Improving Performance: It’s All About Paying the Price to Get Better

“I don’t like average.”

During a recent webinar, that statement was made by the CEO of a major company. When I heard it, my thought was that I know of so many people that appear to LOVE average.

Like a lot of you, I watched the London Olympics this week and I am just intrigued not by the sport but by the commitment and sacrifices the athletes make to be the best, or shall we say, above average. Their training routine will basically kill off the vast majority of us.

But how about being that committed at such a young age? Any way you slice it, you have to take your hat off to them. Even the ones that did not win medals still went through that grueling routine, all in the quest to get better.

Do you have a plan?

We all know of talented people, whether they are gainfully employed or not, that are superstars if they would just get their act together. I cannot tell you how many times I get calls from people that basically just complain, have a pity party, or whatever. My antidote (when they come up for air) is WHAT IS YOUR PLAN?

If you can lay out a case of whatever it is, you can also lay out a potential solution. “A problem well stated is a problem half solved” is a quote from Charles Kettering that I have always tried to live by. If I can state the problem, I am half-way there.

The kicker to me is that we run into such talent and the mystery — and those with it do not know it. We know it, we see it, but to them they are just the average, unhappy people. The marvel is the “woe is me” mindset.

Would you pay the price?

How many of these people would actually pay the price to move their performance to the next level? How many people would be that committed to get up at those hours to start the day in intense training? More importantly, against all odds, you would stay committed to your endeavor?

Life is like the Olympics, but it is not a one-time event, and each of us “plays a sport” in our own personal Olympics. Each of us has chosen what we would play, but the vast majority do not take it seriously. If we were on a team, we would have been cut a long time ago.

However, we go through the motions each and every day, just being satisfied with status quo. The drive needed to move whatever it is to the next level takes a tremendous amount of hard work. Whatever that next level is will take a lot of effort.

The sad part is that some will never receive the gold, silver or the bronze, or for that matter, even a special mention. And it is not because of a lack of talent — it is because of a lack of effort to try and get better.

But the people that try to get in the game and do not give up will all be in a better place because they strived to move up their level of play.

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This could be you

Athletes make it all look so easy when we are sitting watching them from the couch. That is why the Monday morning quarterback analysis always has me looking on in wonderment.

The overweight guys always seem to be talking about why someone missed a shot. The lazy ones that do not exert any energy throughout the day are critiquing the way that someone played. The folks who never played competitive sports are speaking as if they are a genius in residence.

Each one one of us has the ability to be better than what we are. It does not matter where we are on that journey; we can each have an Olympic mindset for better performance. We can always do it better — circumstances be damned.

The key to taking the next step starts with each one of us. That is why I love the Nike slogan that says “just do it.”

If we need to lose weight (which is a problem well stated), start exercising a little more. That may not mean joining a gym. It may just mean, at the beginning stage, walking a little more each day. Once you have mastered that, move to the next part of the solution.

Take the time

I recently had a conversation with an HR professional who was having a sourcing problem. As we discussed ways to solve her specific issue, she said that she just does not have time to do it. My comeback was we needed to schedule a half-hour call to take this call. I pushed her to start with that model and take a half hour every week to work on that strategy.

There is a famous saying that I love that states: “The time to take time is when there is no time.”

Increase your performance level and take it to whatever limits your heart desires, and this way, you can cheer in your own private Olympics.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.


2 Comments on “Improving Performance: It’s All About Paying the Price to Get Better

  1. Ron,  Extremely well done article!  I have to agree with you, there are way too many people satisfied with average in the workforce today. I loved your example of the HR professional with the sourcing problem and having her “slow down to speed up”. In coaching executives the most challenging thing that I have found is trying to get them to sit in quiet, contemplative thought for just 20 minutes a day. I’d love to hear more of your insights on this! Best, John

  2. Ron,

    Reading this was a great way to begin my day and week.  The two phrases that resonated twith me were – “Each one one of us has the ability to be better than what we are. It does not matter where we are on that journey; we can each have an Olympic mindset for better performance. We can always do it better” and the Niki slogan “Just do it!” 

    Thanks for the reminder…KC

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