Performance is NOT Results

Steven Phillips
Steven Phillips

An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises said Mae West.

Now there is a slim chance that the kind of performance that Mae had in mind wasn’t all that work focused – even if it does occasionally make use of a desk or a photocopier. But she is nevertheless still right about it being performance that counts. And to quote Gordon Gecko in the film Wall Street “everything else is just conversation”.

We are exercised by the use or misuse, of the words Performance and Results.

Now this is all going to sound a bit obvious but bear with us. Results and performance are not the same thing!

Even though in many organisations they are used synonymously.

Our work in developing true high-performance cultures shows that the distinction between these words IS ever so important. Performance – the issue here is that performance isn’t results. Performance is what people do that then creates a result. So what, apart from pedantry, is the significance of that? Well how about the fact that in order to get different results you have to help your managers to develop their people’s performance, not just ask them for different results. The Emperor’s New Clothes surprise is that the vast majority of managers spend very little time developing their people’s performance – especially when compared with the amount of time they individually spend worshipping at the altars of Email, Excel and PowerPoint.

Mae West and Andy Murray don’t feature in nearly enough consulting articles together so let’s take an example of performance from the world of sport…If Andy Murray’s coach, in the last couple of years, had just told him “I want you to win your next match” every time he lost, then he probably wouldn’t have developed as much as he has. He knew he wanted to win (get the result); he didn’t need a coach to tell him that! He just didn’t know HOW to win (develop the performance). So his coach got him to work on fitness so that he could last 5 sets, to “bulk up” so that he could hit more powerful shots, to work on his backhand because it broke down under pressure… and surprise, surprise the result is a US Open win. Just by doing what Ideas Unlimited has been shouting at the television!