Performance Readiness® is a Relative Term

Let’s explore the concept of Performance Readiness® and start out with a quick, reflective exercise. Have you ever had somebody ask you the abbreviated question, “You ready?” and find yourself impulsively responding, “I was born ready!” I’m going to stick my neck out here and propose that many of us have reacted in the moment with words to that effect.

But, with reality as our guide, we have to admit that response is patently untrue. People are not born ready to do too much of anything. As the proud grandfather of five pretty much perfect grandchildren, I feel qualified (on the basis of intense and repeated observation) to suggest the following is a comprehensive list of what we as human beings are born ready to do:

  • Sleep … peacefully and angelically … providing joy to those who hover
  • Scream … whenever the spirit moves us … mobilizing all within ear shot into frenzied action
  • Eat … whenever we want … and until we are done
  • Eliminate waste … frequently without even waking up … and in quantities that boggle the minds of the clean-up crew!

That (like it or not) is about it!

But as we get just a little older, we begin to become familiar with the notion of Performance Readiness® long before we have any idea what it really means:

  • “She looks like she’s ready to start walking!”
  • “So … ready for your first day of school?”
  • “There’s no way he’s ready to drive a car by himself at night!”
  • “Congrats on getting a job! You ready to tackle the next stage of your life?”
  • “I assume you are ready to present to the leadership team next week?”
  • … etc. … etc. …!

One thing we can garner about our Performance Readiness® as we work our way through life is that it is relative! It is a function (almost exclusively) of the task that happens to be staring us in the face. Beyond that, it becomes pretty obvious that Performance Readiness® has two, separate but frequently interdependent, dimensions:

  • Ability: demonstrated task-specific knowledge, experience and skill
  • Willingness: demonstrated task-specific confidence, commitment and motivation

In general terms we have come to recognize there is usually a learning curve associated with developing ability. We find (almost regardless of the task) that it takes time to accumulate knowledge, garner experience and develop skill. This is where ability needs to be distinguished from capability or potential. Ability … is in the here and now! For example:

  • Can I throw the car keys to the teenager heading out the door on a Friday night because he has demonstrated he can perform that task at a sustained and acceptable standard?

It is quite literally a yes or no question.

Willingness is altogether different. It can change, moment to moment, based on a wide spectrum of uncontrollable circumstances. In essence, for willingness to be present, the person performing the task must value the outcome of their efforts, and believe they have what it takes to be successful:

  • Who knows what’s really going on inside the head of a toddler rolling around on the carpet? But it’s probably something like, “Everybody I see is moving all over the place. That looks cool. I’ll bet I can do that, too.”
  • Same for the teenager learning to drive …
  • Or the new hire with sincere career aspirations …
  • … etc. … etc. …!

As it applies to the interplay between ability and willingness for a task, here are two rules of thumb:

  1. The better I am at something, the more confidence I have in my ability to pull it off
  2. The more I want to learn how to do something, the quicker I will learn how to do it well

So, who determines Performance Readiness®? Not too long ago, that responsibility was almost exclusively exercised by the formal leader. Consider that with ever-increasing regularity, this is becoming a shared responsibility, where followers actively assess their own Performance Readiness® for a task and transparently discuss that perspective with their formal leader (i.e., manager/parent) in search of alignment that will inform both the partnership and the performance moving forward.