Chain of Learning Episode 5 - Achieve More by Performing Less with Eduardo Briceño

5 | Achieve More by Performing Less with Eduardo Briceño

Master the Learning Zone to Overcome the Performance Paradox

Have you ever felt burned out and exhausted from the constant pressure to perform, to achieve, or to get it “right”?

Or is your organization putting a lot of effort into improvement projects and strategic initiatives, but you are finding that you aren’t making much improvement and you are working on the same problems year after year?

If so, you – and your organization – may be stuck in what growth mindset and learning organization expert Eduardo Briceño calls the “Performance Paradox”.

This is the counterintuitive reality that a constant focus on performing – getting things done as best as you know how and trying to minimize mistakes – actually leads to lower performance.

The secret to high performance is not actually working harder, but learning better.

Author Interview with Eduardo Briceño: The Performance Paradox

In this episode of Chain of Learning, Eduardo Briceño and I discuss the foundational concepts from his bestselling book The Performance Paradox: Turning the Power of Mindset Into Action.

Tune in to learn how to balance your efforts between the “Performance Zone” – where you focus on perfection –  and the “Learning Zone” – where you focus on leading with curiosity, experimentation, and learning by doing.

If you want to know how to turn a growth mindset into action – and how you can create the organizational conditions that result in a high-performing learning culture  – you won’t want to miss this episode!

In this episode of Chain of Learning you will learn:

How you can turn a growth mindset into action by balancing the “Performance Zone” and the “Learning Zone”

✅ The risk for you and your organization if you get stuck in chronic performance

✅ The impact of seeking and receiving feedback on performance and improvement

✅ 5 tips to embed growth and learning micro-habits for yourself and within your organization

✅ How you can create the organizational conditions that result in a high-performing learning culture

Tune in now to discover the impact that overcoming the Performance Paradox can have on you, your team, and your organization. Master the learning zone so that you can achieve more by performing less!

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You can also watch this episode of Chain of Learning on YouTube.


5 Tips to Create Learning Micro-Habits

Figuring out how to balance the performance zone and the learning zone is the key to success as individuals and organizations.

In this episode of Chain of Learning, Eduardo and I suggest a few tips for how you can embed micro-habits that support learning and improvement for yourself, and how you can use these habits to develop a learning culture in your team or organization, such as:

  • Set an intention for your own improvement each day and actively reflect on how you did
  • Ask for feedback
  • Model and praise effective learning behaviors for your team to be successful
  • Make the invisible visible by sharing your learning and your struggles with others.
  • Start conversations with your team about how you collectively are getting better at getting better.

Cultivating these habits doesn’t require a lot of time, but it requires intentional practice and a shift in thinking about how to achieve results. Doing so allows you to perform better and with greater joy and fulfillment –  whether in your job or in your life.

Reflect and Set Your Intention for Practice

As you listen to this podcast episode, reflect on what you learn and how you can apply these insights to help you and your team foster greater learning habits.

Set an intention for your practice to get better – and share it with me on LinkedIn or by sending me an email about what you learned!

  • What are you going to do to create more microlearning habits and balance your performance zone with the learning zone?
  • And what is one thing you can do – this week – to help foster more learning in your team or organization?

Learn More on Chain of Learning

After listening to this episode, check out other episodes of Chain of Learning to explore many related concepts, including:

  • Episode 3, “A Growth Mindset is the Foundation of a Continuous Improvement Culture with Carol Dweck” to learn the connection between a growth mindset, success, and creating cultures of continuous improvement
  • Episode 4, “ Leading for Impact: The Power of Being Over Doing” to discover how your focus on achieving can get in the way of the impact you want to have.

Eduardo BriceñoAbout My Guest: Eduardo Briceño

Eduardo Briceño is a global keynote speaker, facilitator, and author who guides many of the world’s leading companies in developing cultures of learning and high performance.

Eduardo co-founded Mindset Works with Stanford Professor Carol Dweck, which was the pioneer in bringing growth mindset strategies into organizations, where he served as CEO for a decade.

