Posts Tagged ‘skills’

Challenge + Belief = Performance

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

If I was your manager – the manager of a team that you’re part of – and we had just won a big contract, there are a couple of ways I could present the contracted project to you and the team.

First, I could say something along the lines of, “Congratulations, team. We won the bid – we got the project! So, here you go. You’ve seen the project bid. Get at it.”

Another approach would be something like…

If I was your manager – the manager of a team that you’re part of – and we had just won a big contract, there are a couple of ways I could present the contracted project to you and the team.

First, I could say something along the lines of, “Congratulations, team. We won the bid – we got the project! So, here you go. You’ve seen the project bid. Get at it.”

Another approach would be something like, “Wow, we won the bid! This is going to be a tough project – lots of challenges with this one. But this team has shown in the past that it can step up and handle the tough ones. Let’s go.”

Which approach do you think would be best? While neither is perfect (and yes, there would typically be more discussion than just this), the second approach provides one significant advantage over the first: It’s more likely to trigger the team to get “in the flow.”

If you read the research on the state of flow – that magic time when you perform at your best, when you get lost in the moment performing the activity, when things just seem to happen, when the sense of time changes, and it all seems somewhat effortless (but not easy) – by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (see his book, Flow), you would understand why. (You also get bonus points for pronouncing his name correctly!)

When you are faced with a task that appears to be easy, with no challenge, you almost become bored with it. Your effort will not be there. And, if you believe you are not up to handling a task, your confidence level will be down, and you will likely feel anxiety.

But when you are faced with a task that you know will be challenging, and yet you believe deep down inside that you have the ability to handle it, you are more likely to perform at your peak, and in the flow. When you feel stretched, and yet have confidence in your ability to deal with it… ahhh, that magic time.

As simple as it seems, as the manager of your team, I can play a big role in how likely it is for you and your teammates to perform in the flow. It’s all in how I present a project or task to you, and how I follow up on it. With every conversation about the project, I should be reinforcing the fact that you’re faced with a very challenging task, and yet you have the ability to step up and handle it. It will not be easy, but if you use every bit of your talent and skills, you can do it.

Challenge, plus belief, equals flow – and that means a great performance. I’d love to hear about an experience you’ve had that relates to this.

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