A slip in performance has worker wondering what to do next.
Q: In all my past positions, I was recognized as a top performer. But after changing roles a couple of years ago, I am struggling a bit. I don’t like being middle of the pack; what should I do? — Michelle, 52, assistant vice president, strategic planning
A: Let curiosity guide you into an understanding of the causes of your current performance and solutions to help you move forward.
To start, what’s different now? Did you take on a new level of responsibility? A different type of task? A more (or less) technical role? Change requires adaptation, so if you are trying to rely on your old skills to succeed in a new type of role, this may explain your relative lack of success. This may be especially true if you went from a technical position to a more strategic one, or to one that relies more on leadership capabilities than content knowledge.
Spend some time thinking about your position. What would it take to excel? Consider three aspects: knowledge, attitudes and behaviors. Be specific about the characteristics of the optimal performer, thinking about others you may have observed in similar roles or feedback from your boss on what he expects.
Also consider if there’s anything holding you back. In particular, think about whether this new role suits you. You have to be committed to it in order to move from good enough to great.
If it’s not right for you, spend some energy considering your next steps.
Assuming that you are in it for the long haul, create a scorecard that assesses you — in a factual and nonjudgmental way — so that you can set priorities for growth. After all, you may have been selected for your new role based on excellence in some of these areas, but may not have had the opportunity to develop your capabilities in all of them.
And now? Hit the reset button. Give yourself a fresh start, focusing on new goals. Make a plan that helps you develop while also using your existing strengths. It’d be a good idea to get some outside perspective at this point. Your boss, trusted peers or a coach would be able to help you come up with a strong approach.
As you select items for attention, be specific about what you are going to do and the outcome you expect to get. For example, your role may call for you to be a more visible spokesperson for your company’s strategy. You may excel at developing strategy but be less comfortable on stage. In that case, one action item may pertain to building skills by working with a communication coach or participating in Toastmasters. Then assess whether this step is leading to a more assured presence in public, and adjust your action steps as needed.
This won’t necessarily be easy, since you’ve long since mastered the skills that come naturally. It will help to build in plenty of rewards and self-acknowledgment to help maintain your momentum. And look forward to that time when you achieve the level of performance that you seek.
Submit questions to Liz Reyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.