Above the waterline: people with the strongest reputations control what people see of them. © Getty Images
Above the waterline: people with the strongest reputations control what people see of them. © Getty Images

Six ways to improve your personal performance

posted by Lucy Patchett
13 December 2019

Buyers can improve their professional performance by understanding what underlies their behaviours.

Speaking at A Passion for Procurement Conference 2019 in London, organised by the Charity Sector Procurement Group (CSPG), Becky Tilney, co-founder of consultancy Drive, discussed ways to gain a competitive advantage through self-awareness. 

The conference, held in association with the Crown Commercial Service, gathered buyers in the charity sector to share best practice in areas such as buyer performance, procurement strategy, contract management and talent acquisition and retention.

The CSPG is an independent professional networking group for charity employees, with an aim to raise standards.

Tilney said that your reputation is like your personal brand and the key is to understand how to positively influence it.

Here are six areas that can contribute to a change in your professional performance:


Tilney said that self-awareness comes down to your emotional intelligence, which is a combination of internal and external factors. The management of professional relationships can be improved by understanding how internal and external forces affect your behaviour and how this can impact a meeting, she said. 

Tilney referred to Freud’s iceberg analogy, where our values and opinions are hidden below the iceberg’s waterline and only our behaviour is visible. “Be aware of where your mind is going: the most effective brands and strongest reputations understand the mobility of their waterline. Know who or what makes you act a certain way to understand what you could do to be more in control.”

For example, if your values clash with another’s, learn to control how this is reflected in your behaviour so that it doesn’t cause problems in a trade relationship.


How we communicate can be broken down into words, tone and body language. “Words only make up 7% of our communication, so only using words reduces your ability to communicate by 93%,” said Tilney. 

“Rarely, you're observant of your own behaviours and how you might be getting in your own way.” You need to speak to be understood, not just talk at people, she warned.

Tone is important as “the way you say things impacts the meaning”, while body language is a form of communication that is done without saying a word.

Developing relationships requires an understanding of the type of people you are interacting with, their values and motivations, for you to be able to “move towards them without ego or judgement”.

Tune into your adaptability

“A really key criteria around building a strong reputation is being adaptable and flexible. If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change,” Tilney said.

There is value to having an adaptable perspective for problem-solving and working with different types of people. Your ability to change the way you think can be 50% of the solution, said Tilney. 

“Your brain makes you less adaptable than you might want to be,” she added. It’s about being aware of this and knowing how to address your behaviour to improve performance. 

Thought diversity

Thought diversity is “when you truly disagree vehemently with someone and you can still hear what they need”, said Tilney. 

Relationships between buyers and suppliers can depend on how “receptive” we are to taking on board diverse people and ideas.

She added: “We can be less receptive and therefore more part of the problem than we might realise.”

Nurture a growth mindset

A positive perspective can help professionals identify growth opportunities. Tilney said: “Apply a growth mindset to what you're hearing, which is, ‘I can't do that, yet, but what if I could, what if I did listen?’” 

She added that this “mindset has a massive impact on an individual’s biochemistry” and how they approach things. “If you aren't what you want to be right now then the growth mindset would suggest you can get there if you know what ‘good’ looks like.”

Think about what “purpose” motivates your growth, said Tilney. While improving your leadership and behaviour, understand why it is important and ensure “you're purposeful with it, as without purpose there really isn't much point”.


“If you're looking for a strong reputation, you need to be consistent. If you buy a McDonald's in Red Square it’s the same as the one you buy in Victoria Station, mostly, and it's that consistency that they trade on,” said Tilney.

A good reputation needs to be followed by “excellence and consistency” of performance. She recommended maintaining healthy well-being habits such as going to bed early. 

“Everything begins and ends with your own performance,” she added. 

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