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Posted by on Feb 2, 2010

Are you a producer, or a performer?

We all know what a producer is: gets the job done, churns out product, is a volume operator. You can be sure there’s a check-mark next to the task.

We may not be so sure about what a performer is. What exactly is performance, anyway? What does the term really mean?

An example helps explain the difference. Let’s say you are in charge of developing new software for internal users. You can produce that software (and go ahead, check that box), but for many of us who have lived through software deployment or upgrades, the real question is: is the software good? Does it make work faster? Is it easier to use? Does it create better reports? How elegantly and intuitively is the interface designed?

Two companies – Apple and Google – are examples of performers, not just producers. Apple is legendary for its performance in intuitive, easy and even fun software. Google’s main search page is still just one text box. That’s easy for users. That’s performance. (Look at your television’s remote control buttons for a study in contrast.)

Any time you experience a product or service that isn’t very good, the provider can technically (and correctly) say, “We produced it. We got it done.” And they did. It was just a bad interface, remote control, car, pizza, learning session, invoice or any other good or service.

The point is, the entire economy is moving from production to performance. More and more, work today is about performance – high performance, true performance — not production. It’s a higher standard.

For leaders, the challenge is in instilling an ethic around performance. Fortunately, there is one very easy, enjoyable and powerful way to do this. Everyone likes it. That move is to simply recognize great performance. Talk about, highlight, underscore, brag on and show excitement when great performance occurs. This is one of the most overlooked opportunities in leadership. Sometimes people fear others will get a “big head.” Or, they say that’s what people are paid to do, so why say anything? Astounding, but true.

Promote performance.

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