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Saturday, October 13, 2012

If you do not grow mentally, your work performance dips sooner or later

We have seen how tennis players playing brilliantly and winning the same points as their opponents, still lose the match. Similarly, the gap between work-output and the resulting outcome in some professional's life is too big. Despite being excellent technically and cognitively, they tend to suffer from poor outcomes in terms of rewards, reputation or promotion.  They could be intense in their desire to produce something; they also could be committed; but somehow the final result eludes them. Bridging this gap of output and outcome is possible with mental growth. Let us see how. 

If you have to bridge this yawning gap between your efforts and results, you have to stop thinking about improving your technical skill, cognitive skill, or sports skill ; you have to increase your tactical skill and grow mentally.   

First key to bridge the gap between output and results is Tactical skill 

One of the simplest direct way of bridging the gap between output and outcome is gaining tactical knowledge of the situation: the knowledge of what to do in a current job. Not trying to do everything, but doing something that matters at the time.  Tactical knowledge is the knowledge of determining the type of action to do and the timing of when to do them in your job. 


In his interview, Andy Murray writes this about tactical knowledge. He said "When I was young, my tactical knowledge, knowing how to win matches, was always one of my best attributes." This is a key attribute of winning a match.  Some players take years to learn this skill. Cricketers call this this the gift of 'shot selection'. In music and entertainment industry, it is called the gift of 'deciding whom to work for what'.

The same is true for corporate professionals. Corporate professionals also have to learn this skill. This skill looks very intuitive and innate. But one can learn this intuitive skill by learning systems thinking. One can understand the metasystems of one's job and find how to use the interdependencies of the job to produce outputs that matter.  We have seen how a corporate professional can learn this intuitive skill some time back.

Second key in bridging the gap between output and outcome is Mental growth

Second key  is growing mentally. If you are wondering  how 'mental growth' helps in producing any 'concrete results' in the real world of action and performance, here is what Andy Murray said about mental growth helped him win his first Grand Slam Open. 

Murray said that  the key thing he has picked up from Alexis Castorri, his psychologist from Florida ( in the above mentioned interview), is "learning how to deal with people a little bit better". You must be wondering how dealing with people helped Andy Murray in improving his on-court performance ! This is what Andy Murray had to say, "When my mind isn't free of everything, when things might be frustrating me away from the court, I can't focus as well as I need to. But when my mind's clear, I can go on the court and play, not worry about anything else. I can play much better and think a lot better on the court."

In other words, by avoiding distractions, mind learns to focus.  And gaining focus is the key to produce excellence. Gaining focus is not about doing something directly related to work, it is about using your mind effectively. If you watch yourself during the day, you will often observe that hundreds of thoughts fleet in the mind. Psychologists tell us that about '60,000' thoughts stream in our mind during the day. So our mind is constantly distracted by these thoughts. In the case of Andy Murray, his psychologist  perhaps found that Murray was distracted more because of his people relationships.  The psychologist therefore helped him remove that distraction, which indirectly helped him gain focus in his on-court time! In your case, if you are distracted by something, your mental work helps you keep those distractions away. Some of the distractions are subtle, like in Andy Murray's case, while sometimes the distractions may be large. You have to find that out in your case!

One of the key aspect of work performance of a corporate professional is taking better decisions in corporate world. We have seen how successful corporate professionals and entrepreneurs can manage to keep their focus in taking important decisions by managing the depletion of their mental energy.  

Another common way to gain focus on performance, is to reduce the stress of performance. For a tennis player, sports psychologist help tennis players in reducing their stress by helping them manage their disappointment after a point is lost, increasing focus on the first game of a new set, tackling the frustration of losing a point which was almost won, keeping focus with a player of lower ranking and so on. We have seen how corporate professionals can also manage their stress.   

Summary

Mental growth indirectly improves work-performance and excellence by reducing outside distractions; gaining focus on a chosen task by channelising mental energies smartly, and by helping one manage stress of the work-performance better.  I have seen professionals spend extraordinary energy and efforts to learn the technical and cognitive skills, but completely ignore the development of mental growth. Only when they do not get the desire rewards and outcomes from their work-performance, they approach a coach like me. If professionals however learn to grow mentally , in parallel with their intellectual pursuits, it will save them lot of efforts and tons of disappointment and frustration. What are you doing in your life? 

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