The Power of Leadership

The Path To Performance

The Path To PerformanceThe path to performance in any organization must be clear.  My goal in working with executives is to keep to a minimum the complexity of how to achieve leadership excellence and organizational success and focus strongly on the vital few areas that consistently ensure high performance*.   Because our world of work is so complex, and growing more so all the time, identifying and then focusing on the crucial matters that really count, and getting them right, are key.

Clearly I could focus on the “normal” or “traditional” aspects of “Path to Performance” for leadership excellence; however, I thought it would be interesting to share some insights in a different context.  I have been training for an Iron Man Triathlon.  It is amazing how much that training can parallel the requirements of performance in the business world.  As part of my effort I am spending time with a lot of other endurance athletes – you know those crazy people who run 100 miles or bike across the United States… the ones that make what I am doing— 2.4 mile swim, 112 bike, and 26 mile run— well, as someone said at a gathering recently, “Iron Man is Pedestrian.”  Just when you think you are at the top of your game, someone comes along and achieves even more.  Business is often the same way. Many of us have the foresight, ambition, discipline, motivation, and skill to exceed even very high performance.

It intrigues me that humans have the capacity to achieve so much more than they think they can achieve when they set their minds to it.  In my opinion, one of your key roles as a leader is to unleash all that “goodness” and bring it to life in an organizational context.  Borrowing from the world of endurance sports, the following are examples of the ways in which you may get the most explosive output from your energy investment:

  • Know your goals – In order to get to where you are going you must know where you are going and what success looks like for you, your team, and your organization.  Communicating that information and making it easy to understand will help to ensure everyone ends up in the same place.
  • Developing a plan to achieve your goals – You must know what the steps are to achieve performance.  For example, an endurance athlete must train to develop specific muscle groups, focus on nutrition, manage pain, use psychological techniques to handle boredom, fatigue, flexibility and, last but not least, to balance the needs of her family so that the sport doesn’t overwhelm the family and create discord.
  • Use tools to assess your training plan and goal achievability – an endurance athlete is aware of heart rate, power, distance, and nutritional input and output.  Each day she assesses her actual performance against her desired performance and learns what to do more effectively the next time for better performance.  In some cases overall goals may need to be adjusted based on the data the athlete receives.
  • Know thyself and the team – You must know when you can push and when you need to back-off.  Knowing your limitations and your strengths will help you leverage yourself as well as ask for help when you need help.
  • Have a strong team – it is critical that your team feel engaged and empowered to do the job they are asked to do.  The athlete must accept feedback and treat the team with respect when feedback is offered along the way.  In the Race Across America**, for example, the athlete must listen to the team to ensure she takes in the correct nutrition, rests properly, and doesn’t die.  There is a huge amount of pre-work undertaken to ensure a positive exchange when the athlete is under pressure to perform and only focused on finishing.  It is essential to assemble the teammates who have the skill to stay focused on the big picture of performance.
  • Respect – it is critical to respect the sport, yourself, your team and your competitors.  Arrogance, over-confidence, hubris, poor spirit de corps will lead to failure.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected– the unexpected will happen.  It is essential to be nimble enough to re-assess the variables and shift the plan due to new information.
  • Personal Accountability – Endurance athletes have “crews” and teams that help them achieve their goals.  One athlete told me that his wife, who was helping him in a race, made a mistake about the location of the aid station.  The athlete was angry with her and became very clear about his disappointment.  In the end he realized that he needed to take responsibility for his own success by knowing the details of his own performance plan despite the presence of his team/crew.


What are your specific performance goals?
How do these areas impact your plan for performance?
Do you know what helps you achieve peak performance?
What are your daily metrics?  How do you share that feedback with others?

 


*   Performance, the activity of a unit (be it individual, team, department, or division) of an organization intended to accomplish some desired result: Wikipedia

**   Race Across America: Annual transcontinental bicycle race from the west to east coast of the USA. Athletes from around the world participate in this feat of endurance.   3000 miles, 170,000 feet of climbing.

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