The Inner Game of Performance

So much is changing in every area of our lives that the capacity to shift our thinking is increasingly critical to success. The challenge is how to transform ourselves and our institutions that have been hardwired for consistency, control, and predictability into cultures where not only performance is valued but where real human growth, learning and evolving is equally as important. 

Becoming a high performing individual and organization is demanding. It requires more than most of us realize and asks us all to have deep enough commitment not only to short-term performance but how we are truly learning and growing in the process. To do that, requires a great deal of unlearning of bad habits and a new way of being that involves us being much more open and trusting to what is actually happening within and around us. 

The good news is that whether personally or professional, individually or collectively, the biggest obstacles we face are placed by ourselves from within not from without. Fear, doubt, uncertainty, lack of confidence and focus are all internal dialogues that not only influence our outer actions and results but everything that we hope to achieve with our own lives and manifest with our lives.

The fundamental question is, What is truly possible for you both as an individual or as an organization? Are you and your people currently fulfilling your and their potential? As an organization, we have spent decades serving leaders, managers and whole organizations globally to learn the insights that both Sir John Whitmore and Tim Gallwey have had around what it takes to manifest exceptional performance and what it takes to create an environment where accelerated performance and human growth are one and the same. This work includes our in-person Coaching for Performance workshops for coaches, managers and senior leaders and our Online GROW Training for Leaders & Managers.


What is The Inner Game?

All human activity can be divided into two major parts: the outer game and the inner game. Without some mastery of the often-neglected skills and goals of the inner game, success in any outer game is not only restricted and difficult but is also relatively limited in terms of one’s true potential being realized.

The Inner Game reveals an approach to accelerated learning and achievement. It challenges you to re-examine everything that you do including your own fundamental motivations for doing things and your definitions of what success really is. It helps you define the landscape of what we term as a high performing interdependent organization.


Access To A Billion Dollar Mainframe

The first major learning step of the Inner Game is that within every human being, there are two selves rather than one. Self 1 is the conscious ego mind that we as human have invented on top of the real self that we were born with. Self 2 is the human being itself. It embodies all the inherent potential we are born with, including all capacities actualized and not yet actualized. It embodies all the inherent potential we are born with, including all capacities actualized and not yet actualized. It also embodies our innate ability to learn and to grow any of those inherent capacities. It is the self we all enjoyed as children and the self we most enjoy as adults when we allow ourselves to access it. 

All the evidence points to the fact that our best performance happens when the Self 1’s voice is silent or otherwise occupied and Self 2 is allowed to do whatever it already knows to do naturally or by watching others. When this is reversed, which is usually the case, with Self 1 in control, Self 1 provides a running commentary on everything that Self 2 does – and it is often a critical one. Self 1 not only reminds Self 2 of anything that may or may not have happened in the past that was incorrect or wrong but creates the tension and fear that tend to beset us when we are confronted by challenge. In fact, Self 1 is creating the worst of the challenges, yet manages to throw all the blame onto Self 2, with negative internal dialogue. It is like damaged floppy disk giving orders to a billion-dollar mainframe, then wanting the credit for the best outcomes why blaming the mainframe for the worst. It is truly humbling to realize that the voice giving the controlling demands and criticism is not really as intelligent as the one receiving them! 

This understanding can be put into a simple formula that defines the Inner Game.

The Inner Game Formula

Performance (P) in any activity, from hitting a ball to doing anything in life, is equal to one’s potential (p) after the interference factor (i) has been subtracted from the equation. In most people, performance regrettably rarely equals potential in . A little self-doubt, an erroneous assumption, the fear of failure, will be all it takes to greatly diminish one’s performance. 

The goal and purpose of playing the Inner Game is to reduce whatever interferes with the discovery and expression of ones own potential. In this century, if we do not learn some of the basic skills of the Inner Game, our technical progress in the outer game will be of little benefit to ourselves individually or to mankind as a whole in relation to our own sense of oneness with nature and in the universe. We have a profound deeper need to better understand, and learn to make changes in, the domain we call ourselves. And that can happen only if we change in ways that in harmony with out true nature and not at war with it.



