Do you ever get home from work thinking about how you just aren’t good enough:
- I didn’t really know what to do…
- I think most other doctors are better than I am…
- One of these days I’ll get found out…
Have you ever given a talk or workshop or put yourself out in the public in some way and then found yourself saying things like:
- My presentation could have been better…
- I was clunky…
- I think I was OK – but I just don’t know…
The subtext in all of these statements is “Was I good enough?”
Unable to find certainty about our competence we look to reassurance from others that we are in fact good enough. And are never satisfied no matter what reassurance we get.
I’m certainly guilty of this. All. The. Time.
It’s true – whenever someone gives me praise – my automatic thought is “They’re just saying that. If only they really new…”
But the truth is, when clients, colleagues and friends talk to me like this I feel a physical pain at the harshness of this type of talk.
So as well as helping my clients find a more helpful approach to thinking about performance, I’ve been working on finding a different way of thinking about (and judging) performance altogether.
Am I as good as my feedback score?
One of the common traps we fall into is judging how well we did by the feedback we get. If we get 4-5 on some scale of satisfaction with us we feel better somehow.
My patients approved of me. The audience approved of me.
And that is fair enough. After all, part of putting yourself out their in any capacity is providing what people want. And if they say they are happy – then you did your job.
Even our regulatory authority is encouraging us to measure patient satisfaction.
But in a sense, that is letting the rest of the world (and our patients) define for us what good means.
And if we take that as our standard – then we can only ever be ‘as good’ as popular opinion would allow. It means our sense of ‘good’ will only ever be sourced externally and can’t be somethings that wells up from within.
So I wonder, if looking to this type of feedback as our measure is even asking the right question.
I think we need to take a different perspective all together.
What am I really trying to do?
When we perform in some way (whether at work or anywhere else), I am finding it more useful to consider the activity as having external and internal (or essential aspects).
The external aspects are the technical skills needed to perform that task. Make diagnosis, develop a treatment plan, give an immunisation, deliver a talk or presentation. We know how to measure and reflect on those.
The internal aspects are related to our intention – what is it I am actually trying to do here? The internal aspects are related to the human dimension of what we are doing.
And then, from that perspective define what good looks like – and how I know I have done it. And then use that self-defined standard as a yardstick to measure performance, rather than what the others judge as good.
This helps move medicine, or coaching, or public speaking…or anything else really from a mechanical, technical task to a human endeavour.
There is no score on inner performance
So rather than thinking about whether we were good – perhaps we should be asking
“How much love, kindness, compassion and humanity did I put into my work?”
“How much did I attempt to connect to my audience/patient/client from my heart?”
“Did my soul shine through in that connection with another?”
It’s when we can put our hand on our hearts and feel that yes – I put my heart and soul into this – then our performance actually shines. And that is a truer measure of how ‘good’ (from an internal perspective we were than a score of patient satisfaction or something else.
The catch is, only you can be the judge of how well you really did. Only you know how much of yourself you brought with you to what you were doing. You can’t produce a nice spreadsheet for a regulator.
Focusing on external competencies is certainly necessary – especially in a high stakes field like medicine. It is relatively easy to measure patient satisfaction or audit compliance with guidelines – but it misleads us.
Because deep down, we know it’s a question that no-one else can answer. No metric or man-made measure or audience can possibly put a score on your inner performance.
And so, when you bring your whole self along, know that your true performance will be one of immeasurable good. The small flaws in technique and externals, mean so much less from this perspective. Rather than clouding our whole vision, they transform our human being and doing into an artwork.
This does not mean stop trying to improve or to stop trying to avoid error.
But it does mean we need to stop equating our ‘goodness’ to flaws and errors.
Goodness is immeasurable
So my dear friends, go ahead and try to always be and do your best. Measure audience responses and any other metrics you like about performance, always keeping mind that this is never about anything more than technique.
But remember, it can never measure how ‘good’ you are – because that is immeasurable.