Article

Ingredients for high performance

Ingredients for high performance

In an earlier article titled Targeted Selection (Issue of ICT Connect July 2021), I had discussed  how one might  target the right candidate when interviewing for a position. In this article, I elaborate some of the key ingredients for the right attitude which could indicate a potential candidate for high performance.

When we talk about high performance, the first key ingredient is, knowledge in the domain and familiarity with the systems and procedures. However, certain other skills are necessary too and follow close behind.

These supplementary skills, values and virtues that enable the knowledge and familiarity that one should possess, to get translated into high performance. Often, these enablers are important, as it constitutes true ingredients, which would differentiate the performers from the rest.

More than the knowledge on technology, domain, systems, and procedures, it is these enablers that needs to be prioritized when searching for the ideal candidate.

Learning

When looking for the right candidate for recruitment, interviewers often focus on the knowledge, skills and experiences that relate to the domain of work. Despite, knowledge could be built by learning from texts, articles and practicing the knowledge built thus.

No candidate ever possesses the exact domain and system knowledge that they would have to work in, unless they have been a part of the same organization before. Every candidate would be new to the system and they need to learn a lot before they become fully productive.

Every employee requires some time to become productive – the duration might differ, based on three factors:

  1. The knowledge-gap that is to be filled (the vertical axis of the learning curve)
  2. The ability to learn.
  3. The speed and thoroughness with which learning happens (the horizontal axis of the learning curve).

The candidates with the right learning skills and attitude to learn would be able to manage larger knowledge gaps in less time.

In such a case, is it not worthwhile to look for a higher learning aptitude in a candidate than the right kind of knowledge? A person with a high learning aptitude can also be expected to keep abreast of the changes in technology and evolution of the system more easily.

Communication

Many tasks require interaction with other people. Hence, communication plays a crucial role in every organization for every employee.

Communication consists of two parts:

  1. Speaking
  2. Listening

Speaking gets a larger focus in many of the communication workshops. It is important to convey a message in a clear and precise manner – precision is no less important than clarity, and both are more important than fluency.

However, the heart of good communication lies in listening. When we speak, we convey what we know to others. But when we listen, we learn something new. An ideal communicator speaks less and listens more. This is called as “Active Listening”.

Active listening requires us to give our 100% to the speaker, paraphrasing our understanding and raising pertinent questions with an intent to understand the content of the communication.

Many leadership coaches recommend few crucial practices to enhance the quality of our listening, be it in one-to-one communication, or in a group meeting.

  • The first is to allow the speaker to speak without attempting to interrupt them in any manner. If we need to counter a point, we need to note down the points in a notepad and then counter them with those points once the speaker finishes off their speech.
  • A positive approach to active listening is, to summarize the other’s point before expounding upon it.
  • When countering a speaker’s point, allow your thoughts to pass through some mental filters before you venture to talk about it
    • Am I going to say something new or different, or do I simply wish to stroke my ego by bringing up this point? Am I going to say something, which is going to add value to the discussion?
    • Am I agreeing to the point that was brought up by the previous speaker? Two words “But” and “However” - these are words which would be best to avoid during conversation.

When looking for the right candidate, the best interview is where the interviewer talks for a little time and the candidate does most of the talking.

Allowing candidates to talk is the best way to know more about them, their communication abilities, and the skills that they are likely to bring to the organization.

Commitment

The ability to learn quickly and to communicate brings the ability to gain the right knowledge at the right time. However, unless this is backed by a commitment to the goal, this skill is of no value.

An ability to prioritize one’s goals over everything else is commitment. Taking ownership is required to reach the goal, and it shows commitment towards the goal. It would be like taking accountability for the goal. Reaching the goal means leveraging the strengths that others have to offer; it involves sharing and delegating.

Team over Self

Everyone has his or her own agenda when working on a given task. The agenda is their goal, or, at the very least, what they hope to leverage from the task. When working as a team, it could lead to contradictions between the agenda of the individuals and that of the team. What required is, not prioritizing one’s goal over the other, but more essential is to tailor the goals in a way that the individual goal is aligned significantly with the team’s goals.

How the candidate is generously acknowledging the role of the team in achievements? How do they place “I” and “We” and how the person represents the details while crediting the team as appropriate can give a good indication of the person as a Team-worker?

As much as sharing the credit with the team, teamwork also reflects on how as a senior member or manager, one can take the responsibility for any shortcomings and failures and not pass the blame around.

Consistency

All the ingredients that we have been discussing so far should be practiced consistently, so that high performance becomes unattainable. Consistency in approach is essential, which requires a lot of discipline in working and in approach. Consistency is important to create trust among stakeholders and co-workers.

In conclusion

Though knowledge, technology and practical experience are very important for success, the right attitude is more significant when it comes to high performance. With the right attitude, any gaps in knowledge and practice can be overcome. Lack of it, however, creates a void that is detrimental to the team and the organization as much as to the individual.

About the Author

Dr. Anand Lakshmanan is a Senior-Member of IEEE, a Technologist and an Organization builder. He is currently pursuing advisory and consulting roles for EdTech companies, and member of curriculum committee and Senate in Institutes of National repute.