Accelerate Your Performance

17: The Fire in the Belly

April 01, 2019 Studer Education Season 1 Episode 17
Accelerate Your Performance
17: The Fire in the Belly
Chapters
Accelerate Your Performance
17: The Fire in the Belly
Apr 01, 2019 Season 1 Episode 17
Studer Education

When we speak of performance, we think of both an individual’s will and their skill. Do the members of our teams have the desire to do their best work and continue to get better? Today, we focus on the tremendous impact we can have on organizations when we have strong will or fire in our belly. 

This episode addresses questions, such as: 

  • What does it mean to have a ‘fire in the belly’? 
  • What do I do with a high performer who poisons the work environment with negativity?  
  • What is more important than passion?   

The Fire in the Belly is the second episode in a series of episodes describing the performance curve and performance conversations, beginning with Ep. #16 High Performers: Who Are They?

Recommended Reading: The Power of Moving the Middle: Transforming Middle Performers Into High Achievers by: Jack Spartz 

Recommended Learning:  Recognizing Low Will

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Show Notes Transcript

When we speak of performance, we think of both an individual’s will and their skill. Do the members of our teams have the desire to do their best work and continue to get better? Today, we focus on the tremendous impact we can have on organizations when we have strong will or fire in our belly. 

This episode addresses questions, such as: 

  • What does it mean to have a ‘fire in the belly’? 
  • What do I do with a high performer who poisons the work environment with negativity?  
  • What is more important than passion?   

The Fire in the Belly is the second episode in a series of episodes describing the performance curve and performance conversations, beginning with Ep. #16 High Performers: Who Are They?

Recommended Reading: The Power of Moving the Middle: Transforming Middle Performers Into High Achievers by: Jack Spartz 

Recommended Learning:  Recognizing Low Will

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Thank you for joining today’s Accelerate Your Performance Podcast. And thank you for having a desire to be your best at  work and helping your organization achieve success. This podcast focuses on tactical actions to improve workplace culture and these tactics align to our Nine Principles® for Organizational Excellence.  


 Today, we’ll focus on “Strong Will…Fire in the Belly”

 

Last week we talked about high performers. In several subsequent podcast episodes, we will focus on varying levels of performance and eventually on how we engage in coaching conversations.  Before we talk about middle/solid and low performers in an organization, let’s take time to review how we determine where performance levels land.  

 

When we speak of performance, we think of both an individual’s will and their skill.  Most people are hired with the right skills to do the job.  For example, if we hire someone in IT to provide systems support services, we have to hire people who have the right technical skills for the job. If we hire an elementary school teacher, we hire a person who has been trained and prepared to teach.  If we hire someone to run our food services department, the person is knowledgeable of the food services industry and how that applies to the current position. So, we’re pretty good at hiring people with the skills and experience to do the job at hand. And, we continue to develop their skills and expect them to be successful.  As leaders, we have the responsibility to address the performance issues if they are not living up to the job expectations.

 

Gosh – that seems so simple to say; yet, it is so difficult to do.

 

Just as important as it is for employees to have the right skills, it’s equally important for employees to have strong will. 

 

When we think about workplace performance,  let’s take a moment to focus on people’s will, or their desire to do their best work and to get better. Our will is based on what we are willing to do to achieve our goals, what it takes to do our jobs at hand, and what we need to do to improve to achieve beyond  expectations. 

 

When I think of strong will, I ask this question, how much fire in the belly does an individual have to achieve and succeed?  What do I mean by fire in the belly?  People with fire in the belly have

·     inner drive to succeed

·     strong desire to achieve something and act on this desire

·     emotional stamina to get through tough problems

·     energy and enthusiasm about the work at hand

·     drive to achieve beyond their own expectations

·     proactively and reflectively self-identify areas they can improve

·     hustle to take on a job to get to a positive outcome

 

In a previous Accelerate Your Performance episode, I talked about a key factor I currently look for when I hire someone. It is kindness.  The second factor I assess when hiring someone is strong will – fire in the belly. 

 

Here’s what I’ve also learned.  When I’ve had to transition people out of an organization, it’s seldom been because they lack skill. The individuals did not have the will to advance their skills to achieve at high performing levels, or they did not live the organizational values – the WILL to achieve. 

 

Here’s what’s really important about strong will - People need the will to learn and act to achieve. In his book, The Power of Moving the Middle, Jack Spartz, writes, “The key lessons about personal transformations and Moving the Middle isn’t about skills and talent but hustle and effort. More times than not it’s not a lack of skills that hold people back but their lack of desire to want to move forward.”

 

Hummm.  I can’t help but think about how will and passion are intermingled.  Remember in two of the first episodes of Accelerate Your Performance, I talked about my tennis story and passion.  How I needed a coach to help me continue to keep my passion for playing tennis. Remember, I re-discovered that passion when I had an opportunity to be that coach for a group of high school teammates.  

