Navigating the Performance Paradox

Navigating the Performance Paradox written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Eduardo Briceño

Eduardo Briceño, a guest on the Duct Tape Marketing PodcastIn this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Eduardo Briceño. He is a global keynote speaker and facilitator who guides many of the world’s leading companies in developing cultures of learning and high performance. Earlier in his career, he was the co-founder and CEO of Mindset Works, the first company to offer growth mindset development services. 

His new book, The Performance Paradox: Turning the Power of Mindset into Action, helps you discover how to balance learning and performing to bolster personal and team success.

Key Takeaway:

The performance paradox is based on the constant focus on performing tasks at a high level which can lead to burnout and stagnation rather than improvement. Eduardo highlights the importance of incorporating learning and improvement into daily tasks and goals and he explores the concept of the “learning zone” and the need to balance performance with deliberate efforts to experiment, seek feedback, and continuously grow.

Questions I ask Eduardo Briceño:

  • [01:08] What is the paradox?
  • [01:37] So the paradox is that instead of people getting better, they actually burn out or perform worse?
  • [04:22] You’re suggesting something that’s very structured, right? Is that really the only way to get things done?
  • [06:38] What you’re suggesting is that we can actually empower people to make leadership-type decisions, right?
  • [07:52] The book is broken up into two major sections targeting the individual as well as the organization. One of the tools that you talk about for the individual is the idea of a growth propeller. Can you explain that?
  • [10:48] If you work at a place and you like the place you work at, but your coworker community is not necessarily driving you to meet your goals in the learning capacity. Is that something you should proactively be thinking about building?
  • [12:27] How do I create a learning organization? What are some of the things that an organization can do, especially if they haven’t been seeing themselves as such?
  • [14:29] Should we add learning goals as part of how we would evaluate the effectiveness of a team member?
  • [16:22] What are the characteristics that you think really have to exist for this to work?
  • [18:32] Have you seen incentive packages and recruiting approaches that really are rewarding that growth mentality?

More About Eduardo Briceño:

  • Get your copy of The Performance Paradox: Turning the Power of Mindset into Action
  • Connect with Eduardo on LinkedIn
  • Eduardo’s website.

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John Jantsch (00:00): Hey, this is John, and before we get started, I have a gift for you for being such an amazing listener. Everyone’s talking about AI these days, but most of it’s about tactics. We’ve created a series of prompts we use to create strategy, and you can have them for free. Just go to DTM world slash free prompts and grab yours. Now. Let’s get started.

(00:30): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Eduardo Briceño. He’s a global keynote speaker and facilitator who guides many of the world’s leading companies in developing cultures of learning and high performance. Earlier in his career, he was a co-founder and CEO of Mindset works, the first company to offer growth mindset development services. We’re going to talk about his new book, the Performance Paradox: Turning The Power of Mindset into Action. So Edar, welcome to the show.

Eduardo Briceño (01:04): Thank you, John. Thanks for having me here.

John Jantsch (01:06): You bet. So let’s start with the title. What is the paradox?

Eduardo Briceño (01:10): The performance paradox is the counterintuitive phenomenon that if we’re always performing, our performance suffers. So we actually achieve lower results if we’re only performing. And by performing, I mean focusing on doing things as best as we know how, trying to minimize mistakes, what we’re doing come game time. That’s what I mean by performing.

John Jantsch (01:37): So the paradox of that then is you’re saying that’s actually the counterintuitive thought is instead of just getting better and better, you actually have burnout or people they perform worse? Is that what you’re saying?

Eduardo Briceño (01:48): Yeah, we can have burnout, but at the very least, like you’re saying, we don’t get better. So what happens is to understand the idea. If we take it out of our context, let’s look at, for example, sports. If you take any sport, you’re in the game. Say for example, you’re playing tennis and you’re in a championship, you’re trying to win the game, you’re having trouble with a particular move, you’re going to avoid that move during that match because all you care about is winning and doing things as best as you know how. But then for the great athletes, the people who become fantastic at what they do after the game, they go to their coach and say, coach, I have to work on this thing. This thing that I wasn’t doing during the game, I wasn’t doing. Now I need to work on that. So that’s a very different activity, an area of attention and focus than when we do, when we’re performing and often in work and life, we just get wrapped up in our to-do list, just worried about getting things done, and that keeps us at our current level of effectiveness rather than finding opportunities to be more effective over time and achieve more.

John Jantsch (02:52): It’s interesting, I’ve heard athletes talk about that, particularly athletes that have become entrepreneurs talk about this idea that I only play once a week. I’m only on game time once a week. The rest of the time I’m working on stuff, I’m practicing. Entrepreneurs are like, it’s 24 7, I’m a game time, and it really does make a lot of sense.

