All Posts in Category: Performance Improvement


Vince Lombardi, the legendary football coach, emphasized to his players, “You’ve got to get it in your head before you can get it in your feet.” The same is true in business and inter-personal relationships. When you get it in your head – clearly, specifically, and succinctly, positive actions will follow.

Results come from actions and actions are determined by thoughts. When your thoughts are clear, you have a higher likelihood of getting the results you desire. At best, fuzzy thoughts produce fuzzy results. Usually fuzzy thoughts produce NO or POOR results. The clearer your goals, objectives, and expectations, the better your performance and results will be. The same is true for those you lead.

Clarity is important in one-on-one conversations, group presentations, training, writing goals, giving instructions, emails and reports, public relations, sales, customer service and most aspects of business and personal relationships.

Lee Iacocca, former Chairman of Chrysler Corporation, said, “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get those ideas across, they don’t do anybody any good.” To get your ideas across, carefully choose your words, phrasing, tone and inflection. How a word or phrase is spoken can dramatically impact your message and affect the thinking (clear or fuzzy) of your audience.

Just as weeds choke out a garden and don’t allow the plants to grow, your team members won’t grow and productivity and effectiveness will be diminished by “mental clutter” or fuzzy thinking. You can stamp out “mental clutter” by:

  1. Capturing your thoughts in writing;
  2. Having a written goals program with action steps;
  3. Distributing written expectations; and
  4. Clarifying priorities for yourself and those you lead.

Fuzzy thoughts and “mental clutter” are conditions that will drain your energy and contribute to worry, indecision, and procrastination. Clear thoughts will generate energy, stimulate action, and produce results. Clear thoughts will also enhance communication, increase motivation, and reduce mistakes and frustration.

Clear Thoughts Produce Clear Results    

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Travel the Seven C’s to Improved Results

It’s been said that success is a journey, not a destination. Improving the 7 C’s listed below will help you on your journey to personal and business success.

  1. Communication. Our ability to communicate can make or break relationships and our relationships can make or break our performance and results. Relationships are built on trust and trust is developed over time.
    Whenever two or more people make contact, communication occurs. It can occur in person, by phone, email, voice mail, video conference, at meetings or conferences, or at speeches or workshops. Communication is the exchange of thoughts, messages, feelings, goals, or information. The key word is exchange. Unless an exchange takes place, communication hasn’t occurred. The corollary to ”If the learner didn’t learn, the teacher didn’t teach” is “If the receiver didn’t fully receive, the sender didn’t send effectively.” Whether you are the sender or receiver in a communication, being an intentional communicator will pay big dividends.
  2. Clarity. Performance is determined by behavior and behavior is determined by thoughts. The clearer the thoughts the higher the likelihood of better performance and results. Fuzzy thoughts produce fuzzy results, at best. Usually fuzzy thoughts produce NO or POOR results. The clearer we are with our goals, objectives, and expectations, the better the performance and results.
  3. Continuous Improvement. There will be no improvement without change. For performance and results to improve, people have to improve, i.e. change. It is common for people to want results to improve without having to change. Doing the same things and expecting different results has been described as the definition of insanity.
  4. Commitment. Without commitment there is hesitancy, procrastination, inaction, and low or no results. With commitment goals can be achieved and expectations met.
  5. Cooperation. Very few goals can be accomplished without cooperation or teamwork. Getting people to cooperate and work as a team is critical to achievement and success.
  6. Consistency. Successful, productive people form the habit of being consistent on the basics, i.e. those activities and behaviors that produce the desired results. Set up systems and scorecards to reinforce and enable consistent performance.
  7. Coaching. Most people cannot improve significantly without the help of a coach who gives encouragement, feedback, training, and support. Be that kind of coach, be clear with your goals and expectations, encourage continuous improvement, get commitments and manage to them, create an environment where cooperation is the norm, be consistent in all you do, and you will enjoy outstanding performance and results.

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How to Keep Your Goals Alive

Set low goals and raise them gradually. This creates a sense of winning which will boost self-confidence, self-image, self-esteem, and enthusiasm for new and larger goals.

Break large goals into bite-size chunks. Large goals can be motivating and overwhelming at the same time. Breaking them into smaller goals will stimulate motivation without overwhelming you.

Keep score. What gets measured, tracked, and reported gets done. The way you keep score can be as simple as hash marks, a barometer, a graph, or other symbols.

Schedule specific action steps. When you put things on your calendar, in specific time slots, you are more likely to act on them.

Set priorities. Tackle the most important action steps first.