 

Let’s think about the concept of “strong will” as I replay this story of me needing a coach. Remember, the tennis coach spent most of his time working with the players who made the top five and was the competing squad.  I was number 6, and the coach spent minimal time with me to maximize his time with the top 5. 

 

What if when the tennis coach worked with me, he felt that I did not have the will to hustle and put in the effort to do the needed work to move from the 6th spot to the 5th spot and become part of the competitive squad?  After all, that would have meant knocking one of the players off her spot, and we were friends.  It never crossed my mind that if I challenged her, she might be more challenged to get better.  And, by us all getting better, our team would have been better – maybe we would have won more team matches and won some we should not have won.  Maybe he saw that I had the right skill, but not the necessary will.  

As painful as it seems, I think he would have been right. So, maybe I had the passion but not the level of will that was needed. I made the choice of not showing my strong desire to want to be in the top 5.   I took the easier path of not pushing myself beyond my own expectations.  I wanted someone to do that for me.  

 

What’s my point? Passion is not enough.  Our will to achieve beyond what we expect of ourselves transforms our lives. Our way of living changes when we learn this invaluable life lesson. 

 

Our nature is to set achievement levels we expect to achieve and work to rise to that level. As leaders, we have to do more than that.  We have to set the organizational achievement levels a step or two higher and set individual team achievement levels in the same way.   

 

 To better understand how someone will interact with performance, let’s focus on the performance curve. What do I mean by a performance curve?

 

Over the past several decades, we’ve followed the research about how individual performance in an organization falls along a continuum of performance levels.  Our organization completed a study in healthcare organizations and found what most others have found.  In general, about 30% of people in an organization are high performers; 60% middle/solid performers; and 10% low/subpar performers. 

 

In our last episode, we focused on characteristics that define high performers. High performers have both the ability and the skill to do their jobs. I referred to five characteristics of high performers. For the most part, these characteristics focus on a person’s will.

1.  High performers strive to do their best all the time.

2.  High performers are humble and know they can always improve. 

3.  High performers bring solutions to identified problems.

4.  High performers live the organizational values.

5.  High performers have a positive attitude. 

 

High performers are the models for living the organizational values. And, high performers demonstrate excellent abilities and skills and the desire to continue to advance their skill set. Therefore, our highest performers have strong will – fire in the belly, high levels of skills to do their jobs, and model living the organizational values.

 

In the next several episodes I will define the characteristics of middle/solid and low performers. What’s important here is recognizing that the majority of our employees fall in the middle. 

 

Now that we know a little about strong will and the varying levels of performance, let’s think about the interplay of two. Here’s what I mean. 

 

·     The majority of people in our organizations fall in the middle. They have average will and fire in the belly.

 

·     People to the left of the middle have negative will and not much fire in the belly. 

 

·     People to the right of the middle have both high will and skill. 

 

When I’m working with organizations, people tend to ask, what do I do with a high performer who poisons the work environment with negativity? What they are telling me is that someone has great ability and skill, yet their behaviors are toxic.  There’s only one answer to this question.  This individual is not a high performer.  The negative behaviors have to be addressed and the person has to modify her behavior.   To be a high performer, someone must have BOTH high will and skill. 

 

Over the next several podcast episodes, we will take a deeper look at the characteristics of the people in the middle and those on the low end of the performance curve. 

 

Today, we’ve focused on the tremendous impact we can have on organizations when we have strong will or fire in our belly.  Most significant, when we work with strong will, and hustle to get our jobs done, we feel more confident in our abilities.  We feel we add value. Our teammates rely on us as a leader of our team.

 

I’m a big New Orleans Saints fan.  Some of my extended family members live in small towns close to New Orleans. I remember going for long week-ends and having crawfish boils under the porta cochere. That’s a fun word for a roofed structure extending from the entrance of a building over an adjacent driveway and sheltering those getting in or out of vehicles.  Or better known as a carport.

 

I have the great pleasure of traveling to Lafayette, Louisiana about once every 6 weeks to work with South Louisiana Community College. As I drive to the campus I pass through neighborhoods with almost every home having a porta cochere.  I smile as I think about the days of the crawfish boils. I smell the air of the boil and hear the loud, roaring laughter as we speak.  

 

The New Orleans Saints are like family to its long-time fans. We all remember the days when we seldom won games and went to games with paper bags on our heads.  

 

If you want to see how loyal Saints fans feel about their team, look on social media at the City of New Orleans during the Boycott Bowl for this last Superbowl.  The Saints fans were certainly “marching in” on that day. 

 

Drew Brees is the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, and he is a model for understanding what fire in the belly looks like. You can see it in his eyes, body language and play, at EVERY game.  He has broken many NFL quarterback records. He led the New Orleans Saints to win the Super Bowl in 2009.  

