LSA Global Insights Newsletter: The Impact of Raising Performance Expectations

September 28, 2019

The Impact of Raising Performance Expectations

Raising Performance Expectations Can Dramatically Increase Performance
Done right, leaders know that raising performance expectations can dramatically increase performance. When people know that more is possible, they can lift their performance to higher, and often previously impossible, levels.

Hot Dogs and Performance Expectations
Joey Chestnut has been the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest winner for twelve out of the last thirteen years.  There's no doubt he's the performance king in this arena.  The question is what can we learn from this food eating competition master about raising performance expectations at work?

Here's how Joey drastically changed expectations about what was possible and the effect that it had on other contestants.
  • For 26 years (1974 to 2000), the hot dog eating record was between 10-20 hot dogs.
  • Then in 2001 Takeru Kobayashi smashed the record and ate 50 in one sitting.
  • From 2002 to 2016, after people saw that eating 50 hot dogs, once considered impossible, was possible, every new contestant was able to eat 50 or more hot dogs.
  • Then in 2016, Joey Chestnut consumed 70 hot dogs.
For decades, the performance target of 20 and then 50 hot dogs appeared impossible to beat. It was as if there was an invisible performance barrier which could not be surpassed.  What happened?

The Performance Barrier Phenomenon
When performance barriers are overcome, people are often able to perform at heretofore unimaginable levels.  They simply need to see someone else doing it to realize what was possible.

It is amazing what can be accomplished once one person crashes through the performance bar.  Think about when Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile barrier in 1954.  Runners had been trying to break the record since 1886.  But just 46 days after Bannister's "impossible" performance, John Landy set a new record with a time of 3 minutes 58 seconds. 

Then, only twelve months later, three runners broke the four-minute barrier in a single race. 

Since then, over one thousand runners have broken the 4-minute mile barrier - something that had once been considered impossible by the best athletes in the world.

We see this performance barrier phenomenon everywhere - in speed records, in computer chip sizes, in acrobatics, and the list goes on.  

Something is only impossible until it is shown to be possible.

About LSA Global
Founded in 1995, LSA Global is a leading performance consulting and training firm that helps high growth technology, services, and life-science companies create a competitive advantage by powerfully aligning their culture and talent with their strategy. Learn more about getting aligned