The “Cons” of Personal Performance

This post is updated from work originally posted on the Gartner blog network. You can find the original post here.  

A bit of a different style post from me, driven by a couple of things.  First, my daughter complained that I have not used her in an analogy in any of my posts lately (here you go, Alix).  Second, since it is performance review season, I was reflecting on just how much I love my job.  So, here goes.

My daughter is in medical school at UNC Chapel Hill (father brag).  It is a great school and Alix obviously has to be talented to go there.  She talks a lot about how much she loves it and you can see it in her eyes and whole demeanor.  At the same time, she has to make a lot of decisions for the future.  What she wants to focus on…where she wants to target for residency…and where to target for “rotations.”  Because of her relative lack of experience, I find her questioning her thought process on these (and to some extent creating what I think is needless stress) repeatedly.   I try to support her by saying “Trust your instincts.  You’ve done the research, stop agonizing.  It will all work out.”  I hope it’s helping, but I think some of her belief in herself will develop over time—the value of experience.

Shift to me.   For most of my work life, I have really liked the jobs and the companies I work for.   I can easily say that my current role at Gartner is my favorite.  I can’t think of one minute of one day since I have been here that I would want to do anything else.    I plan to be here for as long as the company and the clients I work with want me.

I contrast that to what was the one “dark point” in my work life.   I was working at a company that I never really fit in.    The leadership team that I worked for approached things in ways that conflicted with my own personal beliefs and approach.   I felt like I was a square peg being forced to fit into a round hole.   It was  a few years of me being miserable–and my family and friends knew it.  (Frankly, many of them expected it when I took the job, but I thought “it will be different for me” –and I needed a job.)

When I finally left, everything changed.  I was at a company that I believed in and had very supportive management.   But I was still “scarred”–work wise.  I constantly asked for permission and validation (“Is this what you wanted?”, “Am I on the right track?”, “I can do something different if you want”).   After a few months, my manger said to me, “Hank, I trust you.  Stop asking for permission and just do it.”   That was the point where I feel like everything shifted for me (Thanks, Sydney) and I was back on a positive career path.

So, with all that melodrama behind (thanks for your patience reading that–if I still have you), what do I mean by the “Cons” of personal performance.    To me, there are three:

Confidence – The first is confidence.  You have to believe in your self, your experience, and your abilities.  If you don’t believe in yourself, it is hard to provide value. Confidence is a critical thing–as long as it doesn’t turn into arrogance.  Even if you “know you are good”, you can always learn from others—regardless of their background, education, experience, or intellect.   When confidence turns to arrogance, you stop listening and stop learning.  I often think about this and hope that I don’t  cross the scale to arrogance (and if I do, I hope others tell me so I can pull it back). 

Confirmation – This goes hand in had with confidence.   Confirmation is others validating the confidence you place in your  self.  During my “dark days”, I got no confirmation from management.  In fact, it felt like just the opposite.   I got some from my peers, which helped, but I went from being a very confident person to regularly doubting my abilities (and my future career).   So, while confirmation can come from a lot of places, from a job perspective, it has to come from your management.  If they don’t support you, all the peer or client support doesn’t matter.   One of the reasons I love Gartner is that my manager(s) are very supportive.   Furthermore, Gartner makes it easy to get confirmation as there are performance metrics that are tracked based on everything you deliver–and you get the feedback directly from clients as to whether you are providing value or not (thanks to all of you who provide ratings–keep them coming and keep them authentic). 

Congruence – Okay, it’s a “fancy word”, but I needed a “con.”   Basically, this is about being on the same page as the company your work for.   Belief in the product, the values, and the ethics.   Without congruence, confidence goes down and confirmation is unlikely.   My advice to anyone is to invest your energies in targeting companies that you want to work for because you are passionate about their products or services and would be proud to say you work there.

There you go, my “cons” of performance.   Final thoughts—if you are missing any of these three elements from your work life, it is time to move on.  It may take some time, but start the process now.   Focus on companies where there is congruence and the role is something you are confident you can excel at (or feel you can build or rebuild that confidence).  Then as you interview, evaluate whether the management approach (and your manager specifically) is oriented toward confirmation.

If you find the combination of the three, you’ll be happy.   I’ve never been happier — and my friends and family tell me it shows all the time.  (And, if you made it this far in the post, thanks for bearing with me.  Alix–my message to you.  No need to doubt yourself.  Do the research, trust your instincts, and go for what you think from there.).

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