Why High Performance can be Just Make Believe!

Why High Performance Can Just Be Make Believe - People Development Network
Why High Performance Can Just Be Make Believe - People Development Network
Mel Carnegie
Leadership development coach, speaker, author and creator of the DeNA Intensive Light-Up experience for the Conscious Leader. Re-connect and lead from the inside out!
Mel Carnegie
Mel Carnegie


High Performance Programmes are just make believe!

Over the years,  I’ve quietly rolled my eyes and shuddered in the face of training programmes that promise to increase people performance. For a long time, I put my response down to a personal quirk. A tick. A something that just didn’t make sense to me at the time. Working in the development industry myself for so long, I even asked whether perhaps it could be due to a sting of professional jealousy?

It’s only recently that I’ve finally understood the cause of my distaste. Because now I realise that the promise of high performance actually goes against my intrinsic values.

Confused? Yes, well so was I – so allow me to explain.

The fact is I’m tired. Tired of training courses, development programmes and business cultures that relentlessly focus on change and improvement. Tired of the need to add more skills and achieve more goals in order for people to be ‘good enough’ to achieve the promotion, the pay rise, or just as it actually turns out, to be accepted.

Because all these messages are actually telling people that they’re not good enough already. That they’re lacking in some way. That only once they achieve the next certificate, reach the next target, deliver the next report, they’ll have demonstrated success.

Some readers will recoil in indignation and scoff at this as a childishly simplistic way of looking at things. After all, where on earth would businesses be without measurements, skilled employees, and a common focus?

I totally agree that it’s important to keep track of progress – critical in fact. Surely you wouldn’t expect me to dismiss our requirements (in business and in life) to know what’s working well and what isn’t, and how to make adjustments as required? No, absolutely not.

What I AM saying, though, loud and clear and shouting from the rooftops if necessary, is that we have been putting our focus in the wrong places. I’m saying that even with the best of intentions, our efforts to increase productivity and improve success have often resulted in demotivation and confusion in the workplace. How many times have you seen people punching the air with excitement at the announcement of a change programme?

I’ve also learned over the years, that these similar messages are also often received in a performance programme – no matter how positive the intention in the first place.

Because performance is just that – a theatre. A show. The smell of the grease paint, the roar of the crowd. Something that is put on in order to receive applause from the crowd. Something that has to be ‘right’ in order to win approval. Because the lines must be learned, the movements perfected, and the bosses carried along by the performance. And it’s true, a great show can indeed reach out and touch the heart of the audience! But what if the show is being delivered by skilled actors who are only there because they’re being paid, and only until they find something better? That they’ve learned to do what it takes to please, because they know they’re being measured on delivering a script – rather than on sharing their true creative spirit?

This is why performance programmes are just make believe. They can unintentionally give people the message that they’re not good enough, and thereby create actors who deliver to a script. This is not the truth.

What if we instead learn how to encourage true creativity, expansion, engagement and productivity? What if we applaud the unique skills that everyone has, and spur people on to fulfil their potential – day in, day out, in every business?

This is the heart and soul of what I now know to be the truth – in life, in learning, and in sharing the magic that I’ve found exists in all of us. That same magic that over the years has been squashed, shaped, put down and discarded for too long – simply because we’ve been misguided!

It’s time to unlearn what we’ve been taught about leadership, education, life and reality. It took me nearly half a century to realise the truth. Are you going to wait as long as I did before you claim your identity and live life to the full, or allow yourself to wonder whether there might be a better way…?