Are you operating at your Performance Potential??
What would you say if you were told you could take small measures to dramatically enhance your chances of reaching your performance potential? That’s what the Performance Clinic live for, working with busy, stressed out executives, helping coach them to reach their performance potential!
The Performance Clinic look at four areas of performance potential:
- Psychology – the way you think
- Productivity – the way you work
- Physiology – the way you eat and move
- Recovery – the way you recharge
Having a holistic approach to performance ensures you can consistently deliver great results and not reach burn out. The premise is no one trigger can move you into the high performance zone, you need a balance of all four. I.e. an athlete who just pushes their physiology limits without adequate recovery will overtrain and burn out. The same for an executive who is plugged in for 80 hours a week without taking reflection and recovery time.
I had the recent pleasure of sampling the Performance Clinic’s signature offering, The Personal Best Assessment. Personal Best ‘is a practical performance program that is a scientiﬁcally proven way to increase performance and productivity for your workforce’. The program I went through at an individual level consisted of four areas summarised below with my insights and main actions which I hope can help inspire others:
Step 1: Your Performance Potential Profile
Activity: Self assessment diagnostic to see how well you are currently using the performance triggers of psychology, productivity, physiology and recovery.
Insight: I scored very well in psychology and physiology and lower in productivity and recovery.
Actions: Productivity: Declutter my life to spend less time looking for things, starting with tidying my desk (the husband will be thrilled with this one!). I pride myself in thriving in chaos (and think it aids creativity) but being more organised is noted as one of the easiest ways to improve efficiency. This stops wasting time looking for things to get your job done and can make you feel more energised. Recovery: Build in structure for recovery to spend more time in the parasympathetic nervous system and negate the effects of stress. For me this will include reintroducing hatha style yoga and breathing activities into my weekly routine.
Step 2: Time Use Audit
Activity: Short survey to diagnose where you spend your time each week
Insight: How many hours are spent checking emails and in meetings in a week
Actions: Turn off email alerts (a major often unconscious distraction) and spend at least four hours a week unplugged on strategic priorities. This will help devote more time to high cognitive tasks. The Performance Clinic said it’s amazing how many senior leaders spend the majority of their weeks on low cognitive tasks (i.e. emails, report summaries) instead of medium (i.e. mentoring, coaching) and high (i.e. strategy, managing stakeholder relationships). I now map my daily to do list to these categories of cognitive tasks and start with high versus low!
On the subject of email, I recently read a thought provoking article in the SMH on the detrimental effects of too much time on email, quoting Cisco’s Director of Collaboration: http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/digital-life-news/kill-off-email-to-boost-productivity-20140411-zqtik.html This issue was a topic at the recent Future of Work conference and one that I hope continues! For those interested in the future way of working see Cisco’s Workforce 2020 White Paper.
Step 3: Stress and Recovery Analysis
Activity: Wear a heart rate monitor for 48 hours to assess stress reactions and recovery profile
Insight: I spent 33% of time in recovery (decrease in level of activation caused by a decrease or absence in stressors) which is good overall although I do not get enough recovery in a working day (a run at lunch time doesn’t count as recovery when the body is in stress the whole time!)
Action: Take at least 15-20mins a day to just unplug and simply sit under a tree or stroll around the block. I’m looking to start transcendental meditation next week on Thursday lunchtimes with a colleague too which should help.
Step 4: Health and Wellness Assessment
Activity: A range of physiology tests to assess your bioage – red indicates the result increases your bioage and green reduces it
Insight: My ironwoman training lifestyle is definitely having a positive impact on my physiology with my bioage 19.5 – a teenager again! The main area to watch however is my posture with some internal rotation in my shoulders and slightly forward head position. My assessor Chris said this is becoming very common in corporates with the hours we spend at a desk/typing into the mobile and for me as a ironwoman in training, the forward position on the bike.
Action: More consciously monitoring posture at work, looking to align shoulders, upper neck and back regularly throughout the day. We have been considering standing desk options at the IECL which I think would be a great help. At home, after long bike rides I need to roll my back on the foam roller and lie with it arched for at least 5 minutes.
After the four process steps outlined above I had a performance coaching session with Andrew May, Founder and Director of the Performance Clinic which consolidated my insights and added inspiration for actions. Overall Andrew thinks I can become 5% more productive implementing my actions which I will strive for as I seek to unleash my performance triggers.
One of Andrew’s techniques that we can all benefit from is a daily warm up routine to set your day up for success. Here’s a short video to bring this to life: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWZ7Lqxiogc
Similarly Andrew recommends a warm down routine before going to bed to reduce stress levels and ensure a night’s sleep full of recovery. This means unplugging from electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed. I’m trying to read a chapter of Arianna Huffington’s Thrive at the moment to help this process!
Topically, Arianna’s message resonates strongly with the Performance Clinic’s focus on recovery, here’s a post from Arianna looking at Burnout: Burnout: Time to Abandon a Very Costly Collective Delusion
In short, Arianna (@ariannahuff) is calling for us to redefine success adding a third metric to power and money which is how it has typically been defined. The third metric includes integrating well-being, wonder, wisdom and giving into our lives. Arianna and Sheryl Sandberg (author of Lean In) have been in the business media lots prompting conversation as Arianna talks about Thrive. I think this could get as much attention worldwide as Lean In and would recommend this to you all. I’m organising a book review with members of the IECL’s Network for Young Professionals (IECL NEXGEN) and will share our collective insights with a blog.
Coincidentally an IECL NEXGEN peer was going through the Personal Best assessment at the same time with her organisation and it has been great to share our experiences. We have become mutual accountability buddies to ensure we track with our actions and not derail easily into old patterns. I really think structure and accountability for discipline is key for all changes in behaviour.
On the note of behaviour, I’ve been asked a few times recently how I keep work and social productivity high whilst training 20 hours a week for an ironman. Whilst I don’t have all the answers I wanted to share five of my top tips which link to achieving your performance potential:
- Utilise your network- having a strong network of trusted advisors and connecters saves you lots of time getting the right information / person
- Don’t procrastinate – action the things you perceive difficult as soon as possible in your day, make that difficult phone call, have that conversation
- Ask for help – do not try and be superman/woman, I’ve tried this and believe me it feels fantastic empowering others to support you!
- Focus – when you have to get something done give it your full attention and get in the zone. I really believe focus is the hidden driver of excellence.
- Follow up actions asap – after meetings try to action your items as soon as possible whilst the information is top of mind – finish meetings 5-10 minutes early to allow for this if you can
In final summary, my key takeaway from this insightful Personal Best experience was the importance of recovery.
I challenge us all to have the courage to unplug and recover in this ever demanding environment. A recent Brene Brown quote I read resonated with me strongly:
“We are a culture who’ve bought into the idea if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us” Brene Brown
I’m excited that the IECL in partnership with the Performance Clinic will be supporting the Yoga Foundation’s Corporate Quiet Quest in October this year. The challenge is for organisational teams to unplug and be quiet for 30 minutes a day for the 30 days of October. If you’re interested in joining me and getting involved please get in touch! I would also love to hear any tips sharing how you unlock your performance potential across the four domains explored.