I often talk about performance as that sweet spot between the upper control limit of vision (can’t see it, can’t do it) and the lower control limit of skills/behaviors (under pressure, one does not rise to the occasion one sinks to their level of training). Between those two limits is a person’s predictable level of performance. What sometimes gets missed in that discussion is that both limits can erode.
The erosion of skills/behaviors is easy to see. Take a couple weeks off from running and you will feel it immediately. Golfers need practice to keep their swing in good shape. Boxers who have not fought lately, call the resulting loss of experience fighting under pressure “ring rust.” A leader committed to better work/life balance can fall off the wagon and go back to trying to do too much.
Erosion of vision is harder to see, but also damaging. People can go through periods where they can see a lot potential for themselves or their team. They get excited about that new vision. Based on that elevated vision, they make plans for how they can grow. A few weeks or months later, they have not made the progress they hoped for. Leaders need to take care that after some brief elevation, their vision does not slowly regress back to where it was.
Why does vision erode? Common reasons include:
People simply get busy and forget. All the tactical pressures of the day come back and push out what now seems to be a lesser priority.
The inner critic’s opinion starts to prevail. A person may have a strong inner critic that questions their initial excitement and gets them to dumb down their expectations.
Lack of positive “peer pressure.” Hanging out with people that are not very interested in growth can undermine the effort consciously or unconsciously.
It got hard. It is easy to dream and imagine a different condition, but it is another thing to persevere to get a result. Sometimes people will take the fact that it is taking more effort than they thought as evidence that they should cut their expectations.
So how to keep vision from eroding?
- Keep it in front of you. Some people use reminders on post-it notes. Some people benefit from journaling on a regular basis. Some people use a physical reminder in their car or on their desk. Many leaders benefit from the positive pressure of public goals.
- Be aware of the impact of an over-active inner critic in yourself and others.
- Hang out with people that make it a habit to challenge themselves and others.
- Keep at it. Anything worthwhile will take effort. Keep working and do not let the tough slogging of today force you to recalibrate your future goal.
Have you recently thought you wanted to improve yourself or your team? If so, you experienced an elevation of vision. Did you make the progress you wanted? If not, it is possible you experienced an erosion in vision. We need to take care of that part of the process whether we are trying to be a better leader, a better athlete, or a better person.
[This time of year is an excellent time to refresh vision for what you would like to achieve in the coming year. Contact me to schedule a time to discuss the possibilities for your improved leadership or organizational impact.]