Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What sets apart a great performer from a good one?

(Inspired by Rash’s article on Innovation at Kern)

I often get into discussions with my colleagues about what makes a good performer great. What are the characteristics that set apart one from the other? And, here I’m only referring to the intrinsic qualities and characteristics. I know there are loads of other external factors; but when working in a small high-performing innovation-driven company, the intrinsic factors play a critical role.

To begin with, I believe passion is the single most important thing that drives a great performer. Working without passion is working like a robot – mechanically. So what’s wrong with that? Nothing yet everything! Nothing because if you work like a robot, you deliver what is expected of you – you work optimally. And why everything because you “only” deliver as “expected” you are not motivated to exceed expectations. Since you are not passionate about your work, if any other variable goes wrong in your system, you collapse. If conditions change, you need to be re-programmed to change your orientation – essentially you depend heavily on instructions or external help to make things happen. You are not self-driven.

So why is this a problem? Well, from a philosophical standpoint this is a problem because you are not in charge of your life – you let life control you. From a practical standpoint, if you are not self-motivated, you do not grow. You stagnate. You grow only if a godfather or a guru takes charge of your life. But again, in absence of self-motivation, it’s your godfather or guru who grows by growing you - not you!

Another hallmark of a great performer is the urge to know the big picture. You have a choice. Either you are content just laying bricks as directed or you are curious to know the layout much before you lay the bricks. In case of the former, you do not care whether you are laying bricks for the bedroom, bathroom, apartment, amphitheatre, bridge or a stadium. You just stick to what you are told – lay bricks as per the blue print.

There is nothing wrong with this. You lay bricks day in and day out and master it. You do it for 2 years, 5 years, 10 years… what next? You become a great bricklayer and its perfectly fine if you are happy doing it. But in the bigger scheme of things, you are just a good performer. You cannot become a great performer because your focus is too narrow. You do not have bigger understanding of things. After 3-5 years of bricklaying, you must know what are blueprints, how are they designed, how does bricklaying change with change in the master blueprint. You need to be curious about how your brick laying makes a difference to the final outcome of the project. Only if you know the big picture, will you be motivated to think, dream, innovate, and ultimately be a great performer.


Rashmi said...

Many people pass through their working lives without thinking, just mechanically working.

An important distinguishing factor between great performers & mediocre performers is the desire to think. When you start thinking, you start questioning, you learn the big picture. You form your thoughts and beliefs. You develop the passion towards what you do.

So everytime we do something, lets just take a moment and think - Why?

Karthick said...

excellent has a great message.

Anonymous said...

Well said Geeta. I totally agree with you on having passion and getting the big picture to be a great performer. Apart from these two qualities, another quality that sets apart a great performer from the good one is a personal "vision and mission" statement. Revisiting this statement often keeps a person motivated all the times.

Geeta Bose said...

Thanks Rashmi, Karthick, and Ram.

I completely agree that a person should take charge of his or her own performance. This can come in only if they have the passion for it.

Yes Ram completely agree. Personal vision helps a person be on track and be focussed on his or her goals.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Geeta. I also feel "Empowerment" is another important factor that differentiates a great performer from the good one. When employees are empowered to take decisions, they naturally get motivated and their performance levels shoot up. I have seen this happening in my organization.