His TED talks, How to Get Better at Things You Care About & The Power of Belief have been viewed over nine million times collectively, and he has been featured in publications such as Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Fast Company.

In 2023, Eduardo was shortlisted for the Thinkers50 Breakthrough Idea Award, given every two years to thinkers who “have ignited Eureka moments in management, offering radical ideas that have the potential to reshape the future of business as we know it.”

Eduardo’s book, The Performance Paradox: Turning the Power Mindset into Action, has been called a “must read” and “an essential read for fostering learning” by global thought leaders and was selected as a “Must-Read” by the Next Big Idea Club (which is curated by Susan Cain, Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Grant, and Daniel Pink).

Important Links

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00:39: Understanding the Performance Paradox
01:14: The secret to high performance
03:03: What is the performance paradox?
04:20: Connection between growth mindset and performance paradox
05:24: The impact of learning how to change
07:19: Discussion on performance and learning culture
13:04: Understanding the dangers of staying in chronic performance
17:22: Overcoming challenges of limited time for learning
19:58: Micro intention and reflection during learning
21:32: Leadership learning and challenges
26:56: Advice for leading change & building a learning culture
32:51: Upcoming chain of learning episodes

Full Episode Transcript

Eduardo Briceño: But what really lit people’s eyes was when they realized and when I realized in this journey, trying to figure out how does this work and how can people take action? It’s like I realized, oh, there’s a difference between effort to perform and effort to improve, and they’re both really important. But most of us are stuck in chronic performance.

Katie Anderson : Welcome to Chain of Learning, where the links of leadership and learning unite. This is your connection for actionable strategies and practices to empower you to build a people centered learning culture, get results, and expand your impact so that you and your team can leave a lasting legacy. I’m your host and fellow learning enthusiast Katie Anderson. Have you ever felt burnt out and exhausted from the constant pressure to perform, to achieve, to get it right? Is your organization putting a lot of effort into initiatives and projects, but you’re finding that you and your team are working on the same problem year after year without actual improvement?

Katie Anderson : If so, you and your team might be stuck in the Performance Paradox, where a constant focus on performance, on getting things done as best you know how, and trying to minimize mistakes, actually leads to lower performance. The secret to high performance is not actually working harder, but learning better. It’s about knowing how to balance our time between the performance zone, where we focus on perfection, and the learning zone, where we focus on leading with curiosity, experimentation, and a growth mindset. In my discussion with Eduardo Briceño on this episode of Chain of Learning, we focus on just that how you can turn a growth mindset into action, and how you can create the organizational conditions that result in a learning culture where a focus on the process of learning is the way to achieve high performance. My guest, Eduardo Briceño, is a global keynote speaker, facilitator, and author who guides many of the world’s leading companies in developing cultures of learning and high performance.

Katie Anderson : His Ted Talks how to Get Better at the Things You Care About and the power of belief have been viewed over 9 million times collectively. Earlier in his career, eduardo co founded, Mindset, works with Stanford Professor Carol Dweck, who is my guest on episode three of Chain of Learning, which I encourage you to listen to if you haven’t already. Eduardo was the CEO of Mindsetworks, which was the pioneer in bringing growth mindset strategies into organizations. Eduardo and I share a passion for the connection between learning and leadership. I’ve been following his work on how to apply a growth mindset in practice and how to create learning cultures since we first met over 15 years ago, when he and my husband were in graduate school together.

Katie Anderson : When I learned earlier this year that Eduardo was releasing a book, The Performance Paradox, I was thrilled to get an early copy, and I immediately reached out to invite him to join me here on Chain of Learning. We started our conversation with my question to Eduardo, asking him what the performance paradox is and how it impacts our ability to actually perform and achieve our goals. Let’s dive in.

