Hockey and basketball fans love May because it’s playoff time. Gunning for a championship, mega-stars dazzle us with their amazing ability to rise to the occasion and thrive under intense competitive pressure. But every year we see this curious phenomenon -some athletes deliver their best performances when the stakes are the highest, while others fold under the same pressure. Why is it that some play better when the stakes are higher, the time is tighter, the crowds are louder?
Business leaders and professionals also do this. In the movie, Schindler’s List, Oskar Schindler gradually becomes concerned for his Jewish workforce after witnessing their persecution by the Nazis. He ultimately creates a clever rouse to save hundreds of Jews from concentration camps and death. Schindler demonstrates his remarkable ability to thrive under Nazi adversity and pressure. However, what many people do not know is that after the war Schindler led a rather unremarkable life. One would think if he could survive the Nazis, surely he would flourish once they were gone. But after the war he never did anything of significance and his business career eventually ended in bankruptcy. Like athletes who thrive during the playoffs, some business executives are uniquely wired to excel in the midst of challenges, obstacles, or handicaps. But take away those obstacles and challenges, and their motivation fades.
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Business executives come in all shapes and sizes from a motivational perspective. Some perform best amid complications with mind-numbing details. Other executives thrive in new circumstances but flounder in routine situations. Still others reach impressive business goals leading a team, but under perform when more individualized performance is needed.
How about you? Do you know under which conditions you do your best work? Exactly what types of structure, support, pressure, and other factors influence your work results?
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Oskar Schindler apparently thrived under unique, high pressure circumstances. And without that pressure, his performance was marginal at best. How can you avoid Schindler’s descent into mediocrity? To maximize your business success, spend time analyzing the circumstances and situations in which you perform best. Then seek ways to put yourself in those situations as often as possible.
Think about your greatest business successes. How did you get started? Where were you? What was the situation? What was your role? What skills, actions, and decisions did you utilize that led to your success?
I know an executive who excels at assessing organizational problems, creating solutions to those problems, and vastly improving his company’s performance. But once he has built the solution he’s done. He lacks the motivation to manage what he’s created and keep it going. He realizes he needs to move to a new challenge once he’s resolve an issue. He understands his strengths and gladly hands over the reins to someone who has a track record of success in managing existing programs.
So again, think about the set of circumstances you thrive in. Are you best in a crisis? Do you excel in a team environment? Do you need time alone to prepare? Does process and procedure-driven work bring out the best in you? Do you succeed only when there’s a high level of structure or only when the structure is loose? Do you work best when you must focus on one specific definable goal or when you are juggling multiple, competing priorities?
When performing SIMA assessments we encourage executives to recall everything they can about the circumstances surrounding their successes. We challenge them to get as specific as possible. Some check with business associates to hear their memories of the situation. Then we help them dissect those successes so to reveal the precise conditions under which they thrive. Once executives have a clear picture of the ideal circumstances in which their talents shine, we challenge them to look for ways to find similar situations in the future.
Four Business Success Aspects To Understand
Based upon our observations of thousands of executives, we find at least four aspects to the circumstances surrounding each successful experience:
1. Triggers -What gets you started, catches your interest, or prompts you to action?
2. Sustainers – What keeps you interested and focused? What factors continue to fuel your energy, drive, and enthusiasm?
3. Structure -Do you work best with ground rules and time limits? Is your performance better in open ended situations? With others present or solo?
4. Results -What must you see or experience in order to feel you have accomplished your objective? What types of goals or results energize you?
Answering these questions about your successes will lead you to better understand your best use of your strengths in your current role as well as any future roles. You’ll gain insight into what must change for you to bring out the best in your work performance and the performance of your organization. You’ll learn to understand and recognize your greatest strengths. Your talents are enduring and unique. The best way for you to grow is by understanding and capitalizing on your greatest strengths.
SIMA® International is a worldwide group of consultants who use the proprietary assessment technology, SIMA®, to help our clients make the best possible “people decisions.”
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