Change Behaviors, Change Performance


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Every organization is looking for the holy grail of performance enhancement, that one thing that, if it were changed even slightly, would push the productivity of a company way beyond the current level.

Over the years there have been many solutions offered to the performance conundrum, from process improvement and process re-engineering to rightsizing and quality initiatives. All of which have had varying levels of success.

One area that is perhaps overlooked when organizations undertake productivity and process improvement programs and that is the behaviors of their employees. Often the only time behavior becomes a focus in an organization is when there is a problem employee that must be dealt with.

Studies have shown that there is a 5-fold difference in productivity between a top performer and a mid-tier performer. The top performer is 5 times as effective as his colleague who performs as the organization would expect.

This study has been undertaken by a number of organizations in varying ways and all with similar results. The skills and experience of the individuals are comparable and the processes and procedures are the same so what makes the difference? The main difference between the top performer and the capable performer are their behaviors both on and off the job.

A number of key behaviors have been identified as desirable and can be seen within those who are peak performers in any organization and are the attributes that organizations on the whole try to recruit. However organizations often forget that many behaviors are learnt and that existing employees, with the right encouragement, can adopt these behaviors as their own and in the process see their effectiveness rise.

The 5 key behaviors for peak performance are:

Pro-active - Looking for things to change and making change happen. Much is talked of pro-activity however often it is difficult for individuals to be truly proactive within an organization as change can be actively discouraged by management who believe ‘they know best’.

Goal oriented - Set themselves targets to aim for. The key here is that they set themselves goals, often for just about every part of their lives. The peak performer in business may well be a marathon runner outside, or be a keen learner setting themselves targets to accomplish within certain timescales.

Willing to fail - Are ready to take calculated risks. The top performers in life are willing to try something even if there is a chance of it failing; often they see failure as a learning experience. Organizations who wish to improve their performance need to adopt a calculated risk policy and follow the quote of Tom Watson ‘If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate’.

Passion - Willing to stand up for what they believe in. The top performers will be passionate about the things in their lives, they may be passionate about sport, or their family or even about work. The important behavior is that they are willing to put everything else aside for their passion and have a total focus on what is important to their passion.

Emotionally Mature - Not swayed by the emotion of the moment and able to think beyond a reactive approach. Often organizations make the assumption that the most vocal individual is the one with the greatest ability; mainly this is due to the self promotion of the emotionally immature. This is recounted by the axiom ‘promoted beyond their level of competence’ where an individual is recognized not for capability but for self-promotion.

Many people have one or two of these behaviors and often they are context specific. The major difference between the average performer and the peak performer with regards to these attitudes is that the peak performer uses more of the behaviors in a work context.

The important thing to notice with all of these behaviors is that they can all be learned and therefore anyone can have them. And if anyone can have them then anyone can be a top performer. Which means that any organization could improve their productivity dramatically without touching a single working practice.

Now that really could be the holy grail of performance development.

More information regarding Organisational Change, Coaching and Performance Development can be found at

2005 © Achieving Greatness Ltd. All rights reserved.


PERMISSION TO REPUBLISH: This article may be republished provided attribution is provided to the author, and it appears with the included copyright, resource box and live web site link.

L Stuart Avery is the Managing Director of Achieving Greatness Ltd, an organisation dedicated to raising awareness around personal and management behaviours. Achieving Greatness specialises in offering advice and support to organisations going through change intitiatives and looking to enhance the performance of their staff. It provides training courses, facilitiation services and coaching to business leaders on Leadership, Management and Strategy.

Stuart has over 20 years of experience across a wide range of industries including Government, Charities, Retail, Travel, Insurance, IT Services and Logistics.

For more information visit


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