Performance Profiling

One method that elite athletes use to improve performance is known as ‘Performance Profiling’. The same approach can be used at work to improve individual or team performance.

Essentially, Performance Profiling involves assessing your current competence level for all of the key skills required to do your job effectively.

On this video you will learn how to use this approach (at work or in sport) for yourself, your team and, if you are a coach, for your clients.

Transcript of the video

Modified slightly for readability (the way I speak is somewhat less formal than the way I write!)

Hi, I'm Jeremy Lazarus. 

I'd like to talk to you about something called 'Performance Profiling'. Performance Profiling is a way that individuals, both at work or in sport, can improve their performance. If you're a business coach, a line manager or a sports coach, it's a way that you can help clients/colleagues to improve their performance. Let me explain a bit of the background and also how it works. 

Performance Profiling comes from the field of sports psychology.  As you can probably appreciate most (if not, all) athletes, certainly at the elite level, want to be as great as they can possibly be and they know that by improving the different aspects of their particular discipline, whatever their particular sport, by improving each of those individual aspects, they're more likely to be more effective as an athlete and therefore more likely to perform better and win. The same of course applies in the workplace; if someone is a salesperson for example, improving each of the different aspects of being a salesperson will mean they're more likely to win more business and/or get promoted. 

Let's use an example to illustrate how this works. Imagine you are a sports performance coach and you're working with a tennis player. You would ask the player to list the attributes of an effective tennis player, which, in this example, would be things like forehand, backhand, serve, volley, smash etc. You would then ask the athlete to score him / herself out of 10 against each of those individual attributes (where 10 is really great and 0 is not very good at all). If they think they've got a very good forehand they may score themselves 8. 9 or even 10; if they think their volleys are not very good then they may score themsleves 1s, 2s or 3s. It's also of course important to be clear who they're comparing themselves to; a county player would only be 2, 3 or 4 compared to the best platyers in the world. Please ensure the comparison is against someone who is one or two levels above that which the the athlete is actually playing at that particular point in their in their career, not several levels above.

So having listed the attributes and done the scores out of ten, your job as a performance coach is to help them to identify which individual areas they are going to work on and the specific tasks they're going to do in order to improve their scores. Every few sessions you can re-evaluate and if someone was, let's say, 3 out of 10 and they have improved to a 5 out of 10, then they can feel good about that and they'll probably feel motivated to continue improving and working at it because they can actually see or experience some kind of improvement. 

So let's take this a stage further; let's say it's not just you and the tennis player, but also the tennis coach. How can you use performance profiling when there's three of you?

The process is very similar to what I've just described. You would ask the tennis player and the tennis coach to agree the attributes. Then you would ask them to independently score the tennis player against those attributes; so the tennis player would self-score as they have done before; the tennis coach would also score the tennis player and then once they've both done it there are two conversations to have. 

Firstly you'd compare the scores (or you'd ask them to compare the scores). If there are differences, and there normally will be, explore what the differences are and why they both arrived at different scores. What are some of the difference in perception? And secondly, given whatever the the agreed score is, what actions are they going to take? What is the tennis player going to work on? How is the tennis coach going to help them and of course if there's a mental aspect or a psychological aspect, then you as a sports performance coach could be involved as well. So that covers it from a sporting context. 

You can obviously extend this to the workplace, where if you're a business coach or an executive coach working with a salesperson, you could ask the salesperson what are the attributes of an effective salesperson, ask them to self-score and coach them around improving it. If the line manager is involved, then you'd ask the line manager to score the sales person too, and look at the comparisons and then have a three-way conversation (or ask the two of them to have the conversation) with a view to increasing / improving the score. 

As well as doing this with athletes and individual people in the workplace you can also do it with groups or teams. What are the attributes of an effective team (whether it's a workplace team or a sports team)? 

You could even, if it helpful, subdivide some of these attributes to help improve a particualr attirbute. Using the tennis player, let's say that their backhand was 4 out of 10 and they wanted to improve it. You could subdivide the different attributes of an effective backhand, for example, footwork, balance, the grip, the backswing, the follow-through etc, and then work with the specific aspect(s) of the backhand that needed improving in order to improve the overall score. Similarly, and I've done this with teams, let's say you're using performance profiling with a team and one of the key attributes is communication and they score themselves a 6 out of 10; you could subdivide communication into its different components and work on each of those. 

So it's a really useful tool. It helps to measure performance, it helps bring some objectivity, so instead of someone saying, 'Oh, I've got a lousy backhand' or 'Our team doesn't communicate very well', you actually put some numbers on it, you score it, and then you can track and measure progress.

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