Leaders Balance Performance, Learning, and Enjoyment

I wrote about The Inner Game in last week’s post. Here’s one concept which bears further exploration.

The “work triangle” has three components:

Performance, Learning, and Enjoyment.

Image concept credit: Gallwey, W. T. (2001). The Inner Game of Work. Random House.

Gallwey’s premise is that we achieve our best work when Performance, Enjoyment, and Learning are balanced. But most organizational cultures focus on Performance to a major degree.

What if leaders let go of Performance talk with their people a bit and focused more on Learning?

  • A focus on Learning builds Enjoyment, because when people learn how to master higher-level work, they enjoy their work more.
  • A focus on Learning builds flow. When we hit a state of flow where the difficulty of our work is at or slightly exceeds our capacity, we’re at a higher level of psychological flow.
  • Flow improves Performance. Being in “the zone” keeps us performing at a higher level.
  • High Performance engages people. When we know our work makes a difference, we stay more engaged.
  • Engagement drives Enjoyment. A higher level of connection causes us to more fully enjoy our work.
  • Then, it makes sense to have more discussions around Performance. When we are at our best, we’re more receptive to feedback.

This way of moving through Learning to Enjoyment to Performance is natural—it’s how we learned to walk, talk, drive, and master other life basics.

Focus on only one of these three areas is destructive.

Enjoyment – If all you try to do is make work “fun,” you run the risk of lowering standards. Your best people will become disillusioned, and your weakest will feel like they have permission to do bare minimums.

Learning – If all you do is teach, you’ll build lots of capacity, but without purpose. People want their time to be used wisely to get something accomplished.

Performance – If all you do is drive toward outcomes without a commitment to learning or enjoyment, engagement may drop. The “why” of the work may get obscured. Without an opportunity to chart their own path or get better at their work, people produce less.

Since our tendency is to focus a lot on Performance already, and focusing on Enjoyment first might make people suspicious, consider focusing more on Learning to kick-start this process.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

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