At InsideOut Development, we believe that everyone has the capacity to learn and perform at a higher level. A manager’s job is to draw that greatness out of employees—to maximize performance and draw out potential. Understanding the key elements of performance allows a coach to target their coaching and maximize effectiveness.
We’ve synthesized the four elements of performance into the Performance Wheel.
Understanding the Performance Wheel will allow coaches and individual contributors to identify how performance can be improved and use the GROW Model to make it happen.
A key element of performance is our Fire. Fire is our passion and drive to do something and to do it well. While it can seem difficult to control, it has a massive impact on our performance.
What does my energy or passion drive me to do?
Am I passionate enough to stay on task in the face of being ignored or criticized?
Am I willing to go the extra mile to demonstrate relevance?
Do I have enough energy to ensure that what I have to communicate will get heard?
Our passion and motivation to perform (and the antithesis: indifference) affect our performance. Social psychologists have performed dozens of studies related to this motivation. We call it “fire.”
The Psychology Behind Fire
Humans are naturally inclined to seek excitement. We have a genetic predisposition toward activities, mental or physical, that release dopamine. As described by the Association for Psychological Science, “a thirst for excitement is hidden in your genes.”
While this research is most commonly referenced in medical journals relating to the treatment of drug addiction, this same drive for sensation-seeking, deeply embedded in each of us, also pushes us to use our energy on the projects that excite us. We inherently spend more mental energy on projects we are passionate about.
Tim Gallwey, considered the founder of sport psychology and author of The Inner Game of Tennis, explains, “Natural focus occurs when the mind is interested. When this occurs, the mind is drawn irresistibly toward the object (or subject) of interest.”
We can leverage fire by maximizing our innate mental capacity to process information and attain goals when they are presented clearly and with logical, specific processes. Research done by psychologists Latham and Locke explains, “the clearer, more specific, and more challenging a goal is, the better one performs.”
Goal setting theory proposes that goals activate motivational mechanisms that stimulate performance, namely direction, effort, perseverance, and strategy. Real fire through proper goal-setting also creates an upward spiral of performance: the better we understand our goals, the more likely we are to achieve them, which increases our faith (see below) in our ability to achieve goals, so we set more ambitious goals in the future.
When people experience their own moments of insight, it creates sudden bursts of high-energy brain activity. It releases adrenaline-like and dopamine-like substances and creates new brain circuits that weren’t there before. As David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz explain: “Now because they create those circuits, they are energized by them, and they want to execute those circuits. They want to bring them alive in the world.”
Using the GROW Model® to maximize Fire
Fire can be the most difficult element of performance to influence. The GROW Model is a problem-solving framework that enables people to make decisions, commit to action, and produce results. It can be used to break down problems and discover where we’re getting stuck. It can be leveraged by a performer personally or by a trusted coach. It can be used to identify a lack of Fire and develop a method to build Fire around a task or navigate through a task.
Once an employee has identified a lack of Fire, their manager can begin framing tasks in a way that stokes Fire. They can also work with their teams to distribute tasks among performers that will maximize the Fire in each team member.
An organization with Fire has a positive energy directed toward the accomplishment of the purpose of the organization. An organization without Fire is filled with apathy, lack of interest, and resigned compliance (rather than enthused commitment). What energy exists is often turned into negative fire, which is manifest in politicking, backbiting, and criticizing.
Fire is about energy, passion, commitment, and going the extra mile. Your fire as a leader is the model for your employees. So it’s going to be very hard to have engaged employees if you are not engaged yourself. If your own Fire is an issue, then dealing with that is the first priority and getting help (often in the form of coaching) is a good place to start.
Fire is a key driver of performance, but it is only one element of performance. Performance is also impacted by knowledge, faith, and focus. Learn more about these elements of performance in the links below.