Serious About Performance

Gareth and I have recently started working with an interesting company called Careergro. They are in the field of employee owned career development and as part of our initial working together, we’ve been discussing the similarities and differences between career development and performance appraisals.

So I’m grateful to Felix Wetzel for sharing a great talk from TEDxPortsmouth over on Google Plus. It’s called Serious About Performance, by the sports and business coach Dr Chris Shambrook. I’ve embedded the talk down below so you can take a look if the following observations from it interest you. And even if they don’t, it’s worth a watch for a fantastic sporting analogy (around five minutes into the film).

Defining Performance

Dr Chris says that in most companies, people wrongly think that performance = results. Wrong! Results are output, they are goals (usually set for you) and how you are doing against those goals. Performance is about doing the things you need to do to get out what you want. Performance is input and output. It is about understanding your potential and developing it so that you achieve the best results you can.


In the workplace, performance improvement is almost universally seen as a bad thing, as a problem. Dr Chris thinks everyone should have a performance improvement plan – that we should seek it out, demand it and use it as a way of helping us fulfil our potential. I think that’s a much healthier attitude and when practiced, quickly integrates performance and career development.

Static versus Flow

Usually, performance is appraised annually. I feel sick just writing that last sentence, performance needs evaluating all the time. The annual appraisal sucks – I know no one who looks forward to giving or receiving one. Feedback needs to be regular – and seek it out. Otherwise, Dr Chris says it’s just a euphemism for criticism.

Weakness versus Strength

Most people leave their performance reviews with a clear understanding of their inadequacies. To achieve high performance you must focus on strengths. How can I deliberately and consistently make strong into stronger. Then, and only then, should I address my weaknesses.

Money as a Motivator

Dr Chris says ‘we start incentivising people to do behaviours and start manipulating them by introducing money’. When money is used as a motivator for results in sport, it’s when corruption is present. He uses cricket and match fixing to illustrate this, and I’m reminded of Robin Schooling’s excellent blog post about the New Orleans Saints on the same subject.

Choose Your Attitude

Choosing your attitude towards high performance is critical. Choose to be the best you can be and show that attitude as a role model to others. Readers who have been with me for the long haul may recall a post I wrote back in September 2009 after meeting with Chris Boardman. He saw this as vital too.

Does your company confuse performance with results? And who is responsible for your performance?

I’d love to hear your views.

photo c/o Bertron8

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

2 thoughts on “Serious About Performance”

  1. Results are so often comparative, ie subjective rather than objective. All around you’ll see people judging their results compared to their competitors’.

    Is it better to win a bike race with a poor time because your competitors all suffered from mechanicals, punctures or got caught out with a later headwind. Or is it better to post your best ever time by a long shot but to come 3rd because you witnessed the most incredible rides ever by your two main rivals.

    Which one would make you most happy?

    1. Sorry for not replying sooner – I like the way you’ve told the tale and for sure, I’d take 3rd place and a cracking PB every time. Thanks!

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