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Leading Through the Cycle of Performance

A few weeks ago, we shared with you the Cycle of Performance (COP), an unconscious process that your mind goes through every time you start something new in life, whether it’s a new training routine, a nutrition plan, a new career, or anything else. The COP has four phases – Inception, Deception, Transformation, and Identity. As a leader, you can proactively take your team members through the COP using a process we call the Leadership Cycle of Performance. 


When you understand the phases of the Leadership Cycle of Performance and use it as a tool with the teams you lead, you have the ability to know what it takes to make a change in behavior, how to persist through the entire COP, identify where someone else is within the cycle, guide their progress, and realize results. 


As with the COP, there are three factors that will help you determine which phase of the cycle you or a team member are in. They are Attitude, Competence, and Effort. ACE! 


Step 1: Inception 

  • Attitude is high
  • Competence is low 
  • Effort is high
  • You are unconsciously incompetent


As humans, we need to experience Inception. Everything great in life comes about because people started out unconsciously incompetent. There would be no great inventions, companies, or products if people were not unconsciously incompetent and motivated by what they want or don’t want.


Great leaders know how to create enthusiasm and gain buy-in from others; however, some leaders bring their team into Inception by hyping them up and getting everyone excited and motivated, but they do not take them through the rest of the cycle. That’s not being a good leader; that’s setting up the team for failure. 


Some leaders say, “I don’t want to pump people up; I want to tell them how challenging it will be.” They start their conversations with team members by talking about Deception and about how tough it will be as they step up. They dismiss the importance of Inception and discount the experience of tapping into their dreams and their capabilities to create what they most desire. Teams will not grow as strong or big without experiencing Inception first.


Inception Leadership: Directing

When people are pumped up and excited during Inception, the role of a leader is to say, “Now that you are excited, here is what you need to do next.” 

Often, when an individual or team is excited about a project, leaders will delegate tasks to them rather than taking the time to direct them. In Inception, it’s common for people to think they know everything, and they can be irrational because of their heightened level of excitement. 


This is not the time to delegate. Remember, in Inception, people are unconsciously incompetent; they may take action on their own without having the proper tools or understanding to do the task correctly. As a leader, if you direct them on how to take action and proactively prepare them for Deception, they are more likely to follow through and be successful. During Inception, you should be providing direction 90% of the time and seek feedback from the team 10% of the time.  


Step 2: Deception

  • Attitude is low
  • Competence is low 
  • Effort is low
  • You are consciously incompetent


When you or your team members reach the Deception phase, your attitude begins to drop and it becomes harder to stick with your new habits. Your effort and follow through may decrease because your unconscious mind is much more comfortable taking you back to your old habits where things feel normal. 


Deception can be frustrating when it seems like the new plan isn’t working. But it’s really just your unconscious mind creating resistance to “deceive” you so you stay just as you are rather than growing and changing to become the leader you see in your vision. Remember, the function of your unconscious mind is to protect you; it wants everything to stay the same and it does not like change! 


When your unconscious mind is testing and questioning if you really want to change, it will try to stop you by providing all of the excuses, justifications, and reasons why you are not capable of achieving your results and why you should stop. This is simply a pattern of behavior; it is not who you are as a leader. Deception is an important phase because it builds the mental strength you need to successfully obtain your goals for the long term. 


If you decide you want more muscles, you do not just wake up with bigger muscles; you use weights and resistance to build them over time with repetition and intentional action. Just like building a muscle, you need to have some resistance to build mental strength – it’s just a natural part of the process. 

Every time you ignore the voice in your head that is telling you to stop or give up and you make the decision to stick to your new habits, you get stronger and move closer to the Transformation phase. You are telling your unconscious mind you are committed to changing – and that’s when change begins to happen! 


Deception Leadership: Coaching

In Deception, your team members are consciously incompetent, so they are frustrated and aware that the excitement they had in Inception is gone. Achieving their goals feel difficult, and they may want to quit. 

This is why you want to proactively direct your team into Deception by preparing them for what’s about to happen and encouraging them to celebrate the resistance. It’s all part of building the muscle to be successful. As you provide support to your team when times get tough, they will look to you for more guidance. They will recognize you care about them and are dedicated to supporting them in their efforts.

Many leaders suffer from their need to direct all the time, and it becomes frustrating for their team members. These leaders have pure intent and believe they are doing the right thing, but this style makes it very difficult for people who want to grow. The best leaders care about their team members enough to recognize that it is really all about the person they become, not about what they get along the way. 


