interpersonal skills, but Dr. Zimmerman hit me squarely between the eyes when he said, ‘The soft skills are the hard skills.’ That was a huge revelation for me, because I’ve always focused on the technical aspects of my job and taken the ‘people stuff’ somewhat for granted. But the JOURNEY TO THE EXTRAORDINARY experience showed me EXACTLY HOW I could motivate the best in others as well elicit greater cooperation from my coworkers. More importantly, I’ve been using Dr. Zimmerman’s techniques at work and have noticed a huge increase in both personal and peer performance. Your JOURNEY has added great value to both my personal and professional life. Great job!”

The point is simple … if you’re not getting all the cooperation you need on the job or at home … if you’re not seeing all the motivation in others you’d like to see … it doesn’t have to be that way or stay that way. You can master the art of influence by attending the “Journey” program.

=> 5. Team player

Performers, who exhibit, true PERFORMANCE, are also known to be team players. They know life is too short to waste time hating anyone. And they know life is too complicated to do it all by themselves.

So they build teamwork into their daily lives by being generous with others. They generously share information that might help others … rather than hoard it in their tiny little silos. They generously share their time, helping others succeed.

As Urani mentioned in her Nationwide presentation, “Seek to improve the performance of others and the organization. Their success will rub off on you.” In other words, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to help others without receiving some benefit in return.

Novelist Robert Louis Stevenson urged people to invest in people. As he put it, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” So help others. Be a team player. Arrest someone’s attention with your generosity, because it almost always leads to a win-win.

That’s why the Chinese are known for a particular proverb. They say, “If you want 1 year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want 100 years of prosperity, grow people.”

And as you well know, we need team players in today’s business environment. According to “Talent Management” in their January 2010 issue, the percentage of employees willing to go the extra mile for the company has fallen 12 to 24% over the past 18 months. Engagement has become an even bigger issue than it was in the past. Their conclusion? We desperately need employees who are committed, engaged team players if we’re going to make it through these tough economic times.

=> 6. Open to feedback

As you’ve probably noticed by now, successful PERFORMANCE is not a matter of luck or happenstance. It’s the natural result of doing the five things I’ve outlined so far. It’s also the result of being open to feedback and acting upon it.

You see … losers, poor performers, or ineffective colleagues don’t want any feedback. They don’t even want to be noticed. They just want to stay out of trouble, collect a paycheck, and go home.

I’m sure you’ve known people like that. I’ve observed many of them in my workshops over the years. The people who need the feedback the most or who need to come to my seminars the most are the ones who resist it the most.

By contrast, great performers are always looking for feedback. They want to know how well they’re doing and how they can get even better. They’re the ones who welcome performance reviews as a chance to improve. And they’re the ones who take a Winston Churchill attitude, who said, “I am always ready to learn, but I do not always like to be taught.”

=> 7. Handle compliments and complaints with professionalism

Top performers often deserve praise and receive praise, but they accept that praise with grace … without bragging. They take pride in their work without being proud.

I remember the day I made that change in my life and my attitude. As a young speaker who was in constant demand across the country, I would come on stage and think, “Here I am … God’s gift to speaking.” As I matured, my whole outlook changed. Before I would go out on stage, and even today, I take a moment to think, “There they are … my precious audience. What can I do to serve them?”

Oh, I still took and still do take immense pride in what I do, but it has a whole different feel to it. It’s more like the pride Red Aurbach, the great basketball coach, talked about. He said, “Take pride in what you do. The kind of pride I’m talking about is not the arrogant puffed-up kind; it’s just the whole idea of caring — fiercely caring.” Successful performers also handle complaints with professionalism. As the very wise and talented poet, Maya Angelou advises, “If you don’t like something change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” Now that’s what I call class.

In summary, success comes when your PIE is in good shape. In the beginning of your career, the P or Performance portion accounts for 2/3 of your success. But over time, the ratio changes and the Image and Exposure portion becomes more important. We’ll talk about that next week.

Action:  Pick one of the 7 PERFORMANCE factors to focus on … to work … to improve. Write down 3 ways you will improve that particular factor this week. Then do it.