Eduardo Briceño (03:12): And so well with athletes, they have kind of the privilege that they can spend a lot of time in practice focused only on performance and then that short amount of time where they’re performing or focused only on improvement most of the time, and then that short amount of time where they’re in game time, they can show us what they have learned, how good they are in our normal jobs and life, we need to be getting things done all the time or most of the time. So the opportunity for most of us is to get things done in a way that’s also going to lead to improvement. So that we have two goals as we do things. One is to get things done, but the other one is to figure out ways to do things better. So that means we have to not be doing the same thing in the same way every day, but we have to be trying new things, experimenting, listening to your podcast to get ideas about what to do differently, reading, soliciting feedback from customers or measuring what we do in terms of marketing to see what works better, doing AP tests all the time.

(04:12): So those are examples of how we can get things done in a way that’s also going to lead to improvement.

John Jantsch (04:19): When I listen to you talk about that, I mean that you’re really suggesting something that’s very structured. I mean, this is not like nap time would be right? It’s like every day at two o’clock we should have nap time, or every day at two o’clock we should have learning time. I mean, is that really the only way it’s going to get done? There’s always more to do in the performance category, right?

Eduardo Briceño (04:40): Yeah. So structures are so powerful and habits, I agree. So for example, a structure that a lot of teams have is a weekly meeting. And so at LinkedIn for example, they have a weekly meeting with their top 100 leaders, and when they started focusing on growth mindset and on improvement, what they did is they tweaked the agenda for the weekly meeting where there’s a section of that meeting where every week they talk about what somebody learned the prior week during that time, anybody is welcome to come and say, Hey, this is what I learned, this is what I’m going to do differently going forward. So their colleagues can benefit from that lesson as well. Or when we’re doing marketing, making sure we have ways to measure the effect of the different campaigns to see what works better and continuing to iterate from there. Absolutely, the structures and habits are critical or individually what we do every morning. And for me, being deliberate about what I’m trying to get better at and reminding myself of what that is every morning, the morning habit becomes effortless. I do it every morning, but then it prompts me to be looking for opportunities to improve in that area throughout the day.

John Jantsch (05:47): So you actually identify a couple zones when people are in their performance zone as when they’re in their learning zone and learning’s not just simply reading a book, is it?

Eduardo Briceño (05:57): No, absolutely. So I mean, it can be right? Learning can be reading a book or watching something or listening to something, but learning can also be integrated with performance. So there’s the learning zone, the performance zone, and then there’s, when we do the two together, often people have talked about that as learning by doing, but the reality is we don’t just learn by doing. If we just do something, it doesn’t actually lead to learning to, but we can learn while doing so that we can do things and get things done in a way that we’re going to be generating ideas, trying new things, measuring what works better and getting better over time as we get things done.

John Jantsch (06:36): So again, thinking about this structure, would you suggest that people actually need to identify, I don’t know if we call it zones, but time for learning and then further that, I mean, sometimes learning by doing means you have to be really bad at something or less productive maybe to find it a better way. So we also have to have permission for that. We

Eduardo Briceño (06:58): Absolutely, when the stakes are high and mistakes are very costly, we switch to our performance zone and that is appropriate and that we need to be doing that when the stakes are high, when there’s a very important customer that we’re meeting with or it’s a championship game, we want to be putting our best foot forward. So to your point, we want to identify what does my performance zone look like? When is that and when do I want to not focus on learning and when and how do I want to focus on learning? What strategies am I going to use? Who is going to help me learn? Well, who am I going to be soliciting feedback from and being deliberate about that and aligning with our colleagues on that. Because if you’re going into a meeting with a customer and you’re not clear on, are we just going to be performing, putting our best foot forward doing what works, which is appropriate sometimes, or are we going to be experimenting in a small way here and just getting on the same page, right? Yeah.

John Jantsch (07:50): Yeah. So the book is broken up into two major sections, targeting the individual as well as then the organization, because those two, especially in the workplace, those two are going to go hand in hand how successful the individual is. Might have something to do with how open the company is to this idea. But one of the tools, I’m a consultant as well, so I love a good metaphor and framework. One of the tools that you talk about for the individual is this idea of a growth propeller. I wonder if you could kind of unpack that one.

Eduardo Briceño (08:19): Yeah. So the growth propeller is something that helps us think about how we want to continue to evolve ourselves to be great learners and great performers, and really it can help us think about how we want to shape ourselves to be successful in any area of our lives. And so at the picture propeller with three blades at the center of it, we have our identity and our purpose. And the three blades are beliefs, habits, and community. So when it comes to our identity, it’s really important for us to see ourselves as a learner, as someone who is continuing to change. And over time, sometimes we want to think of ourselves as naturals, like we are gifted and we have something special around us, and that’s why we can do things very well. And then that doesn’t lead us to continue to want to learn and get even better over time.