Eduardo Briceño: The performance paradox is the counterintuitive reality that if all we do is perform, our performance suffers. And you talk about that, Katie right. We are addicted to doing. One big AHA that I had at some point learning from Carol Dweck’s research and Anders Erickson and other people’s research is that I had assumed that the way to learn and to improve and to succeed was just to work hard, to go to work, do your best, try to do everything as best as you could. And what I realized eventually was that there’s actually two different forms of effort.

Eduardo Briceño: There’s effort to improve, which I call the learning zone, and effort to do things and perform at our best, and I call it a performance zone. So how do we habituate and put into our systems not just systems for performance, but also systems for learning, which is something you talk a lot about. That’s the way to overcome the performance paradox.

Katie Anderson : Since we’re connected to Carol as well, I’m really interested and you’ve worked with her so closely for many years. I’m really curious about how the connections between and the differences as well between the concept of the growth mindset and the fixed mindset that Carol put forward in her book Mindset, as well as your concept of these performance paradox in the learning zone.

Eduardo Briceño: Growth mindset is a belief, right? It’s the belief that people can change. It’s the belief that our abilities and qualities are malleable and we can develop them. And that’s really important for us to be motivated learners, to be people who evolve. If we don’t believe that we can change, then we won’t do anything to change.

Eduardo Briceño: But the belief that we can change is necessary, but it’s not sufficient. In addition to believing that we can change, we need to know how to change. We need to know how to improve. We need to know that it’s not just about working hard and doing our best. We need to understand learning strategies like experimentation or feedback or reflecting on mistakes.

Eduardo Briceño: And that’s where the learnings are on the performance zone come in. It’s about, well, how do you change and how do you improve that know? How is what the learnings are on the performance, on ours? How do you take action? But that’s tied also to a growth mindset, to a belief that you can change, because the more you understand how to change, the more that you can deeply understand that you can change.

Eduardo Briceño: So they reinforce each other.

Katie Anderson : When you mentioned in the book that the learning zone requires intention, can you expand on that and sort of how that relates to us moving between sort of that performance zone and when we should be in that learning zone?

Eduardo Briceño: Yeah, we need to be deliberate about improvement. And so we can, for example, look at a way to really clearly understand this might be to look at domains where somebody’s skill is really, really clear. And so, for example, in sports, you can see who are the best people in the world at what they do, and we can examine how do they become so good. So we might think that the way somebody becomes a great tennis player is by playing tennis 10,000 hours, and then you’ll become great. But actually, if you just go and play tennis with other people, you’ll get better.

Eduardo Briceño: When you’re a novice, when you’re starting out, you’ll hit the ball more, you’ll get more in the court more. But once you become proficient, just going out on weekends and playing games won’t get you better. You might work really hard trying to play games all the time, a lot of hours, and you won’t get better. In order to get better, you need to be deliberate about improvement. So what does that mean?

Eduardo Briceño: When you’re playing a game, you’re trying to win points. If you’re having trouble with a particular move, you’re going to avoid that move during that match. But then after the match, when you’re focused on improvement, when your intention is to improve, then you’ll say, okay, this move that I was avoiding in the game, I’m going to actually work on that right now. And that involves a very different activity than what we do when we’re performing. So the game is the performance zone, and working with a coach or in deliberate practice, that will be a learning zone.

Eduardo Briceño: So we have to be deliberate about improvement, and that involves activities that are different from just doing, doing and getting the work done.

Katie Anderson : You speak so much to what I’ve been talking with a lot of leadership teams and individual leaders about where we’re stuck in this culture of doing, where we always feel like we have to be performing or achieving or being the person with all the right answers or being the expert out there. How have you personally, you share a lot of great stories in the book, come to realize your own sort of struggle with this performance paradox? And what are some things that helped you move into more of this learning zone with a growth mindset?

Eduardo Briceño: Yeah, so before I started working with Know, before I went to graduate school with your husband John, I was stuck in chronic performance. And in some parts of my life, I still am stuck in chronic performance. But back then, it was all about proving right. It was all about showing that I was competent. And so I was pretending to know what I didn’t know.

