The Importance of True Desire to Performance Jim Gilchrist BE







Without true desire significant performance just does not happen. For me, true desire represents what an individual specifically wants, to a great enough degree, that they will be motivated to take appropriate action in order to obtain it. Going way beyond hope, wishful thinking, dreams, expectation, and entitlement, true desire helps us to overcome our natural tendency to maintain and justify the status quo. True desire facilitates enhanced performance, it enables openness to positive change, it provides people with the motivation and confidence to change, and it is what separates above-average performers from the hopeful majority.

The absence of true desire allows mediocre performance to enter

The difference between hope and true desire

Maybe you saw this great comic on LinkedIn. In the first frame, everyone in the audience raised their hands when the speaker asked “Who wants change?”  In the next frame, nobody in the audience raised their hand when the speaker asked “Who wants to change?” In that first statement, “Who wants change?”, we can easily replace the word want with the phase hopes for, because wanting and hoping are essentially the same thing when they are not followed with appropriate action. In the second frame, nobody in the audience raised their hand because there was no true desire for change. Illuminating the common characteristic of change reluctance, everyone in the audience hoped for change, but they were not willing to commit to whatever activity that would bring it about.

This comic audience can represent practically anyone in the world; political leaders hoping to improve their constituent’s economic stability and quality of life, organizational leaders hoping to enhance the financial performance or productivity of their organizations, managers hoping to hire high-performers or to enhance the performance of their staff, employees hoping to elevate their status and gain greater financial rewards and career seekers hoping to attain their “next career level”. There is absolutely nothing wrong with hope, after all and hope is a very important positive and sustaining aspect to all of our lives. But there is a big difference between hoping that something will occur and actually taking action steps to help make it occur. Hope remains a dream until action converts the dream into reality.

When we elevate passive hope into true desire

we will actually become more active in getting what we want

True desire is motivationally based and fuels performance through action

In my work, my main focus is on individual, team, managerial and leadership performance. All of our services have some form of performance evaluation, whether it be a person’s ability to perform today, their potential to perform in the future, or to help enhance their current capabilities to achieve higher performance levels. In our performance evaluation process I work with a wide range of personality-based assessments, some are applied in written form, some are conducted through the interviewing process, and sometimes we will use ‘360 degree’ techniques when it is valuable to include them.

One assessment that I have been trained in, and use frequently, is focused on some specific aspects of performance. Originally developed to help elevate the performance of elite athletes, this assessment was expanded in its application to help evaluate the performance of multi-level managers and professional personnel occupying a range of employment positions. And while this assessment does offer valuable information, like all assessments, it can never provide complete insight into the entire performance picture. Evidence of this can be found in a number of ways but, specific to this discussion, there is one obvious problem when attempting to directly translate the assessment from elite athletes to the business / employment community;

Elite athletes, by their nature, have a true desire to enhance their performance.This is not always the case with organizational managers and their staff. Also, those of you who read my articles will be aware of the critical position that I give to the assessment of cognitive matching with regards to an individual and their specific role. Generally speaking, if a person does not have the cognitive capability that is required to cope with the complexity of challenges that are involved with their level of responsibility within their organization, they will simply not meet their performance expectations. (You can read more about this in my article The Real Secret to Performance Success). But while the assessment of cognitive capability has special status in my evaluative process and is always included, like all assessments, it will have limited value when used in isolation. Because, even when a person possesses that crucially important cognitive capability to perform, they will still fall short of performance expectations if they do not have the motivationally-based true desire to perform.

Note: These examples support the need to use a wide range of assessments, and delivery methods, in the performance evaluation process because no one assessment will answer all of your questions. We will only obtain higher accuracy when all performance-related characteristics have been considered and when cross-assessment verification has been conducted. There are many interrelated technical (education, experience, specific technical skills) and non-technical (personality related) aspects involved with effective individual work performance. On the non-technical side, CAES incorporates a number of specific assessments within such broad categories as; cognitive capabilities and thinking preferences, concentration strengths, motivational preferences, general productivity traits, communication and interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence as well as various managerial and leadership performance items. All of these categories are important to various degrees, so it is just as important that their interrelated impact at least be considered, and certainly not be neglected, in order to obtain worthwhile accuracy in any individual performance-related analysis.

