By Fred Nickols

The diagram below depicts a person–the performer–at the point where the major factors affecting performance come together: the “performance sweet spot.” When those factors come together, the performer will very likely meet or exceed expectations, whether the expectations are the performer’s or someone else’s.


The Performance Sweet Spot

PX August 2014 Performance Sweet Spot

When goals are matched by appropriate actions, there is alignment between the two. When conditions are conducive to performing as expected, there is support for those actions. When the performer receives accurate, timely feedback about progress and achievement, control of performance is enabled. And when feedback also informs the performer about new, unforeseen, or changed conditions, adjustment is possible. If any one of these factors is absent, performance is impeded. If two or more are absent, performance is next to impossible. Alignment, support, control and adjustment, these are the keys to ensuring that performance meets expectations.

And what about the performer? Well, presumably the performer has the necessary skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to figure out and carry out the required actions. If not, that is a failure on the part of management. Perhaps there was an error in selection, assignment, or in preparation. Or perhaps the incentives are wrong or nonexistent. Those are management problems, not a performer problem.

There are many more detailed views to be taken of these factors. For example, under conditions we could ask if the necessary tools and equipment are available, or if the necessary cooperation on the part of others is forthcoming, or if the performer is subjected to any unnecessary restraints or constraints that interfere with adapting and adjusting as feedback might indicate. Goals specify some desired value for a targeted variable. Is the performer clear about the variable and its desired value? Is the context or rationale for the goal clear? Does the goal make sense to the performer? Does it tie to some larger initiative? Does it conflict with other goals? Feedback informs the performer of progress and achievement. Does the performer have direct access to that information, or is it being provided indirectly? Is feedback being confused with praise or criticism and, thus, true feedback is not being provided at all? On and on the questions go.

The next time you experience or encounter a performance problem, or are working to ensure that desired performance is properly supported and enabled, think about these four factors and how they relate to one another. Chances are you will put your finger on what is needed or what is missing.

NickolsFAbout the Author
Fred Nickols, CPT, is a performance improvement professional and the managing partner of Distance Consulting LLC. He is a former Navy technician who was also trained as an internal OD consultant, an instructor, and a programmed instruction writer. Fred took up a second career in the private sector as a consultant and executive. He is a longtime member of ISPI and a frequent contributor to its various publications. He can be contacted via email at or on his website at