Eduardo Briceño: When I was unsure about something, I was pretending to be sure. Kind of like, I think about high school debate teams where kids are told to make the case for something and be sure of yourself. And it’s like, is that really what we want in the world for people to pretend to be sure. And so that’s what I was doing at work. It was creating a lot of stress.

Eduardo Briceño: It was creating a lot of feeling of not being authentic. And I got physically sick. I thought, though, that I was getting great reviews, I was getting great feedback from the leaders in my organization that I was doing a great job. And so I thought that was the way to succeed, right? The way to succeed is just to try to look as good as possible, and then somehow you’ll get better.

Eduardo Briceño: And so, for example, when I received feedback, I would react defensively, and I would make excuses for myself, and I would not like it, and I wouldn’t solicit feedback for sure, but I would think that this person didn’t know what they were talking about. And so in understanding, in studying, how does learning happen and how do people actually improve, I realized that all these behaviors were problematic. And it was in helping to understand what are the learning strategies that are effective, and then engaging in those behaviors, even when it became uncomfortable, even when it felt uncomfortable, to receive feedback and to reflect on it, still doing the behavior. And then over time, the mental models changed and the emotions changed. And then I wanted feedback, and then I wanted all these behaviors because they lead to better relationships, they lead to better less anxiety.

Eduardo Briceño: They lead to definitely improvement and better achieving our goals. So you see the benefits, and then you kind of lean into it more over time. That was my experience.

Katie Anderson : Yeah. No, and I’m right there with you. I’m a high achiever. My two Clifton strengths top attributes are learner and achiever. So I have to really balance those two.

Katie Anderson : I have a growth mindset, but I also want to achieve. And I really resonate with this concept of the difference between the performance zone and the learning zone and how we can bring that together. Eduardo, you and I have talked previously about what inspired you to write this book and some of the challenges that you were experiencing in helping organizations bring a growth mindset into their company culture. And I’d love for you to share with everyone listening here about some of those AHA’s that you had about the challenges and how that then led to putting together this concept of the performance paradox.

Eduardo Briceño: Sure. I mean, first I started working with Carol Dweck in 2007, shortly after her book had come out, which she wrote the book to bring awareness of growth mindset into the mainstream, which, at the time, nobody had heard about. And it’s amazing how much she has been able to do that. So we were doing this work and doing talks and workshops, and for the first few years, we focused only on schools and helping schools become growth minded and build learning cultures. And then we started getting more and more kind of interest from businesses and I had a business background.

Eduardo Briceño: So then I started doing a lot of the workshops with business leaders and they wanted, okay, this is really interesting, what a growth mindset is and how it affects us psychologically. So they really liked the experiences and the learning experiences, but they wanted more about how, how do I take action? And so I started trying to figure out how can I help people more figure out how to take action? And some of the things that I tried originally didn’t work as the for example, originally I leaned into kind of deliberate practice anders Erickson’s work, which is really powerful, but it’s really not that practical in terms of most people’s everyday situation, is where they have so much to do. They have a lot of skills that are involved in their work.

Eduardo Briceño: And so the idea of spending a half hour working on a very narrow skill only on improvement doesn’t seem feasible for a lot of professionals. And so they again found it to be really interesting to understand that improvement is different than performing, but they still were looking for something that they could act upon the next day. So I iterated with lots of different frameworks and some of them were helpful, like trying to better understand different kinds of mistakes, which is also in the book. But what really lit people’s eyes was when they realized and when I realized in this journey, trying to figure out how does this work and how can people take action? It’s like I realized, oh, there’s a difference between effort to perform and effort to improve.

Eduardo Briceño: And they’re both really important, but most of us are stuck in chronic performance all the time and here’s the difference. And so that led to lots of insights and lots of conversations and lots of thinking about, okay, how can we lead in order to lead a culture of learning so that we can perform better and achieve more? And so that was a breakthrough, but it came through iteration and me seeking to learn myself and grow, which is of course something that I continue to do.

Katie Anderson : What’s the harm or the impact if you as an individual or you have a team that’s always stuck in this performance zone?

