How to Get Great Performances Out of Other People

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 14, Issue No. 10b
February 15, 2016

By Dan Coughlin


An important question every manager must answer is, “How do I get great performances out of other people?” At some point you need to realize you can’t do it all by yourself. You have to get results through the actions of other people. So how do you optimize other people’s performance?

What I’m about to share with you is true whether you’re talking about unpaid volunteers or highly paid executives. These three critical factors are the essence of generating great performances.

The Three Essentials of Great Performance

In order to deliver a consistently great performance, people need the following three things:

  1. They need to be prepared.
  2. They need to feel purposeful.
  3. They need to feel appreciated.

How to Make it Happen

Preparation requires effective training. When you train a person to do any task, the key question to answer is not, “What does the person need to know?” The key question is, “What does the person need to be able to do well?” This is a powerful insight from a new book called Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. It’s not enough for a person to have the knowledge about a task. They need to be able to do it well. Consequently, you need to think about how you will develop the person to be able to do the task well.

Purpose means they need to know they mattered. Have you ever received a frantic request for volunteers at an upcoming event, and then you decided to volunteer and you showed up only to find that there were three times as many volunteers as were needed? Then you stood around for three hours wasting your time. You probably felt purposeless and more than a tad bit irritated. The same thing happens in organizations. The manager promotes a person with the words, “We truly need you in this position. Our organization needs you to do a great job in this role in order to succeed at a higher level.” Then the person gets in the new role, and the manager does all the work. The promoted person feels purposeless and way more than a tad bit irritated. The person wanted more than the pay raise. He or she wants to feel purposeful. If you want to help another person feel purposeful, then give the person a responsibility, let the person be responsible for what happens, and then hold the person responsible for his or her behaviors and results through providing consequences.

Appreciation means they need to hear that they mattered. Ultimately, people want to matter. This is the great lesson from Dale Carnegie. Everyone has a desire to feel important. This is why they volunteer for activities and go to work every day. Are you letting the person know how much you appreciate his or her effort? It’s simple to do it. Take out a sheet of paper. Write the person a letter telling them specifically what you appreciate about his or her efforts. Put the letter in an envelope. Mail the letter. Or pick up the phone and call the person and tell the person specifically what you appreciated about the person. Or send the person a gift card with a Post-It Note that says, “I greatly appreciate the effort you put into this project. Please know we couldn’t have done it without you.”

If you want to get the best out of other people, make sure they are prepared, purposeful, and appreciated.

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

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