Under-Performance and Poor Performance

There is a distinction between under-performance and poor performance. Poor performance often times means that there is a lack of skill involved in the root cause of this instance. This skill did not exist, or was learned incorrectly, or never mastered. In this case, the correction is fairly simple. Go back and learn or relearn the skill required to perform. Though this occurs in the workplace, it mostly appears at junior levels where the job function requires very specific skills. It occurs at top levels too, but at management positions and higher, I find under-performance to be more prevalent.

Under-performance is having the skills but not being able to harness them.  Think of a gifted athlete with all the talent in the world who consistently under-performs especially when it matters most.  I am reminded of the old adage “There is nothing more common in the world than unsuccessful people with talent.” The root cause here is not skill, it is often related to one of the five dimensions of Emotional Intelligence.

This past weekend I read two books about great athletes, notable businessmen, and political leaders. What is interesting to me was not who they were or what leadership principles they honor. What I looked for was what the competition looked like at the time these people were over-achieving, and how what made the competition falter when these folks rose? The authors consistently talked about the difference between performing and performing under pressure (something I’ve discussed before).

I am reminded of Rudyard Kipling’s Poem of “…If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…” or similar Marchiavelli’s writings. It does appear that pressure is generated from the outside, but the impact of it is very much self-inflicted. How else could you possibly explain two people in the same situation responding differently?

The self-infliction part is what is related to EQ. Those who have higher degrees of self-awareness, and self-regulation are, by definition, better able to handle changing emotional temperatures of people and situations. In other words, they can use the skills they already have only if they are able to first exercise their EQ skills. It is my contention then that given the difference between poor performance and under-performance, the latter is entirely predicated on EQ.

This week, take a moment to reflect on a recent experience where you under performed (as opposed to poor performed) and analyze it to see if EQ, or lack thereof, played a part.  Doing so might just allow you to not underperform this week!!

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