Why Do People Perform At The Level They Do?

July 1, 2014

higher levelYou don’t need me to tell you about the uproar following Luis Suarez’s antics at the World Cup. Millions of words have been said and printed with people’s viewpoints, opinions, facts and condemnations.

What has intrigued me with all of it is the emotional impact it has had on so many people. Even those who hate football have had their say about someone they have only heard about because of his misdemeanors.

Some want him banned for life. Some have asked how a player who earns over $300,000 per week plus endorsements could still be considered an asset to a team. Others have said that he is such a genius on the pitch, his minor discretions should be viewed as the transgressions of a man who plays to the limit.

Suarez himself says that he didn’t actually do what he is accused of. Instead, he lost balance and fell into the Italian defender’s shoulder. The alleged teeth marks on his shoulder were actually an old injury, and not left there by this incident.

Whatever the truth of the matter is, and whatever your opinion on what punishment or otherwise Luis Suarez should receive, it is interesting to observe how so many people are torn in almost bi-polar fashion on situations like these. The facts are quite simple when incidents stir people’s emotions.

People’s perceptions are real to them. People’s reality of how they see the world are born out of their conditioning, experiences, standards, rules and belief systems. Every person on the planet has had a different background to you. Even if you were brought up as a twin in the same environment as your sibling(s), you will still perceive and see things differently to them.

So when we are managing or leading people, how they perform for us correlates to their perceptions of what performance level they are expected to perform at.

Very few people, unless they have hidden agendas or are deliberately sabotaging the performance of the department, will deliberately perform to a poor level and believe it to be  at a high level. As leaders, we have to remember that people have their own map of the world, an idea of what is right or wrong based on their perceptions.

If you have reason to be critical of someone’s performance, take a few moments to get their opinions or feedback first, so that you are aware of their perception on things. By doing that, you get a clearer picture of why they are performing at that level.

It may be that they don’t understand the performance level you are expecting. Or they may have misinterpreted what you actually said. Or their perception of what is ‘good’ performance is different to yours.

Whatever the reason, just like the Suarez situation, people will have different ideas of what they want from situations. Judgements can be clouded by previous experiences, or a lack of self-belief or esteem. By understanding the rationale behind how a person sees their performance level, you achieve clarity on their viewpoint and can then approach any correction from a different position. If you go in with condemnation, blame, criticism or judgement without seeing their perception, you run the risk of starting the discussions from the wrong position and losing the connection that you need with the other person.

I know it’s really hard to do, but try to see their perception first before deciding on what your course of action should be. By doing that, you are less likely to end up with polarised views and can start from a more agreeable position.

I’m not sure what the future holds for Luis Suarez. What I do know is it’s fascinating to listen to what people think his future should be. Even though they have no vested interest in it. Fascinating!

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training and Development

Mark Williams 3


(Image by sheelamohan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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