I recently received an email from a colleague who I haven't heard from in years. He reminded me that in the mid 80's I shared with him my model of factors affecting performance. He asked for another copy as he had given his last copy away to a corporate trainer while on a flight. After searching several sources, he emailed me with his request and described my model as, "probably the best tool ever for explaining why people do or don't perform as desired."

As my colleague implied, models are powerful tools providing insight into deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, pictures or images that influence how we understand the world and how to take action. My model serves the purpose of identifying performance problem areas and providing insights for remedies, focusing scarce resources on high leverage causes. Use of such a model avoids implementing solutions that may be inappropriate and costly such as formal training when all that may be needed is a simple job aid.

Since the mid 80's, I have expanded my model to a new, dimensional model that includes Emotional Intelligence (EI) as an all-encompassing factor affecting performance in all areas. And because of its depth and breadth, this revised model is the one I have been using for over a decade.

My original model depicts a nine-box grid (3 boxes by 3 boxes), reflecting my Engineering background. The grid identifies over 30 factors affecting performance according to those who have the most control or influence over the factors - executives, managers, and individual performers. While this model implies that emotion is a factor affecting performance, I've discovered that emotion is a factor that all of us, we rational analyzers, have not paid enough attention to as critical to performance.

Research indicates that emotions play a much more important role than other factors. In fact, every sensory input we receive is processed through our emotional center first. When that occurs, an emotional meaning or flavor is attached to each input before it is sent on and processed in our rational mind, the neocortex.1 So our emotional center is the gatekeeper for every response to every input that we receive. Our emotional center attaches an emotional meaning to the assignments we are given (and how they are given), the workload we are given, the noise and lighting in our physical work environment, the information (or lack of information) that we have to do the job, etc.

To reflect the significant impact of emotions, my revised model adds a third dimension - the dimension of Emotion. With the inclusion of depth, this new model indicates that not only do all of those "Head" factors (in my original model) affect our performance, but also our emotions can negatively or positively affect our physical energy, our mental clarity, and our productivity. Just think of how people feel when the initial announcement of a downsizing is released. The vast majority of people perceive the announcement negatively and the result is a decrease in quality, productivity and morale by the vast majority of employees. On the other hand, how do you feel and what happens to you when you are given an honest compliment on your work, when you are genuinely appreciated. Doesn't that give you an energy boost? Aren't you more likely to do a little bit more than normal?

The Emotional dimension of the model could be viewed as a continuum. On one end is Fear; on the other is Appreciation. Ask yourself how well people perform when they are anxious, frustrated, fearful, or angry. My personal experience and my observation is that most people don't perform well. On the other hand, if a person truly feels cared for and appreciated, then those positive emotions facilitate performance. I contend that this is what each of us wants. We want to be appreciated for our contributions; we want to feel that people care about us. We don't want to act like we can check our emotions at the door in the morning when we come in to work and pick them up again when we go home. We have our emotions - our hearts - with us all of the time.

It's disquieting to think that so much time is spent on the factors reflected in my two-dimensional, rational, "Head" model. I'm not saying that those factors aren't important. Obviously they are. But the dramatic results achieved by implementing simple emotional management techniques in my programs tells me that I must actively use the "Head/Heart" model when considering interventions to help improve people's performance.

1. Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence, 1995, Bantam Books. copyright 2008, Byron Stock

Author's Bio: 

Byron Stock, a former engineer and director of corporate education, guides individuals and organizations toward excellence by helping them develop their Emotional Intelligence skills as a powerful tool to achieve strategic objectives, lead change and create resilient, high performing organizational cultures. Learn about Byron's quick, easy, proven techniques to harness the power of your Emotional Intelligence in his new book, SMART EMOTIONS for Busy Business People available through his website www.ByronStock.com