Brian Tracy on the Psychology of Performance

Published: Apr 10, 2019
Modified: Mar 24, 2020

By: Brian Tracy

One of the top responsibilities of a manager is to motivate employees to do their absolute best. In his new book, Motivation, the management/success guru shares his simple strategy for doing just that: create an environment where people feel terrific about themselves.

Up until the Great Depression of the 1930s, almost all advances in management were a result of advances in technology, science, and production processes. Since World War II, most of the great advances have been managerial and psychological in nature. By tapping into the psychological factors that determine performance and productivity, you can make a dramatic difference in your effectiveness as a manager and in your ability to get results.

The Command Center
The psychological factor really comes down to a very simple point: the self-concept. The discovery of the self-concept is perhaps the most important breakthrough in the development of human potential in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The self-concept is the belief structure or value system of the individual. It forms and develops from early childhood and is a composite of all of the emotions, experiences, decisions, education, and events of a person’s life up to the present day. The self-concept determines how a person thinks about himself, feels about himself, and sees himself relative to the rest of the world.

The self-concept is like the command center that sits at the core of personality and productivity. It is what governs individual performance, behavior, and output. All changes or improvements in external performance and behavior begin with improvements in the self-concept; to put it another way, all changes in the outer world of the individual begin with changes in the inner world.

The Self-Concept and Performance
The self-concept is made up of three components: the self-ideal, the self-image, and the self-esteem. Let’s take each of these in order.

The individual’s self-ideal is a summary picture of what the person aspires to be in life. It is made up of the goals, dreams, hopes, and ideals that the person has about himself and what is possible for him to become at some time in the future.

In the world of work, the individual’s self-ideal is influenced by corporate values, the role models represented by the senior people in the organization, and the corporate culture surrounding employees.

The second part of the self-concept is the self-image. This is the way a person thinks she is viewed by others. People who see themselves as likable, confident, and competent will tend to do a much better job than people who see themselves as not particularly good at their work.

Your self-image is greatly influenced by the way people treat you daily. When people are treated as though they are valuable, important, and respected, they see themselves and think about themselves in a more positive way. As a result, they perform at higher levels and do better work.

The third part, and the core of the self-concept, is the individual’s level of self-esteem. Self-esteem can be defined as “how much you like yourself.” The more people like and respect themselves on the inside, the better they perform on the outside: They set bigger goals for themselves and higher standards for the quality of their work; when people like themselves, they also like other people more and become excellent team players.

The self-esteem is the “reactor core” of the human personality and largely determines the individual’s level of energy, enthusiasm, vitality, and self-confidence.

The key to creating a peak performance organization is to create an environment of high self-esteem by removing the fears of failure and rejection that inhibit personal performance. The manager who creates a positive, high-self-esteem workplace will have higher performance, lower absenteeism, lower employee turnover, higher productivity, and fewer mistakes.

The Role of the Manager
There are seven ways that the manager can build and reinforce a positive self-concept in each employee. These practices align with seven motivators:

1. Challenge. Give people jobs that make them stretch. The more challenge that people experience in their work, the more engaged they will be and the more positive they will feel about themselves.

2. Freedom. Give people sufficient autonomy to work without close supervision. The more freedom that they have to get the job done on their own, in their own way, the better they feel about themselves.

3. Control. Set regular times for review, feedback, and discussion of the work. The more regular feedback that employees get on their performance, the better they feel about themselves and the more valuable they consider their work to be.

4. Respect. When you ask for people’s opinions, and listen closely to them when they want to talk, they feel more valuable and important. By listening attentively and carefully considering the opinions of others—even if you, as manager, do not act on their input—you demonstrate that you respect the uniqueness of each person.

5. Warmth. The more your people see that you like and care about them as individuals, in addition to members of the staff, the better they will perform. By treating your people as though they are your friends and natural extensions of your corporate “family,” you make them feel safer, more secure, and more important.

6. Success Experiences. A key to self-esteem and self-concept building is to give people jobs that they can perform successfully at their levels of experience and skill. When they complete a task, recognize and acknowledge that achievement, both privately and publicly, so that people feel like “winners.”

7. Positive Expectations. This is perhaps the most powerful motivator of all. Nothing boosts self-esteem and improves performance more than when people sense that their boss believes that they are good and competent and that they have the ability to do the job well.

Successful companies are those that create an environment where people feel terrific about themselves. Understanding the role of the self-concept in behavior is the starting point of effectiveness in management and motivation.

Action Exercises

1. Make it a habit to treat your individual staff members as though they are valuable, important, intelligent, and competent. Look for every opportunity to build their self-esteem and self-confidence in every interaction with them.

2. Tell your staff members continually how good they are and how impressed you are with the quality of their work. When you confidently expect people to perform at high levels, they will seldom disappoint you.

© 2013 Brian Tracy. All rights reserved. Adapted and excerpted from The Brian Tracy Success Library: Motivation, by Brian Tracy. Published by AMACOM, a division of American Management Association. Used by permission of the publisher.

If you’re a manager who wants to learn strategies for helping your employees achieve peak performance, consider these AMA seminars:
The Psychology of Management: Why People Do What They Do

Achieving Leadership Success Through People

Leading with Emotional Intelligence

About the Author(s)

Brian Tracy is the Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations. One of the top business speakers and authorities in the world today, he has consulted for more than 1,000 companies and addressed more than 5,000,000 people in 5,000 talks and seminars throughout the United States and more than 60 countries worldwide. He has written 65 books and produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on management, motivation, and personal success.