High achievers are typically interested in one thing: Performance. They want to attain more in less time. The more you understand about the cause-and-effect nature of your performance, the better you will be able to engage with your work.
To that end, we are going to dive into the main driver of performance, something you may not have associated with this topic.
When you google how to increase your work performance, the topics that come up have much to do with time management and focus. They include planning and prioritizing, eliminating interruptions, using productivity tools, etc.
What they don’t talk about are your beliefs.
Beliefs? How do these relate to performance, you might ask. Well, that’s what we’ll be covering in today’s episode.
Hello all you high achievers and welcome back to the Optimize Your Life podcast. I’m Dr. Sharon Grossman, a success coach, burnout expert, and the author of the bestselling book, The 7E Solution to Burnout where I outline all the ingredients you need to be go from Exhausted to Extraordinary.
If you’re not already familiar with the 7Es, you can find out more at www.7esolution.com
For today’s purposes, we will be diving into one of the 7Es. In fact, I will be sharing bits of my book with you. If you have your copy, you might want to follow along to see the images that depict what I will be describing.
When it comes to your work, one of the most crucial influencers is your belief in your ability to successfully achieve certain tasks. This is what is known as self-efficacy, which just happens to be E#4 of the 7Es.
So here are some passages from the Efficacy section of the book that can help you think differently about your work, especially if your performance is hurting.
“The more you believe in your ability, the more likely you will pursue a task. The more successful you are in accomplishing a task, the more you will believe in your ability to do so in the future.
When self-efficacy beliefs match effort levels, you might end up in an upward or downward spiral. You can also experience a self-correcting spiral where your performance and self-efficacy initially parallel each other, but then either one changes direction. How does this happen?
Imagine you are trying to write code, but you don’t get the results you want. You try again and again, and disappointment follows each attempt. If you expect your knowledge and efforts to translate into success but they don’t, this may affect your belief in your ability to get the project off the ground. You may then procrastinate working on it or just give up. But perhaps after a cooling-off period, you review your steps, realize your mistake, and take a more successful approach. Your self-efficacy just increased, so you sit back down and try again, hence increasing your performance.
The same situation can happen in reverse order. You attempt your code and find that it works time and time again. This builds up your self-efficacy but can lead you to become overly-confident and complacent. You decide that since you’re so good at what you do, you don’t have to try so hard. You are less motivated to figure out what is leading to your continued success. The result over the next succession of tasks reflects this change in effort and ends up leading to some failure as you experience a ceiling effect. Once again, your self-efficacy decreases, as does your performance.
The name of the game is to understand the cause-and-effect nature of task performance. When you recognize why your efforts lead to either success or failure, by keeping your finger on the pulse, you are increasing your chances of future successes. Otherwise, you are at risk of becoming overconfident. Therefore, one purpose of the self- correcting spiral is to promote learning, which keeps you moving in a vertical direction to achieve greater success over time. Also, if after a chain of successes you become complacent, it helps turn that complacency into a downward spiral that keeps you in check.
Your beliefs can affect your success and failure rates. When you experience an outcome associated with your efforts, you can enter into an upward spiral if you are successful or a downward spiral if you’ve failed. Additionally, when you become complacent after attaining success or when you learn from your mistakes after a failure, you might find yourself in a self-correcting spiral that takes you in the opposite direction. Be mindful of your beliefs and keep your attention in your work sharp.”
As Marianne Williamson once said, “Thought is Cause; experience is Effect. If you don’t like the effects in your life, you have to change the nature of your thinking.”
In this case, we’re talking about your beliefs.
Now that you understand how your beliefs about your performance affect your performance, I want to share with you 3 factors that can lead to self-efficacy spirals so you know exactly where to intervene. These are: feedback, task uncertainty and complexity, and task experience.
Again, here are some passages from The 7E Solution to Burnout:
Let’s start with feedback.
“Feedback is a necessary element for continued success or for preventing a downward spiral. It requires us to look at what we have done, whether or not it is working, and why. In a traditional work context, feedback refers to information received from a manager or supervisor whose job it is to examine your work and share their expertise and knowledge about your performance. To be effective, feedback needs to be accurate, timely, and specifically address the cause-and-effect nature of your performance. Feedback that misses the mark on any of these three factors is ineffective and can start a spiral.
If you work on tasks, especially challenging ones where you have less knowledge or experience, it is crucial for you to receive effective feedback. Assert your needs and focus on clear communication between you and your boss.
Task Uncertainty and Complexity
When you are trying out a task that is completely new to you, your boss, or your organization, even the person to whom you report will not know the causal relationship of your performance to the outcome.
This ignorance means you are unlikely to receive the feedback you need. Similarly, when tasks are complex, there could be more than one cause-and-effect factor, which translates into less clarity and possible confusion. The less you understand about what leads to success, the higher your chances of failure, and the greater the likelihood of a spiral starting.
If you are working on an original project, keep expectations realistic. Expect to ride the wave of self-efficacy spirals and know that they are there to promote your long-term learning. Rather than becoming attached to your immediate results, stay focused on the big picture and prepare yourself for turbulence. If, however, your task is only new to you but has been done before, consider consulting with someone who has experience with it, even if it means finding a mentor outside your place of work.
Finally, Task Experience.
When experience is low, if you are successful in your attempt, you may make mistaken attributions for your success. This misinformation can lead you to take a wrong turn, or as mentioned earlier, to become overconfident, which can start a spiral. During this early period, the focus is on increased learning. You are learning about causality, what leads to success, what leads to failure, and why these relationships exist. Note that your self-efficacy is strongly affected by initial successes or failures. So the more you fail initially, for example, the weaker your self-efficacy beliefs and the lower you can expect your performance to be. With this in mind, avoid the trap of being too quickly influenced by early results. Focus instead on garnering more experience on a given task to prevent a negative spiral from starting.
After attempting a task a few times, you might enter a downward spiral if you meet any of these conditions: You receive inaccurate, untimely, or unspecific feedback; you are uncertain about the cause-and-effect nature of a task or the task is complex; or you lack experience related to the task at hand. The opposite of these conditions can contribute to an upward spiral. Given this knowledge, you can be mindful of how to handle yourself at work and what to ask for to perform to the best of your abilities. By focusing on learning rather than on the outcome, you can increase your overall performance over time.
Now that you understand what to look out for, grab a copy of The 7E Solution to Burnout to find out the 4 factors that keep spirals going, how to stop a downward spiral, and the 9 strategies to reverse a spiral.
Go to www.7esolution.com to find out more or pick your a copy on Amazon.
In the meantime, have a productive week, everyone, and I’ll see you next time.