Eduardo Briceño: Yeah, in the performance zone, we stagnate so our skills remain at the same level, our understanding remains at the same level in a world that’s continuing to change. Right? And so we get left behind because the world is changing, we’re not improving very much and so we are left behind. That also leads to increased anxiety because we don’t have a way to deal with the big change. And if we want to grow and we want to succeed, we don’t have a path to success other than trying to do things as best as we know how, trying to minimize mistakes, but that’s not working.

Eduardo Briceño: And then we don’t have another alternative. I mean, depending on how deep into chronic performance people are, that can also lead to problems with kind of relationships where we’re not actually asking questions and listening to each other and learning how to collaborate better. So that can lead to conflict. It can lead to poor collaboration. So when we figure out what are the habits and systems that we can use to embed learning but also performing, both are important, then we can get to know each other better, learn how to collaborate better, and learn better about our customers.

Eduardo Briceño: Right. Be more customer centric to figure out what do customers needs, what are their unmet needs? How can we better serve those needs? And how can we drive change? Most companies are trying to create something that doesn’t exist.

Eduardo Briceño: So that involves experimentation. Some of the things will work and some of them won’t work. And so it’s the process that leads to success. And sometimes people are like leaders sometimes might be afraid to model some of these learning behaviors because they might feel that other people will lose confidence in them, that other people will think that they’re not competent, that they don’t already know. But actually these are the behaviors that lead to success.

Katie Anderson : Right

Eduardo Briceño: And so we need to work on our own mental models and help other people shift their mental models so that we understand that when we all behave in this way, we actually achieve more and grow more.

Katie Anderson : Yeah, absolutely. One of the suggestions I give to leaders who are trying something new, it might feel awkward, is tell people what you’re doing and why. And it models the way and also, if you’re starting to ask more questions when they’re used to you giving all the answers, it takes away those assumptions of maybe malintent and says, oh, my intention is I really want to hear what you’re thinking. So I’m going to try asking some questions and I’d love your feedback afterwards. And even just saying that opens up, creates that foundation for that learning and growth and that it is okay for us all to be learning.

Katie Anderson : But that feels uncomfortable.

Eduardo Briceño: Yes, but I agree with you that that makes it more comfortable. And I think what people are doing one way I think about that is you’re making the implicit explicit. Like if you’re asking a question, you’re doing it for a reason. And what you’re saying, you need to make that reason that you have explicit to the other person so that they interpret your behavior in the way that you want it to be interpreted. Like, for example, if you solicit feedback because you understand that Olympic gold medalists use feedback all the time to get better and that’s what you have in your mind, you solicit feedback, the other person might have a different idea of feedback.

Eduardo Briceño: They might think that feedback is something that people who are incompetent need or people who are insecure. And so if you say I’m a big fan of feedback or you set the stage of saying hey, we want to create a culture of feedback for these reasons, then you help people interpret these behaviors in the way that you intend.

Katie Anderson : There are a few things I want to dive into a little bit more deeply. The first one is around with a lot of organizations I work for. They don’t feel like they may personally have this growth mindset or feel passionate like all about learning, continuous improvement practitioners or leaders who are trying to create this culture. But we don’t have the time. We don’t have the time to slow down.
Katie Anderson : We need to perform, we need to be doing. We have these high pressure situations where they don’t feel like there’s time to be in a learning zone. What advice do you have to help break that cycle and start moving towards more learning and growth?

Eduardo Briceño: That’s one of the biggest by far challenges that come up. And sometimes people have the sense that I don’t have time to learn because I have to perform too much, I have too much to do. So the first step is to really come to see that if you don’t figure out a way to embed learning into your habits, you are going to perform less, right? And so there’s a lot of research and data that shows that the people who perform the most, the highest, they figure out a way to embed learning. Right?

Eduardo Briceño: At the same time, the performance zone is the way to maximize immediate performance and the short term performance. So if it’s the last week of the quarter and you’re a salesperson and you want to meet quota or you’re at the last week of a project that is at peril, you have to just get it done. It might be reasonable for you to just be in the performance zone that week and just focus on getting the work done and that’s reasonable. But if we do that every week, then our performance will suffer, right? And so that’s the first thing to think, to realize.

