How Priming Improves The Perception Of Your Professional Performance
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How Priming Improves The Perception Of Your Professional Performance

How Priming Improves The Perception Of Your Professional Performance

With Jacqueline Frost And Special Guest Kevin Hall

If you knew that there was a simple yet powerful way you could feel and demonstrate your confidence in the workplace so that it was recognised by others, would you be interested in finding out more?

I’d love to introduce you to priming; a technique shared by motivational author and thought leader Tony Robbins.

What is priming?

Based on science and psychology, priming is the art of changing your state of mind and mastering your emotions so that you can perform at your best. In as little as 10 minutes a day you can dramatically improve how you feel, and how other people perceive you in terms of confidence and competence.

Tony’s Robbins’ 10 step process helps you reach a state of peak performance that will resonate with others.

Case study

Kevin Hall, who is regular co-presenter at Elevate Talent, has successfully used priming, enabling his peers and managers to fully recognise his abilities.  During August’s Elevate session he shared this story which resonated strongly with attendees:

Kevin: “My personal learning style is that of reflector [these learning styles have been defined by Honey & Mumford. Click here for more information]. I felt like I must be stupid because I would be silent during meetings. I didn’t think of things to say until much later. The day after the meeting I’d share my thoughts with my manager. He would value my input but I didn’t want to feel or look stupid in meetings. I am also the person who loses arguments and 24 hours later I think of the winning line! I wanted to overcome this issue.”

Kevin primed himself by visualising the event or meeting in his mind in advance. He’d prepare by asking for the agenda and the proposed meeting outcomes so that he had adequate time to think about one or two key points and make a valuable contribution.

Kevin: “Even if all I had was a couple of questions or asked for someone to explain a point more it meant I had something to say, and that they could see I had showed up, and was present and listening. In the early days I’d walk out having offered nothing. I wouldn’t feel good about myself.”

Changing state

In order to operate successfully in a work environment it’s really important to recognise that we can turn the dial up or down on our ‘natural factory settings’  so that we deliver at our optimum; Kevin turned the dial up so that he was obviously engaged. I often need to dial mine down.

Learning style

My learning style is that of an activist; I’m a quick thinker. When I share I often need to slow down to avoid being perceived as rushing or overwhelming the other person. 

Kevin mentioned that he is a reflector. The other learning styles include pragmatists and theorists.

Illustration courtesy of Expert Program Management

It’s also important to note that one learning style is not better than any other. We need to adapt when we recognise that our learning style is not helping us or representing us in the best light in a particular situation.

Priming is really powerful and can help us adapt. It’s so powerful in fact that I want to share a true story with you about a goods train that crashed in America.

The power of priming

After the crash people in the small town could smell gas, and they were clearly worried that the train was carrying gas. What most people don’t know is that gas is odourless. The artificial smell is added to the gas to make it detectable. People are educated and primed with that knowledge; when x happens, do y. In other words they know to take evasive action when they smell gas.

The train that crashed was not carrying gas. It was carrying the artificial substance used to create the smell. 

The emergency services had a big decision to make. Should they evacuate all 50,000 people from their homes (big expense and expenditure of time)? Or should they do nothing because they knew there was no gas present and therefore no danger? 

What do you think would be the best course of action? This is a question we asked during one of our webinars. The audience was split with 74% of people guessing correctly.

The importance of association

The emergency services chose to evacuate the town.

Why? Because the population had been trained to associate the smell of gas with danger. It could cost lives if, in the future, people do not take evasive action when they smell gas.

It’s clear that the emergency services recognised the power of priming. 

On a day-to-day basis, we can prime ourselves to respond to certain situations in an intentional way by altering our thoughts and our physiology. 

Practical applications

Here’s a wonderful example from a woman who was a senior leader in Banking.

When Jenny was in a meeting she’d visualise herself putting down an Ace card as she shared an idea. How would you feel if you were playing an Ace card? This was the confidence that Jenny was tapping into.

Jenny felt that she was adding value and actively contributing instead of remaining quiet, and worrying that she was being perceived as stupid by those around her, and as we discussed in an earlier blog, career success has little to do with how confident or competent you are, and everything to do with people’s perceptions of your abilities.


What we could all benefit from in meetings is taking the focus away from ourselves, and finding a way to help those around us trust in our capabilities. We need to provide them with the certainty (one of Tony Robbins’ six human needs as discussed in an earlier blog) that we can deliver on the task. When looking to change our approach; using priming is a highly effective solution.

We each prime ourselves on a daily basis whether we do so positively or negatively. When we enter a situation with residual anger or upset from a previous event, we have lowered our capacity for success. Likewise when we go into any situation feeling energised and confident,  people around us notice.

What are your thoughts on priming? Have you used it in the past?  Will you start to use it now? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

At Elevate Talent we are passionate about developing female talent and supporting everyone to thrive in the workplace. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you or your organisation please email us.

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