Friday, 27 February 2009

Past > Present > Future

What will have the biggest impact on the way you perform today? Your past, your present or your future?

Similarly, what will have the biggest impact on the way your team performs today?

Clue: it is not the past.

If you’ll forgive a generalisation, it is not the trauma in a person’s past, or the emptiness of their present, that makes them decide to jump off a bridge; it is the bleakness of their future.

Psychologists, in their complex and difficult therapy with victims of torture, understand that the most powerful aspect of this abuse is that the person’s future is unpredictable and beyond their control. They do not know what will happen next.

Thankfully, you and your team are not enduring something as horrific as that – however stressful things are – but exactly the same principle applies.

If things are uncertain, especially during times of change – and most especially in this climate of general uncertainty – people experience incredible stress and their performance usually dips. So you need to pay particular attention to their future.

As performance coach Struan Robertson explained to me once, you need to map out where things are going, as far as possible, to minimise the insecurity that comes from not knowing.

But even when you simply do not know or cannot say, you must go out of your way to make even the next few steps as clear as they can be.

Then you and your people will be better able to perform well.

Vision
But to turn this completely on its head, the principle of the future being the most powerful driver for performance can be harnessed positively.

Like the sails of a yacht bulging and creaking as they catch a strong wind, bringing a surge in acceleration as the prow cuts through the waves and the hull leans over under the force, so too the future can be something that adds momentum to your performance.

And it happens when you are clear about your vision and strategy. And when you successfully get all hands on deck, as you excite people into playing a part.

Go on! Lead your teams forward.

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