Issue 58

Can attitude predict performance?

Anca Tichy
Talent Engagement Partner @ 3Pillar Global

Ioan Ciorneschi
Engineering Manager @ 3Pillar Global


Acolleague (who is more thorough than I am) told me to how many technical interviews he attended in 2016. It was a big, but irrelevant number, which made me ponder about the power and responsibility people have when they JUDGE a person. Scared of how curt and terse « to judge » actually sounds, I applied the corporate filter and I decided to use "to evaluate" instead. It does not come off so strong. The evaluation process entails a person's ability to be objective, while judgment seems godly and somehow final!

The environment we live in encourages us (or even pushes us) to evaluate. We do it according to subjective or objective scales, forcing rules and values to the process. These can be our own rules or organizational rules, but in each case we apply personal filters to the process.

What do we actually evaluate? We evaluate people or people fragments. We evaluate knowledge, attitude, performance, problem solving, motivation, actions and many other fragments that make up the individual. We evaluate both soft and hard skills and we are pressured to draw cold conclusions based on clear seniority guidelines.

Just when I thought I was out of the woods (but still far from reaching a conclusion), I am hit by another conversation:

Here is a bit of context: Two managers were talking about a person who was about to switch teams.

We parted and we carried out our tasks, but the seed was already planted: "Do we really have it all if we have a good attitude? Is that all we need in life? Attitude?"

After I answered with a shallow "YES" to all the questions above, I found it strange how much confidence my interlocutor had in my evaluation of our colleagues attitude.

Attitude is a subjective reaction to a situation. Attitude is intertwined with emotion, reasoning and actions.

It is clear that on an objective scale, attitude is quite subjective. You cannot measure someone's attitude. However, you can measure behavior (their actions, the results reached after great effort) which can be measured in an objective manner! Despite all this, my colleague lends more importance to attitude.

Can attitude predict performance?

Attitude is mainly dictated by the set of values and rules the individual assumes. Attitude is a psychological construct, an emotional one. On the other hand, performance is based on a set of actions (behavior) most of the time rational or intellect driven. Performance (positive or negative) supports actions which entail effort in most cases.

Even if a person is adept at doing a task, it doesn't mean the person is willing to do the task.

Coincidence or not, the very same day, I attended an excellent presentation on Product Mindset (Bogdan Mureşan - 3Pillar Global) whose title was "Excel at change".

We can assess how good a given change was, by measuring the change result. To reach the change result, the individual and the team must display a given behavior and put in effort to make change happen.

So where does attitude come in? Attitude is what makes us more prone to change; it precedes behavior and can even diminish the perception of the effort required during activities. The "wrong" attitude can close doors and we will never know what the reaction (the behavior) could have been.

A positive attitude makes me promise that I will do things before actually starting them. A negative attitude makes me stubborn and makes me believe I will never reach a given result (irrespective of how large it is). This doesn't mean that I should commit to something or promise something which does not clearly follow from the data. Everything I do must be coupled with a behavior which leads to the expected destination.

Having the right attitude does not bring about clear results. The right attitude must be accompanied by behavior.



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