Eduardo Briceño: And so the question is, given all these things that we have to do, how do we embed learning? And I would suggest that we want to start with doing things that are easy to do, don’t take a lot of time, but are very frequent. So that we’re building small habits that are shifting our thinking. So for example, it might be soliciting feedback after our meetings or after our presentation, something that doesn’t take a lot of time. But every time that we do that little behavior, we are shifting our thinking to become more of learners.

Eduardo Briceño: And then what happens is that what we pay attention to during the day as we get the work done shifts. So there’s research on people in brain scan machine, for example, the people who believe that they can get smarter when they’re solving problems inside of the brain scan machine. Their brain pays attention much more to the mistakes that they make so that they can figure out what they can learn from those mistakes versus people who are in a fixed mindset, who believe that intelligence is fixed. They tend to not think about those things, not pay attention to those things, but just pay attention to how well they’re doing. And so they’re all solving problems, but some of them are paying attention to what they can learn and others are not.

Eduardo Briceño: And so what we want is as we go about our daily basis to getting work done, learning while doing, we want to pay attention, like do small experiments, pay attention to what we can learn, ask questions that we can learn from. That doesn’t take a lot of time, but it involves a shift in thinking. And so the way to shift that thinking is to start doing habits that are easy, quick to do, but very frequent.

Katie Anderson : Yes. And that goes back to that comment that you made, that being in that learning zone requires intention and purpose. And I talk a lot about how we have to be intentional about our practice and really identify what’s the impact we want to have and what are the behaviors that are really going to align with that. And I encourage people, just like you said, to start with something small like setting a few key things out each day that they’re going to practice with intention and then just a quick reflection at the end of the day, how did I do? Or at the end of that meeting, how did I do?

Katie Anderson : So it doesn’t feel like, as you said, to sit down for 30 minutes and do this practice. But how do we bring in that micro intention and reflection as we go through it the day?

Eduardo Briceño: Totally. I love that. I agree.

Katie Anderson : So we’re talking about how do we build more of this learning mindset and learning zone creation in our organization. So one of the things we just explored is that feeling like we don’t have time because we need to be performing or we have all these urgent things going on as well. Another challenge is a lot of leaders feel like they do need to, they’ve gotten to a senior leadership role and so they’re expected to be the person with all the answers or be that expert. And so maybe it’s, I don’t know, maybe it’s a false sense of being in this performance zone. How do you help leaders who are sort of feeling like they’re supposed to be out there and sort of perfect already, or maybe not perfect, maybe they don’t have that sense, but they’re the leader, they should already have been accomplished.

Katie Anderson : How do you help them learn to lead in a different way while still leading at the same time?

Eduardo Briceño: One key thing to think about is that if we want to foster a culture of learning where people are acting as learners, then sometimes leaders feel like you’re describing and they might engage in learning privately. They might do it in their office or at home or with their executive coach when their teammates or the people they lead are not watching. And so the people that they lead are perceiving them as a know it all, as someone who has all the answers and who is sure and doesn’t need to continue to work on themselves. When that happens, when we speak about the importance of learning, but other people perceive us as a know it all, our actions will speak louder than our words. And so if the leader wants to create a culture of learning where everybody is a learner, then our actions that other people see have to match our words.

Eduardo Briceño: Otherwise we’re not going to be successful in our aim to build a learning culture. And so that’s something to grapple with and challenge that comes up is people might feel like other people will lose confidence in them or in their organization if they’re saying that I can get better, right, that I don’t have all the answers. So we need to grapple with and this takes time changing our mental models with the idea that the best people in the world, they continue to work to improve themselves, whether it is Olympic gold medalists or the top scientists or whoever it is. And so reflecting on that and reflecting that collaborative learning is a lot more powerful than individual learning. When we are getting other people’s ideas and perspectives and perceptions and learning from them and learning with them, we become a lot more powerful.