Make public commitments. Let people who support you and your goals know what your goals are and what you are doing, or have done, to achieve them.

Ask for help if you need it. In the same vein that you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take, you are not going to get much help with your goals unless you ask for it.

Use affirmations. An affirmation is a positive declaration stated as if it were true. Affirmations are tools to help you achieve a goal. They are not true or false. Your subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between fact and fantasy. It believes anything it is told. It is also a servomechanism that guides your thoughts and behaviors. You can program your subconscious mind to develop the thoughts and behaviors necessary for the accomplishment of your goals.

Affirmations need to be written and read daily or memorized and recited daily. For best results, use the personal pronoun “I” and state your affirmations positively and in the present tense. Using the personal pronoun “I” addresses your subconscious mind.

Stating your affirmations positively is important because your mind grasps positives better than negatives. For example, if you want to adjust your weight, it is better to say, “I weigh 160 pounds” rather than “I will lose 20 pounds.” Or, another example is, “I am enjoying record-setting consecutive safe days” rather than “I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

Using the present tense takes advantage of the “act as if” principle. The subconscious mind responds well to positive, action-oriented commands. If you want to be happy, act happy; if you want to be enthusiastic, act enthusiastic; if you want to be energetic, act energetic.

Use visualization. Put pictures that symbolize your goal when it is accomplished in prominent places such as your desk, your bathroom mirror, your refrigerator, the dash or visor of your car, and/or any other place where you will see it regularly. Another technique is to create a “visualization board” out of poster board or cork board, and place it where you can see it regularly.

In a 1970s TV show, Flip Wilson’s character, Geraldine, said, “What you see, is what you get.” The same is true with your goals when you visualize them. The passenger side mirror on your car has a statement etched on the bottom portion that says: “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” The accomplishment of your goals will be closer than they appear when you use good visualization techniques.

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What do you want more of?

What do you want less of?

What do you want to improve?

Where do you want to go?

What do you want to do?

What do you want to learn?

Who would you like to meet?

What position would you like to hold?

What would you like to own?

What are your family goals?

What are your financial goals?

What are your mental goals?

What are your physical goals?

What are your social goals?

What are your spiritual goals?

What are your professional goals?

What are your personal development goals?

What are your earning goals?

What are your savings goals?

What are your investment goals?

What are your business goals?

Who would you like to help/serve?

What kind of lifestyle do you want?

What debts would you like to pay off?

What do you want to do for your children?

What do you want to do for your siblings?

What habits would you like to develop?

What would you like to do for recreation?

What kind of vacations would you like to take?

What kind of relationships do you want?

What skills would you like to develop?

What would you like to do for your community?

What is your passion?

How much would you like to weigh?

How much money would you like to earn?

What specific habits would you like to develop?

What specific habits would you like to change?

What kind of home would you like to own?

What improvements would you like to make in your current home?

What new hobby would you like to begin?

What pressures, stresses, or worries would you like to eliminate?

What civic activities would you like to get involved in?

What organizations would you like to join?

What spiritual qualities would you like to develop?

In what ways would you like to improve communication with family members?

In what ways would you like to improve communication with business associates?

If you had three unlimited wishes, what would you wish for?


The saddest words of tongue or pen are these…it might have been. John G. Whittier

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  1. Feedback is the foundation of all relationships. It affects the way people think, feel, act, and react. The quality of relationships is dependant on the quantity and quality of the feedback.
  1. Achievement requires continuous feedback.
  1. People would rather be inspired than fixed or corrected.
  1. In organizations real power and energy is generated through relationships.
  1. I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum capabilities.   Bob Nardelli
  1. Employees trade their performance for their coach’s appreciation, approval, and applause.
  1. Trust and communication are the two organizational problems listed most often by employee surveys. Any performance improvement program needs to address these two areas.
  1. One of the most valuable additions to a person’s life that a leader can provide is reassurance.
  1. Where there’s a lack of feedback, people will manufacture their own feedback, quite often based on their worst fears.
  1. It discourages people when they have to guess where you’re coming from every day.
  1. When you ignore people (intentionally or unintentionally) they will think you are uncaring, unconcerned, aloof, and/or arrogant.
  1. Be alert for people whose questions aren’t questions. They could be pleas for attention.
  1. There is nothing else that so kills the ambition of a person as criticism from superiors.  Charles Schwab
  1. Abilities wither under criticism. They blossom under encouragement. Dale Carnegie
  1. There is no such thing as constructive criticism. Dale Carnegie
  1. Negative criticism can cause: resentment, depression, anger and/or sabotage.
  1. People will sabotage your leadership if they feel alienated and under-appreciated.
  1. Without goals, people will just fight fires, work through emotional upsets, and worry about the dysfunctional behavior of other people.
  1. If you are a “babysitter”………… you’ll find “babies.”
    If you are a “problem-solver”……you’ll find “problems.”
    If you are a “firefighter”…………. you’ll find “fires.”
    If you are a “coach”………………you’ll find “players!”



