Turning Potential into Performance

Turn Potential into Performance by Maximizing Your COGNITIVE ASSETS For All They’re Worth.

Setting the Stage

What really drives performance?

Most people would say knowledge, talent, skills, actions, and behaviors are the key drivers. In reality, …

… thinking is the catalyst that turns potential (knowledge, talent, skills) into performance (actions and behaviors).

If you want to elicit
better performance,
you need a way to elicit
better thinking.

The fastest and most effective way to elicit better performance, is to elicit better thinking. Thankfully, most people are already capable of far better thinking – they just need a way to tap into that potential.

Unfortunately, the current paradigm of mainstream best practices for learning and development, isn’t doing the job. Almost all talent and leadership development – billions of dollars worth each year – is focused on measuring and improving behaviors.

Despite these investments and the use of “best practices,” few organizations are happy with the ROI their learning and development efforts produce. The needle of employee engagement hasn’t budged in decades and, according to the World Economic Forum, there is a widespread and worsening leadership gap.

What’s needed is a new paradigm – a new way of thinking –

– a new way of thinking about thinking !

Here’s a place to start.

Linking Thinking to Performance

is the
that turns

A person’s potential can be defined as all the knowledge, skills, talents, and resources they have at their disposal. To “live up to one’s potential” means to put all their potential to good use.

Performance can be defined as the level of value a person’s actions and behaviors generate relative to a given standard or expectation and in relation to a particular purpose, goal, role, or situation.

Depending on the purpose, goal, role, situation, or activity, “value” can mean many different things. It can mean a quantity of production, quality of workmanship, a degree of positive influence, scoring points in a game, makes a sale, building trust, solving a problem, creating joy, or expressing empathy.

“Low” Performance = not meeting the expectation or standard

“Good” Performance = meeting the expectation or standard

“High” performance = exceeding the expectation or standard

The quality of person’s thinking determines the level of their performance. Good thinking allows a person to make good use of their potential. Poor thinking undermines performance.

If you want to elicit better performance, you need a way to elicit better thinking.
If thinking is the real driver of performance, why is so much of talent, leadership development, and performance management focused on behaviors instead of thinking?

Perhaps it’s because conventional wisdom says you have to focus only on what can be objectively measured or observed, and “conventional wisdom” says thinking cannot be objectively measured.

But what if conventional wisdom is wisdom is wrong? Imagine if a person’s cognitive assets (their ways of thinking that most support high performance) and their cognitive liabilities (their ways of thinking that undermine or diminish performance) could be quickly, cost-effectively, and accurately identified.

I’m not talking about personality traits or behavioral strengths and weaknesses. I’m talking about how and how well a person thinks (their perceptions, valuations, judgments, biases, and decision-making) from all the different ways a person can think.

Would knowing how people think make a difference? Would it change anything about talent and leadership development? Would it be useful in hiring and selection? Would it help people improve their own performance and even their quality of life?

The idea that something so intangible as thinking can be objectively measured is a rather mind-bending concept. But if you think about the implications, it could be a game changer. It could change how we think about thinking. It could alter the very foundations of talent, leadership, and organizational development which tend to be so behavior-focused.

Thinking IS Measurable.

(Most of the world just doesn’t know it yet!)

Having objectively diagnosed the thinking of over 10,000 from people from across the breadth western culture, we’ve discovered a few things.

Note: Our approach DOES NOT use traditional subjective surveys, questionnaires, or self-report assessments. You won’t get accurate answers just by asking people what or how they think. We use an objective, scientifically-validated, cognitive assessment methodology.

Here just some of what we’ve learned by studying how people think and make decisions:

  • Everyone has some ways of thinking that are better than others. The statistical average is that people have 3.74 times more cognitive liabilities than cognitive assets.
  • Intelligence and education have little to do with how many cognitive assets or liabilities a person has – interestingly, formal education may even have the negative effect of indoctrinating people into certain close-minded ways of thinking, increasing one’s potential liabilities.
  • Cognitive liabilities tend to be much more habituated and self-centric than cognitive assets. As a result, these not-so-good ways of thinking often dominate and influence over 90% or more of a person’s decision, actions, and reactions.
  • The #1 cause of people’s under-performance is being stuck in habitual ways of thinking – their cognitive liabilities.
  • The #1 cause of a low ROI for learning and development is that the learning doesn’t sufficiently change or improve how people think.

How is all this impacting people’s performance and personal lives?

If you are an organizational leader, a learning leader, or an aspiring change agent, these are some of the challenges you’re up against whether you realize it or not.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that virtually every person already has all the wisdom and potential they need to improve their performance. The challenge is helping them learn to tap into their cognitive assets more often, and keep their cognitive liabilities from getting in their way.

Investing more in mainstream talent development is NOT going to make a major difference. What WILL make a huge difference is helping people shift their thinking in a way that unleashes more of the knowledge, talent, and wisdom (potential) people already have – starting with yourself.

Maximize Cognitive Assets and Minimize Cognitive Liabilities

Performance is a function of value creation. A better quality of life is the result of both creating and experiencing greater value.

Importantly, the human brain is hard-wired with the desire to create and experience value; to improve quality of life. What’s missing in most learning and development approaches is a sufficient and conscientious focus on value creation in all its worthy forms.

In our Cognitive Self-Leadership training programs, we teach participants to ask themselves a question we call The Central Question of Life, Love, and Leadership:

What choice can I make and action can I take, in this moment, to create the greatest net value?

It’s a question that will help you engage your best ways of thinking (your cognitive assets) in any situation that matters. It’s a question you can ask yourself whenever you feel stressed, upset, confused, or overwhelmed – a sure sign that one of your cognitive liabilities has been “triggered.”

Going into potentially stressful situations with this question in mind will help prevent your cognitive liabilities from getting triggered. Asking yourself this question can help you reduce or eliminate indecision, conflict, procrastination, mistakes, and stress.

It’s also a question you can openly ask in meetings by substituting “we” for “I.” It will alter the conversation, elicit better thinking, improve collaboration, increase engagement, and improve team culture and performance.

Don’t Just “Live” Your Life, LEAD IT!

Write The Central Question down. Post it everywhere. Make it the central theme of your life. Make asking yourself this question a regular habit. Teach it to others, especially you’re loved ones.

It’s a magical question that can unleash human potential for good and transform lives, relationships, careers, and organizations – IF it is taken it to heart and put to work for all it’s worth.

What choice can I make and action can I take, in this moment, to create the greatest net value?


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The Central Question
of Life, Love, and Leadership:

“What choice can I make and action can I take, in this moment, to create the greatest net value?”

A simple question that’s transforming lives and organizations!

Our book…

~ Stephen R. Covey

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