STOP pushing for better performance


Why do we think we have to push each other to achieve great results? We know that people work best if they feel inspired and energized but regardless of this, we often control, follow up and put pressure on people in order to make sure that they meet their goals. And even worse – if things are not working out, we push even harder.  When did we stop believing and trusting in the innate resources of our employees and colleagues? When did we start believing that we have to control people in order for them to do their best?


It is not only in the work place. It also happens in our schools. My own daughter went down with stress when she was only 14, in 8th grade. Of course, I cannot blame the school because once I believed in the very same model – pushing to get results; and the school is a part of a system and society that encourages this constant pushing. But it is a fact that schools are pushing harder and harder and getting more and more serious. In Denmark, they start discussing kids’ plans for the future as early as in the 8th grade. Did we forget that learning is most efficient when we are having fun?

Fun is for many associated with not being serious about your studies, your job or you career. Even though we have overwhelming evidence that joy and fun is the best prerequisite for learning and performance.

So, what happened? I hear and see a lot of anxiety about setting students and employees free to work/study from a place that lifts their energy.  There is a general lack of trust. A lack of believe in the fact that if people know the goal they will be able to find a meaningful way once they get the hang of it.  The anxiety from teachers and leaders that they themselves will not live up to their performance goals is often what feeds this model of pushing as the primary tool for performance enhancement.

We forget that when people don’t do what they are told there is always a reason and there is always a place filled with talent resource and energy waiting to be set free – in everybody. We just need to return to a place that this is the first thing we look for. Where is the energy, and if he or she is not performing well, how can I set them free to perform better instead of pushing them harder? In many places, there is still an almost frightening focus on what people don’t do and the goals they are failing to meet and a belief that the remedy is to push harder.


I am not talking about completely letting go of pushing as a tool in teaching and leadership but I believe it is time to start trusting that everybody has an innate power and that the first and foremost job as teachers and leaders is to bring that out in the people around us and that is not done primarily by pushing.


How can you start setting people free instead of pushing them into a corner?

Well, the best medicine is always to start living it yourself and finding ways to find your way back to the free place in you where things are fun and filled with ease. LINK


I can almost hear how you will argue that this is not possible in your job or life. But I want you to start experimenting little by little. Remember incredible performance does not come from primarily pushing yourself – you need to set yourself free.

The next thing I want to encourage you to do is to start trusting that your children, peers and employees are actually able to perform fantastically well without you pushing and correcting them all the time. I want you to trust that most of the time they can find their own way to reach their goals and if they can’t, the first thing you need to do is to focus on and make room for things that energize them in order to set their resources free.

My daughter found her way through her stress and came out stronger. Today she is 16 and she (we) learned the hard way that if it is not fun she has to reorganize her time in order to find room for more that is. Just small things. The most important thing is not that she gets the highest grades but instead that she insists on being a teenager and has room for the things that bring her joy. Interestingly here grades are fine with less effort than back when she (and the rest of us) pushed her hard.

Somehow we forgot that nobody gets up in the morning dedicated to doing his or her absolute worst job that day. We all want to make something meaningful and valuable for other people with the things we do every day.


How to get started:

  1. Start insisting on brining fun and joy into your life and career again. Just the small things. If you need help finding direction look at this LINK.
  2. Start observing where and when you push yourself hard and consider whether it is actually productive.
  3. Start being focused on setting people free instead of pushing them harder. Involve them in finding ways forward and help them navigate towards the things that energize them. Help them find things that they enjoy.


I know you will be surprised about how much actually gets done when you set people free and how performance actually increases very quickly.


Good luck with getting through a December with more focus on joy and fun.

Skærmbillede 2014-08-01 kl. 13.07.17