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Goal Setting Principles and How to Apply Them

Goals need to…

Be written. Writing crystallizes thought and crystallized thought motivates action. Also, a short pencil is better than a long memory. When your goals are written, you can refer to them, communicate them, and create a front-of-the-mind awareness.

Be specific. The mind can focus on the concrete better than it can the abstract.

Be personal. You are more likely to take action on your own goals than you are someone else’s goals. When setting business goals, make sure you tie your “ownership” to each goal.

Be positive. Set goals on what you want to happen rather than what you don’t want. Focus on growth rather than just survival; retention rather than turnover; quality rather than defects; and safety rather than accidents.

Be measurable and contain a method for keeping score. Imagine that your goals are a sporting event. What will you put on the scoreboard during the contest or in the box scores the next day?

Be tangible and intangible. Whenever possible tie a tangible goal to each of your intangible goals and an intangible goal to each of your tangible goals. For example, if your tangible goal is to increase sales and/or profit by a specific amount, your supporting intangible goal might be to become a better coach so your people will perform better. The intangible goal to be a better coach can be supported by tangible goals that let you know that you are a better coach – for example, giving more positive feedback and less criticism or negative feedback.

Be long-range and short-range. Long-range goals give you direction and purpose. Short-range goals provide ongoing motivation and, many times, are steps toward long-range goals.

Have some stretch. If goals are too easy, they won’t motivate you and you may get bored. If goals are too difficult, they could cause stress and discouragement. For example, during a ring toss game, those who stood close and made almost every toss, soon got bored and quit. Those who stood too far away and missed almost every time, soon got discouraged and quit. Those who stood at a challenging distance were the most motivated and played the longest. Your reach should exceed your grasp for optimum motivation.

Contain action steps. Action steps become short-range or bite-sized goals and create motivation and momentum. The completion of each action step can be cause for celebration.

Have a timetable, including deadlines. Deadlines increase focus, concentration, and stick-to-it-tiveness. Use them to your advantage.

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  1. Decide what is really important to you and focus all your energy on achieving it.
  1. Invest your time wisely. Give top priority to activities that you enjoy and that will help you achieve your goals.
  1. Don’t be afraid to say no to requests which might distract you from what’s important to you.
  1. Keep track of how much time you spend on various activities. This will help you avoid time-wasters and focus on your goals.
  1. Don’t dwell on past failures or future problems. Take things one day at a time. Whenever possible, finish one task before beginning another.
  1. When you do fail, learn from the experience.
  1. Do it now. Procrastination can become a bad habit.
  1. Each evening, prepare a general schedule for the next day; approach each day in a relaxed way, letting things evolve naturally.
  1. Find your own solutions for handling stress.
  1. Don’t worry about “having a relationship” with another person. Find a common goal or activity and your relationship will grow naturally.
  1. Ultimately, what you accomplish results from your willingness to be true to yourself. Stick to what you find most rewarding and your life will be more rewarding

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Twenty years ago I volunteered to coach my daughter’s fourth grade basketball team. That experience was so much fun I volunteered the next five years as well. It was a tremendous bonding experience with my daughter and I learned a lot about leadership, communication, motivation, time management and many other things that have served me well in my business and personal life.

The first day of practice I told those young girls that we only had four rules on our team:

1. Have fun
2. Do your best
3. Learn & Improve
4. Win

They enthusiastically agreed that having fun was our most important goal. They also agreed that doing their best would give them a sense of pride, which is a form of having fun, and that learning and improving was also important for having fun. I concluded this first “pep” talk by saying that from my experience it was always a whole lot more fun to win than it was to lose.

Years later it occurred to me that these same principles applied to business. When a friend of mine was promoted to president of a large employee-owned company many of his speeches included how important it was to have fun at work. One employee gave him a bumper sticker that asked the question “ARE WE HAVING FUN YET?” My friend had that bumper sticker prominently displayed near the door to his office. Through employee-ownership his company has enjoyed a ten fold increase in revenue and has been very successful in many other ways also. This is a great example of having fun and winning in the process.

Having fun isn’t about frivolous activity, it’s about having a passion and enthusiasm about your work in the same way you do about your hobbies or recreational pursuits. Be enthusiastic about and have a passion for your work and it will be more fun. Instill the same kind of “having fun” mentality in your team members and you’ll have even more fun.