(09:09): And when we struggle, we take that as evidence that we’re not good, and so we go do something else. So our identity of being a learner and continuing to change over time, we need a purpose, a reason that we care about for both putting effort into learning and effort into performing. So that’s like we can be tinkering with things that we care about, thinking about the contribution and the effect that we have on our colleagues and our customers so that it gives us a purpose, like the energy to put effort into both zones. And then I unpack some kind of key beliefs, habits, and aspects of our community that help us be more effective in both of those zones. For example, belief about transparency is really important. When we make our thinking visible to other people, then we can learn more because they can give us feedback on our thinking and they can learn more because we’re making our thinking visible to them.

(10:02): So that’s an example of a belief. What do we think about transparency and how do we use it in our lives in terms of habits, how we respond to mistakes is what I call a responsive habit, but how do we practically drive our growth and what are some proactive habits or something to think about? And our community is super important, the people around us, because the people around us, whether they see themselves as learners, whether they act like learners with us and in collaboration with us, that affects us a lot. So who are we working with and living with and how are we continuing to shape ourselves? And the way that we collaborate with each other is something to think about as well.

John Jantsch (10:42): So further on the community aspect, it feels a little bit like you’re saying. I mean if you work at a place and you like the place you work at, but your coworker community is not necessarily going to drive you to meet your goals in the learning capacity, I mean, is that something you should proactively be thinking about building who can I, even if it’s networking or mentors or something, who can I surround myself with? Not necessarily just my coworkers?

Eduardo Briceño (11:09): Absolutely. Yeah, we can think about what can I most influence or control or influence. So the thing that I can most control and influence is myself. So how do I perceive things? How do I behave? And then there’s the people who are close to us and we can try to influence them. We can try to share an idea or a video or an article with them and say, Hey, this resonated with me. What do you think about this? Do we want more of this in our team? And see if you can continue to shape the culture of your team in the way that you want. Sometimes teams will respond to that, sometimes they won’t. And we can work on continuing to get better in our ability to influence others. But to your point, we can look also beyond our team, whether it is our friends or other people in other departments or mentors, and get those relationships that will support us and help us learn and grow over time.

John Jantsch (12:03): Like book clubs, we have a Slack channel that people are constantly dropping in, Hey, here’s something I read, I think everybody would be really interested in. So those little things can actually, I’ve seen them have impact on the culture.

Eduardo Briceño (12:15): Absolutely.

John Jantsch (12:17): Alright, so the second half you talk about this idea of a learning organization. So I’m going to ask you a question that would probably take you 20 minutes to answer, but I guess the short form, I mean, how do I create a learning organization? What are some of the things an organization can do, especially if they haven’t been seeing themselves as such?

Eduardo Briceño (12:37): So one is to start exploring these ideas and thinking about are we a know-it-all organization that values people who behave like know-it-alls or the people who are most respected in a team, people who are sure that they have the right answer, or are they people who might know a lot, but they’re continuing to expand their understanding, they’re asking questions, they’re soliciting other people’s ideas and exploring really, what do we think about this idea of continuous growth and Olympic athletes continue to work even to get even better, even though they’re the best in the world? Do we want that type of culture? So the intention, do we want to create a learning organization? What does that mean? And then depending on where you are in the organization, your next steps might be different. If you’re an executive, you might want to think about your executive team and talk about with the executive team, what are your core values that maybe you want to refresh?

(13:35): How do you give guidance to the organization on what key behaviors those core values entail? Maybe soliciting some feedback from the organization in terms of what are the strengths of the organization and here’s what we’re thinking. What do you think about this? We love your feedback, but even if we’re in the middle of an organization or in the bottom of an organization, we’re just starting out our careers. We can influence our circle, like our team, even within an organization that might be call it a know-it-all organization, there are teams that can be great learning teams, and the culture really is a culture with the people that we have the closest relationships with. So we can create those islands of excellence and of deep relationships and collaboration, even if we work in an organization that has whatever culture,

John Jantsch (14:20): So many organizations pay is based on performance evaluation. Are you suggesting that we should add learning goals as part of how we would evaluate the effectiveness of a team member?

Eduardo Briceño (14:35): Well, so there’s the performance evaluation and it is completely reasonable to have bonuses and performance be based on performance and on outcomes. But we see over and over across organizations and industries that the people who figure out systems and habits to make the learning zone part of their everyday life perform better. So those people achieve higher performance, they achieve higher bonuses because they figure out ways to engage in the learning zone on a daily basis. And so in performance management, it’s an opportunity to have people reflect not only on their performance goals, but also on their learning goals. What do I want to get better at? How am I going to go about it? Who might help me along the way? What resources can I tap and think about, okay, for the last quarter or the last six months, I said I was going to get better at X in these ways. How did that go? Did I actually get better? Is that actually making an impact? And if we share those learning goals with our colleagues, our teams, then that can be very powerful because they can give us feedback that’s relevant to that thing that we’re interested in along the way.

