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Mind the Gap: Performance vs. Perception

You may be familiar with the “Mind the Gap” slogan plastered all over London and its “Underground” subway system. This warning is to be aware that the space between the platform and the train can be a dangerous tripping hazard, and care must be taken when boarding.

Our own leadership should take the same care. We must be aware of our perceptions and any contrasts with reality. Often, leaders will think things are going well when they are not, or they think team members are performing when, in reality, they are missing the mark. This is the contrast between perception and performance. Many contributing factors are at play here. We may like the people on our team or have a vested interest in their success since we decided to hire them in the first place. Whatever the reason, it is important to separate emotion from intellect here and look at the actual behaviors and results being delivered.

Let’s look at a few tips here:

  • Define the metrics that equal your organizational Purpose. Ensure that you have developed a clear and compelling purpose and understand what specific behaviors will deliver it for each role on your team. Your team needs to know these expectations and use them as their guidelines for performance.

  • Measure, rank, and share the results. Being clear on the data is the critical piece here. Data, the objective facts, show the actual results being delivered and will point to the behaviors that produced them. Ranking and sharing these facts can be a powerful method to create self-accountability and healthy competition within the team. Don’t be afraid to share them. The team members, especially those in your A-Group, your top performers, will want to know where they stand and will be motivated by these numbers. At the same time, your underperforming C-Group needs to know where they stand and will be better prepared emotionally for your individual coaching.

  • Observe behaviors. Pay attention to the actual execution of your expectations. Use the metrics as objective clues to how each person is performing. Keep any subjectivity out of this step. Your role as a leader is to help your team perform, so don’t let personal feelings cloud this step. Compare and contrast the behaviors of your A-Group with the C-Group. What are those top performers doing, and what is missing from the bottom?

  • Coach the team. Using the metrics and your observations, create a teaching culture by coaching and developing the team on what is working. Course-correct poor behaviors and leverage your top people by having them work with underperformers. This peer-to-peer development helps to improve skills all around.

  • Model your expectations. Ensure that your own performance sets the standard for the team. You must always be an example to them and demonstrate that what you ask is important.

It is human nature to be drawn to people like us and who we enjoy being around. The gap with this, however, is when we let this perception cloud our overall objectivity, preventing us from taking the necessary steps to help our team improve. This can cause a massive performance gap and minimize our team’s potential.

Mind the Gap!


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