“Tim Gallwey is one of the great teachers of our time.”
Peter Senge

Performance, Learning & Enjoyment

If you ask executives the meaning of the word work, they focus on work as doing something—as accomplishing a goal, such as providing a product or service. In other words, to many people, work only means performance. But definitions that equate work with performance can be not only limiting but soul destroying, especially in the current business environment.

How are these fundamental results of work—performance, learning and enjoyment—related? They are unquestionably interdependent. If individuals aren’t learning, their performance will decline over time; if their predominant experience of work is boredom or stress, both learning and performance will suffer. These three results can be represented in a mutually supportive “Work Triangle,” with performance at the apex, and experience and learning at the base angles.

When you ask most executives, “Which of the three work results gains the greatest support and encouragement in your work environment?” their response is overwhelmingly, “Performance.” And then when you ask them, “How much more priority is performance given over learning and enjoyment?” the response generally has the level way beyond the triangle so that it is only about outer performance and nothing else. 

In the competitive world of business, it is easy to see why performance may be given priority over learning and experience. But what are the consequences of pursuing performance at the expense of learning and experience? In any but the shortest timeframe, the consequences are dire: performance itself will fall. And what will be management’s typical response? More pressure on performance, resulting in even less time and fewer resources directed toward learning or quality of experience.

Our definition of performance needs to include the employees experience and learning, as well as his or her performance. The real value of this redefinition of work is that it involves and sees everyone as an individual and as the organization as a whole as place for growth, learning and enjoyment.


The Accelerating Performance Curve

The Performance Curve

The Performance Curve incorporates the broader interpretation of “performance” that many organizations have adopted in recent years. Competition and growth are no longer the only drivers – inner and outer stability, sustainability, and collaboration are now increasingly  important factors.

A high-performance culture is often described as a “collective mentality” where there is a strong community spirit and collaboration around a shared sense of purpose. This interdependent culture, where people are able to grow and fulfil their potential, is the most highly evolved as seen on The Performance Curve.

The Performance Curve focuses on the collective prevailing mindset of an organization’s culture and how this creates the conditions for performance. It provides a useful tool for organizations and individual leaders to gain an immediate idea of where they are operating, either from the perspective of “this is the culture of my organization” or “this is the culture I create as a leader”.

The Performance Curve identifies and describes four overarching cultures within organizations, and each culture – Impulsive, Dependent, Independent, Interdependent – is represented by an overall cultural mindset. Each mindset creates distinct organizational characteristics and returns a certain level of performance.

Minimal awareness of culture, impact, performance and responsibility. The organization reacts to situations as they arise and it can feel unpredictable. There is little communication, engagement or development. There can be a “survival” mentality.

Low-medium awareness and responsibility. The organization is focused on maintaining stability and following the rules. Individuals focus on process and task completion with little opportunity for autonomy. Strong sense of group identity; people feel the need to fit in. There is strong one-way communication and varying levels of recognition. There is low engagement and trust which creates a “risk averse” mentality.

INDEPENDENT

Medium-high awareness; high responsibility for own performance. The organization supports innovation and individual development. People believe they can make a difference with their own actions. Individuals may focus on achieving own goals above those of the team or organization. Work-life balance may be hard to reach due to the high level of internal competition. Two-way communication and engagement is more likely. There is an “achievement” mentality.

INTERDEPENDENT

High awareness and responsibility for self and others. There is a strong coaching culture. Teams feel a strong sense of ownership for high performance and believe this can only be achieved by the group. People engage with others to understand diverse view points and display high levels of trust, care and collaboration. There is continual authentic communication and feedback. This creates a “collective potential” mentality.


Are the Inner Game Models copyrighted?

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Why choose Performance Consultants?

Performance Consultants is the leading global provider for transformational coaching and leadership development.

The Coaching for Performance training programme holds triple accreditation in recognition of its world-class design and delivery. It is accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and has been recognized by the Association of Coaching (AC), and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC).

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