Tag Archives: excellence

Self Consciousness is Enemy of Excellent Performance

Self Consciousness is Enemy of Excellent Performance

I first heard this phrase when I was listening to a TED Talk (Fix the Broken).The context of the talk was more to do with the social impact of the US Legal System. I looked at it from the perspectives of Excellent Performance of the people in organization. Last week a senior leader of an organization was asking me is it possible for people to be outstanding all the time and if so how do they know that they are outstanding. The two events (listening to TED talk and the question from a leader) happened within a short span.

Excellence in performance is an outcome of several dimensions. Our system today has taught us on how to create a system of performance starting from goal setting to review. While these systems are great and are required, it is important to note that they work well for most people. Such system do not excite the outliers.

We have got used to insisting people to be careful in what they are doing; too much emphasis on need to watch every step. While these are necessary rather important for beginners and growing professionals, but can become a bottleneck for good professional to perform excellently.  The speaker gave an example of pianist. It struck the string well for me as I see my son playing his piece on Piano. He often come back after his performance and plays back the recorded version to know how he performed. He come out with his own fault.

There few important points that could be seen only if one looks for them

  1. While playing he does not even know how he is playing. He is not looking at the keys that he is striking.
  2. He gets appreciations from great musicians like A R Rahman for his performance. He is happy but he stills listens to his piece to find if he was happy and he declares the points where he could have done better or differently.
  3. There is a judgment that he applies on how he is playing from time to time. The judgment is never just on a key stroke, it is on overall aspects of his play.

I tried imagining what if he would have been focusing on each of the key stroke while performing. He may do so while learning or practicing but not during performance. This is possible only when, we do not keep telling him at every stage (read policing) to be careful. His teacher is critical about his output during rehearsals and practices. He has been explained about the program; occasion, likely guests, the piece, expected outcome etc. These are not even reminded during real performance.

In nutshell, his performance is possible because he is not “Self Conscious” while he is performing. The formulae for his excellence is now ready.

Is there any way we can see this happening to many on the management floor? This calls for a significant change in mangers to stop policing. The most important factor for this is that Managers would need to learn to TRUST their people.