True desire can reduce the impact of the status quo bias. We all have biases (some unconscious) that can influence our thinking and our behavior. Often we are naturally more comfortable with keeping things as they are – because the situation that we know is seen to be less risky than the unknown. Since people are more likely to move away from a possible loss than towards a possible gain, unless there is a significant perceived threat, they are more often comfortable in maintaining the status quo than making a possibly risky change. As a result, this risk aversion can cause us to be closed to new ideas, new approaches and various degrees of change that would actually help us to move forward.  And, to make sense of this reluctance to change, we will find ways to justify staying with the current condition. Sometimes we will quickly discount a new solution thinking that it will not work without a thorough investigation, or perhaps we may think that “this is as good as it gets”. Often we make excuses for substandard results or we can even fool ourselves into thinking that we have fully accomplished something when we actually haven’t. In all of these cases, our failure to change causes us to fall back, and accept, rather than to push forward toward what we really want.

One way to overcome this status quo justification is to identify what we truly desire and to hold ourselves, or others, accountable for obtaining it. (You may be interested in my article “The Cost of Poor Accountability”). By accurately identifying what we want, we can then objectively assess when we actually have it, or at least whether we are on the path to getting it. Most importantly, only when we honestly evaluate if there is a gap between what we truly desire and what we actually have will we reduce the impact of status quo justification. When advising clients on hiring or promotion decisions, I always insist that they create a detailed definition of what they want in the candidate and their performance (true desire), to then stick to this definition, and to not settle for anything less. Only by not settling will true desire be obtained and poor decisions avoided.

If what you are doing now is not working as well as you want,expect to see the same results when you fail to change,
and you will fail to change when you don’t have a true desire for what you wantYour true desire will give you the confidence to make any necessary changes and keep you motivated.

The identification of our true desire, combined with a resultant sense of purpose and defined direction, will provide us with greater confidence that will effectively reduce our fear of change. When we know where we are going, and why, we will be much more comfortable in taking the necessary different steps to go there. And, like elite athletes, we will be more able to keep going ‘when the going gets tough’.

This thinking can be applied to many scenarios. From a leadership perspective, leaders set a direction (change), inspire and create a comfort in their followers to embrace it, and then motivate them to sustain their commitment and contribution to the change over time. In the following examples, it is obvious which leader people would follow simply because they have helped their followers to be more involved, and feel more confident, about the change involved.

Leader #1: “I now want you to just do it this way, and I don’t have the time to tell you why”.

Leader #2: “I now want to accomplish this and here is the reason why. Let’s all work together to determine the best way for us to get there”.

An employer who truly desires to hire high-performing people will put in the effort to define what a high-performing person is, and what having one would do for them. Once done, without settling, they can evaluate whether their current hiring methodology is working effectively, and they will be motivated to confidently move away from the status quo approach when it is not. Those employers who don’t care enough, and when poor hiring accountability exists, will continue to settle for what they get and to justify the resultant poor or mediocre organizational, managerial and individual performance (low growth, profitability, talent retention etc.)

A career seeker who defines what they desire in a next level role will be more able to assess where this position might exist, to evaluate their progress in moving towards it, and to bravely make whatever adjustments are necessary to obtain it. Their true desire that will sustain their motivation to keep going forward despite a challenging and competitive labour market. And it will also enable them to more attractively present themselves as a candidate who wants the position not just a position. Conversely, those people who rely on the hope that someone will hand them a job, better yet a career, will simply be left behind.

Your true desire will separate you from the hopeful majority

High-performing elite athletes become elite athletes

because they are highly motivated to enhance their performance

based on their true desire to better compete and to win

Do you want to run a better organization, department or team? Perhaps become a great leader, manager, or performer? Get that great career role, be happier, financially better off, or more competitive? Whatever it is that you want, the point is, you can hope for any of the things that are important to you, or you can actually get them. It really doesn’t take much. Very few people are handed what they want in life based on luck or minimal effort – most people earn what they want through their actions. The unfortunate reality is that, like our comic audience, the majority of people will only continue to hope, and then justify doing the same things despite obtaining unsatisfactory results. By failing to make the changes necessary to get what they want they will remain members of the hopeful majority.
Just because everyone else is doing the same things does not make them right

If it does not work for you, it’s not right for you

Stop listening to the wrong people
Some people, supported by their commitment to fulfilling their true desire, will be able to step out of their comfort zone and immediately separate themselves from their competitors. Simply by seeing and doing things differently they will be better positioned to take advantage of the huge opportunities that are available outside of the mainstream – either via enhancing their personal performance, or by enhancing the performance of the people around them.

You will be surprised what you can accomplish based on true desire.

Jim Gilchrist B.E.S.
CEO, CAES Career Advancement Employment Services – Managerial, Individual and Organizational Performance Enhancement


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