by Michael Holland    

“Here he comes.  Heading straight for my office for yet another ‘conversation’ about why he can’t get his work done in time for our meeting next week.  Again and again he just doesn’t come through.  And last week he left early one day.  I’m getting so tired of this routine.  He’s never going to make it.”

Oftentimes the successful performance in a role by someone who reports to you is based more on your perception of his or his performance than the actual work delivered.

Technically speaking, you have cognitive bias in the way you see traits, characteristics, and behaviors, which creates a halo of perception with regard to performance.

Practically speaking:  Your perception is driven by which lens you choose to use.

Positive Lens

Your positive lens filters your perception of performance with a beam of warmth like a bright spring morning.  Those little problems or mistakes do muck up progress but no one can be perfect all the time.  And growth comes with learning from mistakes and gaining wisdom.

Negative Lens

Your negative lens filters your perception of performance with a negative fog that envelopes your view of work being performed.  Every step, every task, every interaction, and every project seems to be less than satisfactory.

A difficult wisdom-building step for leaders is gaining the capability to ascertain the exact moment in time when the tipping point occurs in your frustration with an individual’s performance and you decide to change the lens from warmth to fog. Most leaders just seem to find themselves past the point of no return with fog engulfing the view of performance for an employee and anything he does never quite measures up.

Wise leaders gain the capability to ascertain the exact moment in time when the tipping point occurs in their frustration with an individual’s performance; when they’ve changed the lens from warmth to fog.

A self-fulfilling prophesy, (a declared truth which is actually false, but influences/confuses people regarding the behavior that ultimately fulfills the once-false prophecy) will undoubtedly play out and the employee will quickly find herself on the back end of a performance improvement plan.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • Who’s that one employee on your team who isn’t performing well.  As you think through your last several interactions, were you wearing a negative lens?  What would happen if you changed your lens?
  • Do you consciously decide when to place on the appropriate lens?  Is your lens choice impacted by your personal mood?
  • When in your career have you been basking in the sunshine and warmth with a boss?  Was the perception of your performance accurate?
  • When in your career have you found yourself in the desolation of the fog with a boss?  Was the perception of your performance accurate?