Doing your best is more about excellence than perfection. When you do your best and you know it, energy is generated that allows you to do even more in the future. When you accept less than the best from yourself and those you lead, you and your team members miss out on this energy rush.

The legendary college basketball coach, John Wooden, said it best, “It’s what we learn after we know it all that really matters.” To be great at anything requires that you want to improve, set a goal to improve, get feedback on your performance, and practice purposely to improve. What do you want to improve about yourself and your leadership ability? What books are you reading? What CD’s are you listening to? What seminars are you attending? What skills are you purposely practicing? What talents are you developing – in yourself and those you direct?

And, finally, have you defined “winning” for yourself and your team in specific terms that can be put on a scoreboard? Is there a tracking system in place that gives you feedback on your performance and that of your team? If not, do whatever it takes to define winning and start keeping score.



When you encourage team members to do their best, help them learn and improve, and show them how to win individually and as a team, they will have more fun – and you will too.

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Reduce Interference to Improve Performance

There is always a gap between performance and potential. Sometimes it’s a
huge gap. Even in the most ordinary activity, no matter how good people are,
they can always do better…thus a performance gap.

Interference of some type is usually the cause of the gap between performance
and potential. To reduce this gap and increase performance, reduce the following
forms of interference:

  •  Fear (of losing, of winning, of making a fool of oneself)
  •  Lack of self-confidence
  •  Trying too hard
  •  Trying for perfection
  •  Trying to impress
  •  Anger and frustration
  •  Boredom
  •  A too busy mind

One way to reduce interference is to focus attention. When attention is focused a
person enters a mental state in which he/she can learn and improve. Anything
you, as a coach, can do to help people focus their attention will pay big dividends
in improved performance.

You can help a person perform at a higher level by working with the individual’s
capacity to learn. Your primary responsibility is to facilitate learning, not teach.

  1.  Start from the known (what the person knows and can prove about his/her current level of performance and/or ability) and move toward the unknown.
  2.  Have the person set a goal for improvement and establish a method for measuring progress and improvement.

Learning without achievement quickly exhausts one’s energy. Achievement
without learning soon becomes boring. Neither of these two outcomes will
encourage further learning and improvement.

Create an environment where the person has a good opportunity to win, gets
frequent feedback, and is aware of improvement and progress. Help the person
celebrate small successes and improvements as well as the large ones.


Excerpted from EFFECTIVE COACHING by Myles Downey

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Helping Team Members Become Goal Directed

One of the most important motivational techniques of a successful leader is goal setting that involves all team members. Without specific goals and carefully written plans to attain them, the success of your organization is left to chance. The future of your organization is far too important to be left to chance.

It begins with you. Unless you are goal-directed and create a goal-setting climate in all levels of your organization, most of your other leadership efforts will be in vain. You can’t effectively set goals for another person, but you can create a climate that encourages and develops goal-seeking attitudes. There are four basics of directing the goal setting of others:

First, team members must choose their own goals. To accomplish any goal, people must have a genuine commitment to it. When personal goals can be realized by accomplishing organizational goals, a higher motivational climate will exist.

Second, make it a challenge. Encourage team members to set goals and stretch themselves to do more than they have accomplished in the past. If a goal is to be motivating, some risk will be involved. Low goals don’t inspire people to use their full potential and be all they can be. Goals that are set high cause people to stretch, reach, grow, and use more of their full potential. As a result, they achieve more.

Third, establish a personal development philosophy. When you expect your team members to grow and develop more of their talents and abilities, you can also expect and accept shortcomings. After all, if your team members already had all the qualities you possess, they would probably already be in your position or in one comparable to it. Be willing to make allowances for occasional shortcomings, and avoid being too demanding. You will grow personally as you help your team members grow, and in effect, you will multiply yourself by building their leadership capacities. If, on the other hand, you have no tolerance for their shortcomings, you will in some form communicate this rejection to them, and they will gradually cease to set goals. The results will be the opposite of what you want to accomplish.

Fourth, give feedback on performance. Just as you’re better able to motivate yourself when you have periodic feedback on your performance, team members also need to know how they’re doing. Give them frequent feedback and make it as specific as possible. In doing so, you recharge the motivating forces that originally set them on a course toward their goals.

Goal setting is a prelude to action. Goal setting is dynamic. When you and your team members set and achieve goals on a regular basis, you increase your chances of success. At the same time, team members grow, develop and begin to use more of their talents and abilities.

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