Performing Well or Working at Your Best?


There seems to be confusion about the distinction between doing one’s best and succeeding within an organizational setting. They’re not the same and if you’re used to latter and not the former, you’re undermining your marketability at the same time when layoffs are common, knee-jerk reactions and corporate bankruptcies are at an all-time high.

The habits you create through your roles and employers affect your capacity to work at your best.

Your employer can be the next Enron, Kodak, Lehman Brothers, Worldcom, American Airlines, AIG and since that’s the case, you’re influenced by mediocrity whether you realize it or not. Define mediocrity? When individuals and team work below their best. In today’s organizational setting, let’s be honest that mediocrity has taken root. Most people are under-employed, even in sexy Silicon Valley companies, where people quickly learn how to navigate “the lay of the land” and morph themselves to fit that context, knowing full well that their best is not really needed at all. Today’s business world is still based in the legacy industrial model, where people see people as objects or cogs in a wheel and organizations are designed around systems and their efficiency, not people’s highest potential. Therefore, anyone who works within an organization OR their own firm based on the same unquestioned assumptions, is possibly doing what’s needed, not doing their best.

So what?

We’re living through a structural transition — every political, business and social structure is falling apart and being re-weaved as we speak. This creates uncertainty and chaos that requires inner power at the same time that we’re socialized to seek external goodies — external power, prestige and money. Few people explore inner power and fewer practice it — the same power needed today because it’s effective across any context, amidst any structural transition. Inner power is comes from inner resources such as self-knowledge, self-respect, self-trust, integrity, ability to deal with fear, embarrassment and humiliation. If you’re scared of being embarrassed, making mistakes or seeming a fool, how strong are you? And if the chaotic environment of today pushes and pulls you around, how will you respond? Will you actually lead by guiding people or shift entirely into survival mode at all cost?

You’re not working at your best if you do any of these:

  • feel stressed, rushed or anxious about getting things done
  • say/do things to be called a “good team player”
  • fear for your job OR you fear you might not get the promotion you want
  • shrink to please a boss
  • follow (useless) orders from a directive CEO
  • learn to play politics
  • exaggerate to be seen amidst information noise
  • undermine others to slow down a fast-paced environment
  • play games with colleagues to feel powerful
  • postpone pursuing a promotion to contain working hours and stress
  • avoid embarrassment or humiliation
  • worry about what your boss thinks of you
  • try to hide mistakes made by you or your team
  • say “yes” to new responsibilities without thinking of the consequences to your time, quality of work, income/hour, credibility

You can’t work at your best if you do any of those. They focus your attention on the specific definitions of your organization, which are unlikely those keeping you at your best.

What to do?

Get to know yourself and define your best. Most of the changes are incremental and therefore, they’re invisible, so without an honest (if painful) look in the mirror, you’ll stay working at the organizational best.

If you want to explore, these questions will help:

Assess your current state

  • What does my employer reward?
  • What have I done to conform?
  • How much of myself has changed to succeed here?
  • What have my spouse, children, friends noticed in me? (ask them!)
  • Who will I become if I continue this way?

ID your best level

  • What is my best?
  • What would it take to get there?
  • Can I lead and work at my best at work? At home?
  • Who will I become if I start working at my best?