John Jantsch (15:45): What have you seen, what characteristics or traits do you find an organization is either really is abundantly clear that they have those and so they can adopt this? Or the backwards way to ask that is what traits are missing in organizations that try to do this? Because for example, anytime somebody comes and says, oh, here’s our new initiative, we’re going to do X, but there’s no trust because you’ve said that a hundred times and we’ve never done X. It’s pretty tough. So I asked you a question and then I sort of answered it probably, but I’ll tee that up. What are the characteristics you think really have to exist? A learning

Eduardo Briceño (16:24): Organization? People feel that continuous growth is a default, that the organization believes that they can continue to grow and expand their skills and develop throughout the organization. And that there’s resources for them, right? There’s resources for them to grow, whether it’s mentorship or through some organizations might have even role playing or simulation rooms or all kinds of different structures. And so part of that is, and you alluded to this, is that people feel safe to take risks, to try new things, to solicit feedback, to say, Hey, I am not sure that meeting went great. I’m not feeling great about it. I would love your ideas about what I could do better next time. Or in this particular meeting, I’m going to be working on this specific thing. I would love for you to look for that so that after a meeting you can give me feedback on it or I can give you feedback if I saw something that I thought would be an opportunity for greater impact. So where people can have open and honest, transparent conversations, feeling that’s bringing them closer together, getting to know each other better, and they’re contributing to each other’s learning and performance.

John Jantsch (17:36): I suspect there are organizations that the culture is such that people would see that actually as a weakness to be asking for help, to be saying, oh, I want to learn this new thing, or maybe this job, my zone of genius, I’d like to work on this because I’d like to go here. I mean, that takes a level of trust and transparency that maybe doesn’t exist in a lot of organizations.

Eduardo Briceño (17:59): Yeah, I agree. I think it doesn’t exist in a lot of organizations, so we have to build that trust. And what we’re saying is not that people are not competent, and so they need to spend more time learning in these organizations. People are very competent, but they want to get even better. So when we’re hiring somebody, for example, we don’t want to hire somebody who has learned the skills that are needed for the job. And even the better, the skills are better, but then we want to grow from there. We want to go from good to great, from great to greater.

John Jantsch (18:32): Yeah. Have you seen incentive packages and recruiting approaches that really are rewarding that growth mentality?

Eduardo Briceño (18:39): Yeah. So first there’s, in recruiting, there’s the employer brand. When you communicate with the candidates, do you communicate that this is a company that really will support your growth? And once people who want to work hard and continuing to develop themselves in collaboration with others. So there’s that kind of employer branding. Then there’s the onboarding of how do you onboard people and teach them how do we learn in this organization? What resources, habits, and structures do we have to learn? And also using that as an opportunity to get these people with fresh eyes to give you feedback on what they see because we can learn so much from these new people who are just seeing things with fresh eyes. And then in terms of compensation, when we tie monetary rewards to learning, there can be some unintended consequences. So it’s better actually to elevate the purpose of the work and the satisfaction that comes from growth and from the higher performance from growth and leave the compensation tied to actually the performance and the results.

John Jantsch (19:46): Yeah, I’ve actually seen some people kind of gamify it where it might not be compensation, but it’ll be some sort of perks from the company store or something like that, really just to kind of keep it fresh and gamify a little.

Eduardo Briceño (20:00): Totally. One of the companies that I mentioned in the book, many companies, it’s named Clear Choice Dental Implants, and they have some awesome games where people learn with each other through games. They have gamified their learning pathways in the organization. So that, for example, if you are in the middle of a learning progression to continue progressing, you have to help somebody who is earlier in their progression, maybe by giving them feedback or observing them and giving them feedback or something like that. So yeah, those gamifications can be really fun.

John Jantsch (20:33): Awesome. Well, Eduardo, are you want to, again, appreciate you stopping by the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. You want to tell people where they can connect with you and obviously find out more about the Performance paradox?

Eduardo Briceño (20:43): Sure. So my website is It’s my last I have a monthly newsletter. I am active on LinkedIn, and the book is available wherever books are sold. It’s the performance Paradox, turning the power of mindset into action. Thanks again, John, for having me today.

John Jantsch (20:59): I appreciate you taking the time, and hopefully we’ll run into you one of these days out there on the road in real life.

Eduardo Briceño (21:04): I look forward to it.