Performance: Not just a word or a cliché, but a CRITICAL CONCEPT.

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Performance: A Practice Five Reflection.

Performance is a word that is thrown about in many forums regarding professional capacity, service delivery and leadership. It has also become unfortunately associated with the concept of less than optimal employee engagement and results delivery; in those cases, the employee providing lacklustre engagement and results finds him or herself being “performance managed”.  On a more positive note, individuals and teams are often encouraged to “turn in a big performance”.

The word has almost become problematic, and persons keen to get to the essence of exceptional engagement and delivery would understandably consider whether “performance” is the best word to use, at times, or whether it has become tainted, clichéd, and compromised in meaning.

In the Practice Five framework, we have embraced PERFORMANCE to be much more than an oft used word.  We see it as a CRITICAL CONCEPT, and we take the position that if a practitioner and/or a leader really reflects on what “performance” means and what it can mean, they will be opening up a domain of excellence for themselves and their organisation.

We are interested in the dual meaning of “performance”.  It can be seen in at least two ways.  It can be seen to be “performance”, as in “per form”.  Further, it can be as “performance”, as performance is understood in cultural and sporting arenas.

To actually perform well, a practitioner or a leader has to do her or his job “per form”, i.e. they have to grasp both the essence and complexity of their position and the tasks involved, and to deliver the results expected in their position description. In short, they actually have to “do the job” and to “do it comprehensively” in the form that is designed.

And to perform, as in an artistic or sporting performance, requires that the performer involved demonstrates a high level of skill, not just in the execution of the tasks or demonstration of skill set, but also a capacity to adapt the performance appropriately to the changing conditions of their context. Done well, performance here becomes infused with flair and a personal sense of improvisation.

How do those two aspects of this critical concept become actualized in the occupational forum? Quite simply, a good performer does his or her job comprehensively, and also looks for opportunities to further explore the parameters and depth of their role and what it can be.  They look to improve their performance within the role, and of the role itself.  Individual contributors who do so demonstrate vision, and signal that they well may be good leaders in the future.  Leaders who do so, demonstrate why they are leaders.

Performance is a concept that invites thoughts of knowing your area of practice, identifying the key skills required, practising those skills constantly, demonstrating excellence, exploring and expanding what your role and its value can mean, and engaging with vision.  Performance is a critical concept, that when embraced, leads to exceptional engagement and service delivery.

Paul B. Gibney Ph.D.

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