I’ve just finished reading Crunch Time–How to Be Your Best When It matters Most by Rick Peterson and Judd Hoekstra. The big takeaway? The more you watch or think about your good performances, the better you will become. Conversely the more you watch or think about your mistakes, the more ingrained they will become, the less confidence you will have and the more pressure will arise to erode your effectiveness.
For years I’ve resisted clients who wanted to dwell on mistakes in every client presentation, every meeting and every customer call. I saw that constantly dwelling mistakes imprints those mistakes in their brains. They then focus on avoiding mistakes, but of course the more they think about their mistakes, the more they make the same ones. There is no room for them to focus on their best.
The same principle is in play with the advice in Crunch Time. Human beings are inclined to believe their reptilian (Caveman) brain first and it takes deliberate choice to elevate the Conscious Thinker brain above the Caveman. You can only do this by watching your successes over and over. When you’re in a tough spot, your memory of your successes will rise quickly and make you the powerhouse you are.
When I hear that a company has Employee Improvement Plans I know immediately that they replaying mistakes and poor performances, to their detriment. I advocate for Employee Success Plans.
How do Employee Success Plans Help?
Many companies implement feedback processes that do lip service to what went well and then spend a lot of time and emotional currency on what went wrong. They hammer again and again on the improvement plan.
With Employee Success Plans, mistakes are acknowledged with a brief “yes, that blooper happened.” Then everyone turns their attention to the best performances of the employee. Recognizing and praising successful work encourages the employee to do more of that. It’s a simple math problem. The more time spent strengthening your strengths, the more you crowd out the mistakes or weaknesses.
An important note: skills training or education is always helpful for employee growth. That is a far cry from ‘improvement’ which by definition implies failure or deficiencies.
Look at what went well. Unpack it to understand WHY it went well. When you understand the WHY, you can repeat it. You can practice in non-threatening circumstances, in order to make successful behavior routine. This is called unconscious competence. You’re so well prepared you don’t have to think, you simply act at the top of your game.
During Singular FocusSM deep dives, the CEOs and Owners I work with practice looking for examples and instances of the very best behaviors, decisions, work, and outcomes. They dive deep to understand why those successes happened. They then spread those stories across the company.
Success faces a difficult obstacle: constantly being in a hurry. We have a culture that says if you’re not busy, busy, busy, you’re a slacker. You have to re-characterize time spent thinking and practicing as time well spent. With more practice and more thinking time, your employees will serve the company up to their best abilities and deliver the best to your buyers. It is better to ask someone to wait a day and do it extraordinarily well than to rush and do an average job.
What are you doing to capitalize on your best experiences and successes? If you’re hesitating or not doing it at all, it is time to start. If you are doing it a little bit, do it much more!