Petrified Performance Standards

Some time ago, traffic engineers wondered why accident rates with children were higher at certain road crossings. They concluded that these particular crossings lacked obvious reference points for car drivers to judge distance. Instead, distance was subconsciously determined by the height of the human crossing the street. Since children are shorter than adults, they appear much further away in the eyes of a driver than they actually are. Due to this optical illusion the reaction time for a driver was much shorter than anticipated.

The solution was simple: Add standard physical objects, such as waste bins and street lights, close to the crossing to improve judgment of distance by car drivers.

If you lack external reference points for your own performance and the performance of your organization, you may fall victim to compromised judgment as well. You’re working with petrified performance standards: Standards which are inferior to the standards of your peers, clients, and competitors. It’s like being a mediocre race car driver: You’re so far behind, you think you are first.

Typical signs which point at this issue are:

  • People from your organization have difficulty finding employment elsewhere.
  • Retention of top talent is hard.
  • Leadership is only promoted from within.
  • Underperformance is not dealt with.
  • Clients leave quickly when the opportunity presents itself.
  • External help is met with suspicion.

One of the most effective ways I use to improve the performance of executives, business owners, and professionals is therefore to create a personal success environment for them: A systematic approach to get external input from diverse peers to discuss issues and challenge any petrified personal performance standards.

Where do you need to place waste bins and street lights to create a success environment to raise your own standards?   

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