Eduardo Briceño: So in grappling with those questions, I think then leaders can when they’re reflecting, they can set an intention like you’re talking about, of what are the behaviors that I need to do in order to be successful. And those behaviors are going to be uncomfortable. They’re going to be difficult. So choosing one right and choosing kind of maybe if then plans where maybe what are the triggers that put me into a behavior that is problematic, that I want to change? What are those cues?

Eduardo Briceño: So how do I want to behave differently when that cue happens and when that queue happens? The initial reaction, which is a quick reaction, is an emotional reaction. It’s a knee jerk reaction. It’s not a rational reaction. And so we need to first set the if then plan, and then when the queue happens, we need to pause and let slow down like you talk about and shift from an emotional reaction to a cognitive reaction.

Eduardo Briceño: So we do the behavior we want to do, even if it feels uncomfortable?
Katie Anderson : Absolutely. I talk often, and I learned this from my mom who’s a therapist, that we can either be reactive or proactive. And it’s how do we take that pause so that we shift things for us so that we’re not just responding, but we’re being purposeful and aligning those actions with the impact we really want to have. And we’re all imperfect, and we have those natural human responses, but when we put more intention to it, we can get better at addressing that and sort of controlling it sooner. I’m curious to Eduardo, the process of writing a book is a complicated and a learning process into itself.

Katie Anderson : What’s one thing that you learned more deeply through the process of writing? The performance paradox.

Eduardo Briceño: I learned so many things about the process of writing the book, about the content, the concepts, the frameworks. I mean, I interviewed over 100 people. I reviewed lots of research just in trying to put together the more illustrations in the book, I had to figure out what could I illustrate and that helped me evolve my thinking. I could talk about so many things. But one example of something that an insight that I had as I was interviewing people is before I wrote the book, I always spoke about modeling learning, just like I did now.

Eduardo Briceño: But there’s more nuance to it than I described. So we talk about modeling learning as engaging in the behaviors that we want others to do. But I realized in interviewing people that that’s not exactly right always. So especially when we’re first building a culture, if, say, for example, a leader wants other people to challenge, to come up with different ideas that are in the room, then the leader can’t lead with that, with disagreeing with other people all the time and challenging other people all the time because of the hierarchy they’re seen differently. And so the concept that I came up with, I call it asymmetrical modeling, where if you want other people to challenge, then you need to sit back and ask questions and say, does anybody have a different perspective?

Eduardo Briceño: And after they engage in those behaviors, they need to reward it and say, this is what we want to do more of, right? And that’s a little bit different than doing exactly the behaviors you want to see in others. So that’s just one example of how my thinking should change. But there are so many different examples about the subject matter, but also about the process of writing the book, which was my first time.

Katie Anderson : Yes, lots to learn in writing books, having written and published on one as well. But it’s so great to be able to share that process and to apply your own thinking to the process of doing something as well. So what’s your final piece of advice for people who are really, like, leading change in organizations, who are trying to cultivate this culture of learning and growth and who might not be in? They either may be in a senior leadership position, but maybe they’re leading from the middle. What’s one thing that you would, I guess, advise them to help really start to build and create this culture that can continue to grow?

Eduardo Briceño: Well, probably a next step. Might depend on a couple of conditions and what people see as the greatest opportunity. But just first, a comment that, as you know, habituating, the learning zone, the performance zone, not only changes the outcomes, but also the process, and it makes life more joyful and more fulfilling. So that’s a big part of the benefit that you talk about as well. But I guess two possibilities of how people could take action to consider.

Eduardo Briceño: One is one that you mentioned, which is just identifying what do I want to improve, and reminding myself every morning of what that is. And maybe, like you said, at the end of the day, doing a quick reflection on how that went, just reminding ourselves of our intention to improve and how is going to help us grow, but also change our thinking over time. So that’s kind of an individual action. The other thing to consider is to start conversations with your teammates, is to bring a video or an article or something to your teammate and say, hey, I just thought that this was interesting. I wonder what other people think.

