TregoED Blog

Solving the performance puzzle

Awhile ago I stopped by an elementary school to visit a principal friend of mine.  After being buzzed in, I went straight to the office.  Two staff members were seated facing the sign-in desk – one was on the phone and the other was engrossed in something.  I waited patiently for one to look up and acknowledge me.  As I waited, students began drifting in.  Seeing both people occupied, they took a seat.  I hesitated to disrupt the concentration of the woman not on the phone, but 3-4 minutes is a long time to feel invisible.  Finally I said “excuse me” .   As I walked past her desk, I could see that what she was working so hard at was a crossword puzzle!

Perhaps it was a one-time thing or an “off” day for her.  But the experience is not necessarily an isolated one – maybe you have even experienced something similar? I know how unwelcomed I felt as a visitor, and I can’t help but wonder how students at the school feel?  Teachers? Parents?   They say that people form impressions of other people within the first 7 seconds.  Surely they form impressions of schools within the first 3 minutes.

Was the crossword puzzler a “problem” employee?  Or was she operating in an environment that didn’t expect more – and support her in achieving it?  Research shows that 85% of the time there are performance issues, something (other than the employee) in the job environment needs to be adjusted.   By environment, we don’t necessarily mean the physical environment. Rather, we are talking about the factors that affect job performance.  Are expectations clear?  What gets in the way of doing the right thing? What consequences (positive and negative) exist for doing the right thing (or not doing it?)?  What feedback do people get? Only 15% of the time is the problem due to an individual not having the skills, knowledge or capacity to do the job.

Personally, I believe that most people want to do a good job.  But people are not typically irrational beings.  When they aren’t doing what we need them to do,   we must examine what’s getting in the way.  When job environments are set up for success, success is typically what results.  Change the job environment and you change performance (for better or worse). 


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