Personal Performance Advice from a CTO

July 18, 2013 by Paul Czarnik

“Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then YOU are the sucker.”


The opening line to Rounders is about poker, but the idea certainly applies to many things.  Replace the setting from poker-table to boardroom table and ‘sucker’ with ‘non-performer’ and it should give us technology executives something to think about.

  • Am I the team-player or the prima donna?
  • Am I the disrupter or the disruptee?
  • Am I the communicator or the turtler?
  • Am I the performer or the non-performer?

If you don’t know who the weakest person is at the table, then it’s probably you.  And you’re gonna lose.

Personal Performance Begins With a Mirror

When I look myself in the mirror every morning, do I see a person ready to take on the day or someone trying to get through the day?  I cannot ask my staff and systems to perform unless I personally commit to my own personal performance:

  • Nutrition -I subscribe to a paleo lifestyle, which helps deal with the complexities of a technology lifestyle.
  • Fitness -I do daily workouts, focusing on activities which reduce stress.
  • Sleep -I wish I got the recommended level of sleep, but I wake up after 6 hours, so I try to spend early morning time in quiet activities.
  • Brainpower – Multitasking of the brain is a myth!  In order to simulate multitasking, my brain needs to ‘swap out’ of memory current tasks and ‘swap in’ new work.  This is non-efficient, stressful, and will actually degrade brain function.  I take on a task and do ‘deep thinking’, focused on the task at-hand.  Quality brain activity is much more valuable than quantity brain activity.  So many people are trying to be massively scaleable on task completion; I try to be massively good at a few tasks and  find myself much more satisfied with my productivity and the quality of my work.
  • Career – I work for a meritocracy, where personal performance improves career goals.  If I did not work for a meritocracy, I would find a company that embraces meritocracy or become an entrepreneur again.
  • Relationships – This is the most important thing! Personal relationships are important for quality-of-life.  Professional relationships are important for quality-of-career.  I try to pay special attention to all relationships.

Now I am far from perfect, but I do know that performance starts with me and personal performance really isn’t indicated by how much I eat or how many push-ups I can do.

Personal performance is about Focus, Urgency and Discipline (FUD).

The point I am making is that although we try to quantify performance with metrics and statistics, it really comes down to a subjective and qualitative analysis based on a commitment to performance.  And this starts with ourselves making that commitment, both personally and professionally.


Filed Under: Tech Talk
About Paul Czarnik
Paul the former CTO of Compuware, a venture-technologist and programmer. His hands-on experience and technical diligence model help with M&A activities and incubator/startups. Contact him at @PaulCzrnk to chat about IT Transformation (even though he hates that word), agile delivery, lean startup methodologies or music.Paul serves on the boards of, iRule, the Motown Museum and the Admission/Retention Committee for Wayne State University.

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