Imagine what it would be like if you could function all the time at the level of your full potential. You would be able to achieve far more than you do at the moment, you would feel satisfied that you are truly being the best that you can be and you would regard yourself as successful.
There is no knowing what the limits of human potential are, but we are certain that most of us are not living up to our potential. One person’s potential may differ from another’s, so the possibilities for each of us vary – but whatever the possibilities are, many of us are functioning below our potential.
Our potential performance level can be inhibited by a number of factors which, when allowed to get in the way, produce our actual performance. In other words our real performance is equivalent to our potential minus the interferences.
To improve our performance, or the performance of our team, we have to answer two questions: What are the interferences and how do we respond to them?
Interferences can be categorized into physical interferences and personal interferences. Physical interferences have to do with the work environment and company structure. A planner might be slowed down in her work efficiency because her computer screen is in the wrong place and she is struggling to read it. Or a manager who oversees customer refunds needs to get permission from a senior manager at head office for every refund, which slows down service and irritates the customer. These are both examples of physical interferences which prevent the person functioning at their peak potential.
More often, however, the interferences are personal. Personal interferences are those that have to do with skill or attitude. While it is possible to identify and correct a skill problem, the most difficult interferences to overcome are those that require a change in attitude. In fact, the wrong attitude can even make skills training difficult as the person may learn and master the skill but, for whatever reason, choose not to use it to gain optimal efficiency.
In terms of performance, we can become our own worst enemies. Those things which prevent us from performing at anywhere near our potential are often our own creations. And while changing an attitude may sound a simple thing to do, it is actually very difficult. Our attitudes become entrenched over many years of practice until finally they become our default mode of approaching life. So when a certain set of circumstances fall into place, we respond in a predictable but not necessarily helpful way. It takes a lot of effort to undo those automatic responses and replace them with more helpful attitudes. Without doing that work, however, our less helpful attitudes remain an interference which detract from our potential and deliver performance which is less than what it could be.
Awareness is the best weapon we have in our arsenal against poor performance caused by attitude. We need to be aware of what our default attitudes are, what the results of these attitudes are, what continued use of these attitudes will lead to and, most importantly, what attitude would be more appropriate in moving us toward attaining our potential. If we are not aware of our attitudes and their results we become their victims, never able to reach our potential and never sure of what is holding us back.
Awareness is developed through self observation, through asking questions about how we responded to given situations, how helpful our responses were, what attitudes and assumptions lay behind those responses and whether there might be a better understanding of the situation the next time it occurs.
Another way to develop awareness and shift attitudes is to find someone who can reflect your actions and attitudes back to you, help you to see them and their effects clearly and help you to think more carefully, clearly and effectively. This is essentially what a coach does. Just as sports players have coaches to help them see their game from an objective point of view and to think about it clearly, so a business or life coach helps a person to improve their thinking skills, examine their attitudes and the resulting behaviour and make the necessary adjustments to minimize interferences and live more closely to their potential.
If performing close to your potential is important to you, look at what interferences might be in the way. If you are able to think clearly through the issues and see things in a new light without being hampered by your default thinking patterns, you will have taken the first step to minimizing the interferences and bringing your performance more in line with your potential.