Eduardo Briceño: Maybe people can review it before a meeting and say, how are we doing with regards to this cultural learning or culture feedback or learning zone or lean mindset, whatever it is? And is there an opportunity for us to get better at this? Do we want to work on this together? And if so, is there a step that we can take as a team, just one piece that we can work on together and start those conversations? And I think that’s a great way we get started, because then when we engage people around us, first of all, people love this stuff.

Eduardo Briceño: When they learn this stuff, they gravitate toward it. They might say, oh my God, there’s all these challenges, there’s fear or there’s time, but they want it. And so start the conversations and start the collaboration, and that makes everything so much easier and more successful for everybody.

Katie Anderson : That’s a great piece of advice to end on, and it really connects to this concept of the chain of learning. So how do you connect and collaborate with people to build this learning chain together and foster that learning zone where it’s okay to always not always be performing, but to be learning so that we’re better at performing as well. So thank you, Eduardo, for being here today. How can listeners get in touch with you or learn more about you and your work?

Eduardo Briceño: My website is, my last name have a monthly newsletter. I’m active on LinkedIn, and my book is The Performance Paradox, available wherever books are sold.

Katie Anderson : Well, thank you so much for being here on Chain of Learning.

Eduardo Briceño: Thank you, Katie, for having me.

Katie Anderson : I learned so much from this conversation with Eduardo. I’ve put links to his book, The Performance Paradox, which I highly recommend for leaders and continuous improvement professionals alike, and his contact information in the show notes I’ve also included more detailed information and additional links and learning resources on this episode’s. Webpage Five and reflecting on our conversation, there were a few key insights that really stood out to me. One is that a growth mindset, a belief that we can change and improve isn’t sufficient to actually improve and grow. You need to know how to change, to improve and to learn, and that the people and the organizations who perform the most and the best are the ones who put a focus on learning.

Katie Anderson : I also really appreciate the concept of the performance paradox and how one of the biggest barriers to us having high performance is actually an overfocus on performing, and that I can really relate to this for my own self. And some of the traps that I’ve gotten into and how the sense of being a high achiever or focusing on our outcomes and results. The very things that Eduardo shared about himself have been the things that have limited me. And so when we can focus more on learning and growth, we actually get better at performing. And the third takeaway that really resonated with me was Eduardo’s closing comment that our life is more joyful and fulfilling when we can get out of this trap of doing and the pressure to always be performing at the highest level, and we can balance our efforts on more learning, both for ourselves and for our teams and organizations.

Katie Anderson : So figuring out how to balance the performance zone and the learning zone is the key to success for us as individuals and organizations. During this conversation, Eduardo and I both suggested a few tips for how you can embed some of these micro habits that support learning and improvement for yourself and also to develop a learning culture in your team and organization. Such as setting an intention for your own improvement each day and actively reflecting on how you did asking for feedback, modeling and praising effective learning behaviors for your team to be successful making the invisible visible by sharing your learning and your struggles with others and starting conversations with your team about how you collectively are getting better at getting better. So reflect on these tips and on this conversation and set an intention for your practice to get better. What are you going to do to create more micro learning habits and balance your performance zone with the learning zone?

Katie Anderson : And what is one thing that you can do this week to help foster more learning in your team or organization? And be sure to check out other episodes of Chain of Learning, where I explore many of these concepts about how to create better learning for yourself and your organization, including episode three for my conversation with Carol Dweck, where we dive into the connection between a growth mindset, success and cultures of continuous improvement. And episode four, where I explore how your focus on doing and achieving can get in the way of being and the impact you want to have.

Katie Anderson : If you are in the US. To have a chance to win a signed copy of the Performance Paradox, links are in the podcast. Show Notes thanks again for being a link in my Chain of Learning today. Be sure to follow or subscribe Chain of Learning Now and share this podcast with your friends or colleagues so we can all strengthen our chain of learning together. See you next time.

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