 

Here’s what’s important.  He is only 6 feet and 209 pounds.  The prototype for quarterbacks is around 6 – 4 and 225 pounds.  He is now 40 years old. He was selected in the 2nd round (not the first) of the NFL draft by another team and was traded to the New Orleans Saints. With this other team, he did not get off to a good start in his career. So, they traded him. And as Drew comes closer to the end of his football career, he is going to be one of the best quarterbacks of all time. Most important, he is cherished by the New Orleans community because of the commitment and impact he has made in the City of New Orleans. 

 

Listen to a story told by Dean Mullins on October 2, 2019 in an article he wrote for On the Last Word of Pro Football. The title of the article is, Katrina Broke a Community’s Spirit, Then Drew Brees Rebuilt the Superdome One Yard at a Time

 

Here’s what he wrote anticipating Drew Brees breaking the all-time passing yards record in the New Orleans Superdome on a Monday night.  As I read this excerpt, think about Strong Will – Fire in the Belly. 

 

On Monday Night Football the New Orleans Saints play the Washington Redskins in front of a national audience. All eyes will be on quarterback Drew Brees, as he will likely break the record for career passing yardage in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Brees is going to break another record. But let’s not forget the journey to this very moment on this field.

 

The Superdome wasn’t always the immaculate place where fans from all over come to share memories. To this day, there are still memories that are burned into the conscience of residents of New Orleans from 2005. The dome was supposed to be the last resort for people that were trying to escape the wrath of Hurricane Katrina 13 years ago. While that may be true, the eventual outcome that played out during those days left many scarred from tragic circumstances.

 

While the eventual outcome was deemed successful, the carnage and terror brought people to their knees during the dark days after Katrina. Thousands streamed into the supposed unbreakable and sturdy structure. No one ever saw what was about to happen. The house that became a symbol of New Orleans turned into a haunted tale of misery.

 

These were the horrific facts days after. There was so much sanitation and feces and urine that filled the dome with people trapped with their own thoughts.

 

There was a man that felt so strangled by the grips of the conditions that he jumped a barricade and ran to the flooded streets of New Orleans. The man had enough, after losing everything and possibly some of his relatives. National Guard Sgt. Caleb Wells had to chase him down. “He didn’t realize how bad things were out there,” Wells said. “He just broke down. He started bawling. We took him back inside.”

 

To put it another way, hell was inside and outside. There was no refuge anywhere. This was the Superdome 13 years ago. Fast forward 13 years and the mood is like ‘night and day.’ Saints fans have been packing the dome ever since. This week Brees will make history on Monday Night Football yet again. This time, fans get a chance to celebrate something special and a quarterback that came in, when everyone else was running away.

 

Brees arrived in New Orleans when the city was still rebuilding. Little did he know, that he was going to be front and center in rebuilding a city looking for faith. Who knew that a field filled with garbage and dirty water would turn into the house that Drew built. Of course, the humility that Brees has makes no reference to him being the savior or any kind of answer to a prayer. In fact, Brees feels that New Orleans called him to come to New Orleans.

 

The end result proved him right. Brees brought the city of New Orleans a championship. He brought in a sense of duty to start foundations and charities that assisted the rebuilding of not just the physical structures but the unshakable presence. All the news will be talking about the career yardage record being broken on Monday. At the same time, it’s also a chance to remember how far the city has come. The methodical journey of Brees’ place in history can’t be measured in yards.

 

Brees believed way back when. He saw light when there was darkness. There will never be another Drew Brees. Not now not ever.

 

Dean Mullen – thank you for this story. And, thank you Drew Brees for being a great life teacher.

 

When we Saints fans say, Who Dat?  We say it with the greatest pride and appreciation for people like Drew Brees.  Drew is kind and he has fire in his belly.  And, he came to the NFL from college with average skill for NFL quarterbacks.

 

His strong will – fire in the belly makes him one of the best.  You see it in his eyes, in his actions and at EVERY game.  As many records as he has broken, and games won, he is never satisfied with his performance. He believes he can always get better. 

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This week let’s take time to reflect on our own performance. Let’s think about Drew Brees and others like him as we answer these questions.

Do we come to work every day with strong will - fire in our belly? 

 

If we do, how do we keep the fire burning? And if not, why not?  

 

What one thing can we do this week to nurture strong will – fire in the belly?

 

And, if we once had fire in our belly and have lost it, why and what is needed to light the old flame or maybe a new one?

 

As leaders, our teams need us to model kindness and strong will…fire in the belly. Also, if we’ve been working for several decades and have gained skills through experience, our teams  depend on us to step up to the plate with an expectation we will achieve beyond our comfort level.  The best organizations have teams who achieve beyond what they believe to be possible. 

 

Most of us start in the middle…where we end depends on choices we make along our professional journey.  

 

Thank you for tuning in to Accelerate Your Performance. I look forward to connecting with you on our next Podcast where we will continue our focus on individual performance on What is a Middle/Solid Performer? Have a great week.