When working with a team member in Deception, you will want to lead from a coaching perspective. Ask for feedback like, “What do you think?” or “How do you think it should be?” In Deception, coaching is 70% directive and 30% feedback. This is when leaders start empowering their team to become their own leader. Team members can continue to follow the leader’s teachings by implementing the substance while experimenting with their own style at the same time. As a leader, you may even learn new techniques, insights, or strategies from their 30% feedback.


Step 3: Transformation 

  • Attitude varies
  • Competence is high
  • Effort is varies 
  • You are consciously competent


Even though your unconscious mind will try to keep you right where you are during Deception, when you stick to your new habits and stay persistent with following through, you solidify new habits, beliefs, and mindsets that are aligned with your vision. The Transformation phase is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a time of transforming from the old to the new. During this phase of the Cycle of Performance, you notice that your new actions and habits start to feel enjoyable because they’re becoming a part of the person you set out to become to reach your vision. 


You have reached conscious competence, so, although your habits are becoming easier and more fun, they haven’t become automatic yet. You have to consciously think about your new habits, and it can be challenging to maintain a positive, high attitude and effort, which is why it can change from high to low. Keep going even when you don’t feel like it – especially when you don’t feel like it! Because that is the moment Transformation begins. That’s when you are on your way to instilling new habits that will change your life forever. 


Transformation is a transitional phase, which means that you cannot stay there. When you find yourself in Transformation, it is important to maintain your attitude, effort, and consistency to make it to the fourth phase of Identity. If you lose consistency during this phase, it is inevitable that you will fall back into Deception. 


Transformation Leadership: Supporting

As your team members enter Transformation, support them by directing them only 30% of the time, giving them the space and opportunity to talk about how they are doing. In Transformation, by seeking 70% feedback, you are shifting more of the responsibility back to them. Now, you start building them into leaders themselves. 


By adjusting your direction and coaching, you reinforce their progress of stepping more powerfully into their role. They are starting to see that the responsibility is within themselves, which provides them with a feeling of fulfillment and growth. If you need to go back and coach them more because they’re falling back into Deception, you already know what to do. 


Step 4: Identity 

  • Attitude is high
  • Competence is high 
  • Effort is low or non-existent
  • You are unconsciously competent


Identity is the fourth and final phase in the Cycle of Performance. You started in Inception, moved through the challenges of Deception, strengthened your habits in Transformation, and finally, you get to celebrate as you reach Identity, where you have become unconsciously competent. Your new habits have become automatic and a part of who you are as “the new you!” In Identity, your attitude is mostly high and may go up and down, but you’re able to stay consistent with the habits that have led you to your new identity. Your effort is low because you are unconsciously competent at being you!


Let’s go back to the idea of lifting weights as an example. In Inception, you’re excited to get stronger. Then in Deception, your muscles are sore, you’re not seeing immediate results, and you feel like giving up. Transformation is where you’ve gotten into the habit of lifting, and even though it still hurts, you’re committed, and you’re starting to see some results. In Identity, you are simply that person who is regularly lifting weights and continually getting stronger and stronger. You don’t think about your muscles getting sore or about skipping a day; you lift weights because it’s just who you are. 


Remember to stay committed and consistent! This is not the time to quit on everything you’ve worked so hard for. Your identity is created by the things you do over and over because they match what you feel, think, and believe. 


Anytime we set out to change and create long-term growth, Identity is what we are seeking to achieve. We want to be a certain way and live a certain life without having to consciously choose to be that way – it feels natural and fulfilling. 


Identity Leadership: Delegating

The best leaders continually remind their team members about the person they want to become and the identity they need to reach the vision they’ve created for themselves. When your team members have reached the Identity phase, you can move from supporting to delegating. At this point, you can limit direction to 10% and seek 90% feedback. In Identity, team members have developed into a leader in their own right.

To learn more about the Leadership Cycle of Performance and how to become a powerful leader and influencer visit and join the Advanced Sales Influence Program today!

About the author

Brooke Dukes is currently supporting NASP as Chief Sales Officer leading strategy and business development. Prior to NASP, Brooke was a multi-million dollar producer and excelled at various executive-level positions in sales and business development, including two Fortune100 companies. She has worked with some of the largest and most successful companies including Lear, General Motors, and United Airlines, and across multiple industries, such as insurance, skincare and cosmetics, technology, and banking.

Brooke has her BS from Michigan State University. She is a mother of two successful children and an avid traveler. Exploring the world and helping people achieve their dreams is her passion. Brooke resides in Austin Tx.