Managers constantly want to get better results, better results for themselves and better results for their organisation. One way to improve performance is to get improved performance from individuals. For managers to improve their own performance and their organisation’s performance, they need to know a secret.
This secret comes from Coaching For Performance. The first edition of this book was written in 1993 and the 5th edition was written in 2017, 25 years later. The book has sold more than a million copies in 23 languages. John Whitmore was originally a racing driver and began coaching players in tennis and golf and then transferred the techniques to leaders.
While there are many insights in the book, my back of the envelope version of the book is:
Performance = (Potential) – (Interference)
Individuals and organisation spend much time improving potential by improving skills: attending training courses and reading books. Little time is spent on reducing interference. What do we mean by interference? Well it’s the physical or mental obstacles that prevent us and our organisation converting more potential into more performance.
A physical obstacle from softball when trying to improve a batters performance — if they do not watch the ball with two eyes, they are unlikely to hit the ball.
A mental obstacle from softball is when a batter misses the first ball and starts thinking negative thoughts — “I made a mistake with the first ball, I will never hit the ball, I am going to get struck out again and I will never make the rep team.” — This makes them so tense they are unlikely to hit the next ball.
A physical obstacle from business is when a salesperson wants a sale and is trying to build a relationship by email or phone instead of face-to-face.
A mental obstacle is when the salesperson is certain they know what the customer wants and so they do not listen — they don’t hear how the customer qualified in “We do need it, just not at the moment”.
To improve performance faster, spend less time on improving potential and more time reducing interference. One common issue in sport and business is the person can explain exactly what they need to do: their brain understands precisely what they need to do. However, they cannot do it or they will not do it.
The answer is easy to say and difficult to do: Practice.
As a manager, look for and ask about obstacles: What stops you doing more? Help your people and your organisation eliminate interference: physical obstacles and mental obstacles. Sometimes people and organisations ask for more training. Don’t give them it. Instead, give them time with your more experienced high-performing people.
Get them to answer this question: what are high performers doing that you don’t do. Focus their attention on taking more action and learning from that action. So they learn more about what interferes— physical obstacles and mental obstacles— and learn more about how to reduce these obstacles: how to increase performance.
This video by Timothy Gallwey explains more
In summary: as a manager your job is to raise awareness of what is interfering with performance and then help your people and your organisation eliminate obstacles.