Thursday, 13 December 2012

More Counter-Intuition

Why are talents often driven by counter-intuitive rules?

Simply, because they're not your rules, so they aren't obvious. They seem counter-intuitive because they're contrary to your intuition. But to the high performer, they seem completely logical.

Looking deeper than that, we can observe that the results of a talent, such as outstanding sales or customer service performance, are not the goal of the role model, they are merely the observable results or measures. High performers don't set out to be high performers, they just set out to do what they believe is best, and the external environment takes care of the rest.

A high performer's rules are always internally referenced, meaning that their point of reference is always within themselves. They provide the benchmark for success or the motive for the behaviour. Not the trigger, but the motive. A high performer's behaviour is therefore independent of circumstances. They will treat all customers with respect because that is the right thing to do.

An average performer typically operates from externally referenced rules, so they only respect customers when someone's watching, or when they feel like it, or when the customer seems important. Average performers can't improvise and adapt because they don't share the same underlying motive as the high performer.

As humans, we tend to project our inner thoughts and feelings out onto the world. A school of philosophy says that our external reality is completely made up of such projections. Another, opposing school of thought says that external reality is a stage and we place ourselves as players upon it.

There is a great deal of scientific evidence to suggest that both may be true, depending on the situation. We already know that children create mental maps of the world beyond a certain stage of development, and we already know that people do indeed project their thoughts and feelings onto others in order to resolve internal conflict.

For example, someone might completely over-react to what a colleague says to them. In their minds, they distort what the colleague says so that their memory fits their reaction, rather than accepting that they over-reacted. Arrogance drives projection, in their case. The constant is that they are always right, the variable is their ability to distort their perception of reality and their working assumption is that no-one will question or stand up to them.

I said that high performers work from internally referenced rules, and that means that they tend to project those rules outwards onto other people. That's why, when you ask a high performer how they're able to do what they do, they say, "I don't know, doesn't everyone do it?"

Of course, they observe other people not getting the same results as them, and they often attribute this to luck. They say, "Well everyone does what I do, I must just be lucky". Conversely, the average performer blames luck for their inconsistent results.

The high performer is largely unaware of these rules, and when we model that person and bring those rules to the surface, they can seem counter-intuitive.

In fact, when you put yourself into the high performer's shoes, those rules make complete sense.

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