Are you worried that your performance may be tailing off?
When you first get hired, your managers see some spark in you. With proper mentoring and investment, you start to grow and improve.
Then, at some point you hit your stride and the danger begins. If you keep doing the same things in the same way you’ve always done them, you can become less effective over time.
Maybe others come along and innovate, or the marketplace wants something different, or the support system around you has changed.
Whatever the reason, it can be alarming when your results aren’t what you’d like them to be, whether that’s on an absolute basis or relative to rising expectations as you get more senior.
The question is, what can you do?
5 things you can do when your performance is declining
When you’re concerned that your performance is on a plateau or even declining, take a look at these lessons from J.D. Martinez, a Major League Baseball (MLB) player who struggled with his batting performance and did something constructive about it.
Be open to the truth
Start by taking a hard look at whether your performance has indeed stagnated or begun to slip, keeping in mind that the bar keeps getting higher each year. So, staying steady can mean falling behind relative to rising expectations.
In J.D.’s case, there are statistics that measure a batter’s performance. And while his stats were still good, they were beginning to decline.
Whether your performance is slipping on an absolute or relative basis, it’s time to face the truth. Only then can you take proper action to remedy it.
Change your swing
While it’s easy to conclude that you need to make a change, it’s not always obvious what kind of change you need to make. It’s even harder when you suspect the change needs to be something fundamental. Whether that’s learning new skills, taking on more challenging assignments or something that feels equally risky, these are decisions that you don’t want to take lightly.
Here’s where observing the people who are successful can help. What do they do or have in common? And which of those things are you doing too? Armed with this knowledge, you can make a conscious choice on what actions to take.
In J.D.’s case, he needed to change his swing. But he was reluctant to do so even as his stats drifted lower because his swing was what landed him in Major League Baseball in the first place, and he didn’t want to tinker with his main source of income.
What finally propelled him to action was when an injury forced him to take time off, including watching baseball on ESPN during his rehab. He noticed that all of the most successful batters – including one of his teammates – had the same swing and that his was different.
Whatever field you’re in, it feels less risky to “change your swing” when you know what you’re changing it to. And stepping back from the day-to-day grind is essential to gaining perspective on what’s really happening.
Go to the experts
Once you’ve identified what you need to do, don’t feel like you need to do it on your own. Instead, find people with the expertise and experience in the area you want to develop. Get their help, even if you have to pay for it yourself.
When you learn from experts, you gain the benefit of their learning curve and it shortens the amount of time, effort and anxiety for you.
J.D. asked his teammate how he developed the winning swing and enrolled himself in the same coaching program. Before long, he started seeing results.
Demonstrate you’ve changed
Just because you know you’ve changed doesn’t mean that others will see it. Most people are too busy with their own concerns to notice a change in you unless someone brings it to their attention. Even then, they may not believe it at first.
Look for a variety of ways to show the new way you do things. For example, telling your manager what you’ve done, inviting someone senior to see you in action, or having a credible third party vouch for your progress. It’s the equivalent of having all arrows point to a conclusion, which makes it harder to miss.
J.D. played in a Venezuelan league during the off-season – something most professional players don’t do – to prove to himself that his new swing worked, which it did. He then told his manager and asked for a chance to demonstrate his new swing in games.
Use rejection as fuel for improvement
Sometimes, your manager or clients won’t give you a fair chance to demonstrate how you’ve changed. After all, most people don’t make a significant change in the way they operate or perform once they’re past the initial stages of their careers. And if your performance has been going sideways for a while, they may find it hard to believe the “new you” is going to last.
That’s what happened to J.D. His manager’s view was that it was highly unlikely that a seasoned batter could possibly transform their performance, and never gave him a real chance before cutting J.D. from the team.
But J.D. landed at another team and used that rejection as fuel for continued improvement to become one of the league’s top hitters.
So if you don’t get the audience or respect you deserve at first, don’t let it stop you. Keep going.
Own your performance
As J.D. Martinez’s example shows, any investment you make in yourself is never lost. He became one of the league’s top batters and helped his new team, the Boston Red Sox, to an offensive resurgence, even elevating his teammates to his level of play.
His former team, the Houston Astros, clearly have had regrets for letting him go. And just as J.D. had some lessons to learn, so did the management team at the Astros. But that’s another story which we’ll cover next week.
In the meantime, remember that it’s up to you to own your performance. From monitoring how you’re doing to making investments in your capabilities and demonstrating that you’ve improved, you are always a work in progress.
Now it’s your turn.
What will you do if you feel underestimated or if your performance curve is flattening out?
Leave a comment and let me know.