You’re like an elite athlete. You may not pursue the Olympic ideals of citius, altius, fortius, but you’re an elite performer in your field.
Elite athletes exercise their bodies by running and lifting weights. You exercise your mind by consuming content and engaging people. They fuel their bodies with well-planned nutritional regimens. You fuel your mind with …
For optimal performance your mind needs the right fuel every bit as much as your body needs the right fuel. Are you fueling yourself like an elite performer?
While I won’t get into nutritional specifics – and there is a mountain of information available – here are three guidelines that help me get the right fuel:
1. Make Everything You Eat and Drink a Conscious Choice
- None of us makes good choices all the time but we’re more likely to make good choices when we’re conscious of them
2. Decide Before You Desire
- Once the desire for food or fluids kicks in it’s harder to make good choices; better to plan ahead what you’re going to eat and drink, when and where
3. Always Be Packing
- When we’re low on fuel we grab for whatever fuel is available, good or bad; I’d rather avoid the bad stuff than resist it so I take a selection of teas and food bars with me everywhere
You’re an elite performer. Your input helps determine your output. Why leave your performance to chance?
Most organizational change initiatives fail. Statistics bear this out regardless of the type of initiative.
So is there a hidden cost of failure? Absolutely. When change initiatives fail you create a track record of failure. You build an expectation of failure. You establish an acceptance of failure. And you create a culture of failure. Failure becomes the norm.
Hold on, you think, we don’t exactly fail. And it’s not like we fail all the time. We’ve made progress in a lot of areas. There are things we get done.
That’s it? That’s your defense? And you’re the leader?
The real cost of failure is that people rationalize anything less than success. Starting with you. And when you’ve created a culture of failure how easy is it to inspire your people to execute the next big thing? Good luck. No, great luck, because you’re going to need it.
Look back at your change initiatives over the past couple of years. What kind of culture have you created?
The New Year. It brings promise, ambition, energy, resolve. It’s a time for commitment. And to be intensively committed you have to believe.
Not just believe in the result, but believe that you can and will do the things necessary to achieve the result. That you’ll do what you know you should do even when you don’t feel like doing it. That you’ll resist distraction and diversion, and keep focused on the prize. That you’ll make the extra effort after the others have gone home. That you’ll turn it around if things are going poorly. And that you’ll fight complacency if things are going well.
The power of belief isn’t that belief creates reality. It’s that belief creates the confidence that you’ll consistently take action to create the reality you want. It was Muhammad Ali who said that when belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.
How deep is your conviction? Do you believe this is your year to shine?
High-performance athletes continually push the limits of the possible. What can we learn from them to become high-performance leaders?
1. A Holistic Approach to Success
It takes more than speed to be a great sprinter. It takes more than strength to be a great weightlifter. And it takes more than experience to be a great leader.
Success in any field increasingly requires a range of abilities, traits and skills. In athletics, that might include cardio endurance, muscular power, agility, balance, emotional control, attentional control and tactical thinking. For leaders, it means vision, interpersonal skills, pressure management, drive, time management, the ability to execute … to name just a few.
A commitment to high-performance leadership is a commitment to identifying the factors that drive success, assessing how well you measure up, and then taking action to excel in the areas you need to excel, and become sufficient in the areas you need to become sufficient.
2. It Takes a Team
High-performance athletes have coaches, trainers, nutritionists, massage therapists, sport psychologists and more. Every element of performance requires expertise and for every element there are specialists.
You can’t become a high-performance leader on your own. Recognizing this is strength not a weakness. Do you have top-tier coaches, advisors and consultants on your team?
3. Everything is Positive
Really? Does this mean you paint a happy face on every loss, failure and disaster? No, it means you reorient your mindset. Every result is information. Every experience can be used to drive improvement. Ask: What can I learn from this? How do I use this to become even stronger?
High-performance rarely happens by chance. It almost always happens by design. Are you committed to becoming one of the elite?
Most leaders believe they are strongly committed to “winning” however they define it. What about you? Are you committed enough to do what’s uncomfortable?
Here’s a one-question commitment test: Have you more often made the mistake of letting people go too soon or too late?
Guess what almost every leader says? Right. Too late. And almost every leader looking back on their career will say they wish they had acted sooner.
If you’re truly committed to winning then you have to embrace being uncomfortable. Which means not hanging on too long.
Deep down you know what you need to do. Now do it.
Overcoming adversity. Yes, it’s a cliché. But that doesn’t make it any less important for leaders who are committed to succeeding.
Just ask the New York Giants. With a 6-6 record on December 11, and down by 12 points on the road with under six minutes to play, they were on the brink of oblivion. But a stirring comeback win kept their playoff hopes alive.
They needed to win their final two regular season games just to get to 9-7 and hope that they might make the playoffs. A sliver of a hope because in 2010 their 10-6 record wasn’t good enough. The Giants responded and won both games handily.
Then after a playoff victory over Atlanta they faced the task of having to defeat the top two teams in their conference on the road to get to the Super Bowl. And they did. Finally, they faced the most dominant team of the past decade in the big game. They suffered the letdown of squandering an early lead by giving up 17 straight points … but maintained their composure and came back for an inspired win.
When asked how his team could crawl out of the grave so many times, Coach Tom Coughlin said simply, “Anything is possible for those who believe.”
Look in the mirror and ask yourself: How do I respond when the chips are down? How do I want to respond?
To be 100% committed 100% of the time regardless of the circumstance requires complete, total, absolute, unwavering belief that you can achieve your goal.
Do you believe?
Frank watched closely as I did a set of bench press. I thought my lifting was clean and technically correct. But when I finished he just shook his head in disapproval. When Frank Zane, a three-time Mr. Olympia, shows his disapproval, best to take it seriously.
"What's wrong?" I asked, puzzled with his reaction.
"You're quitting when you're half done. You're letting the weight down too quickly, there's no tension as you're lowering it." Then the clincher, "If you want to see dramatic results, you have to finish the job and do complete reps."
Quitting when half done? I thought bench press was all about how much you could lift, not how much you could lower! But Frank was right. If strength gains and muscle development were the goal, then I was throwing away half my workout.
Which got me thinking about how organizations operate. How often do we quit when we're half done? When we've created the plan but haven't executed it? When we've wowed them at the trade show but haven't followed up? When we've made a key decision but haven't taken action? Does any of this sound familiar?
Don't quit when you're half done. Like Mr. Olympia said, if you want to see dramatic results, you have to finish the job.
Do you have what it takes to successfully create a fast-growing organization?
Take out a pen and draw three horizontal scales from 1 to 7. Resisting the temptation to go easy on yourself, rate yourself on the following questions (1=low, 7=high):
1) How well do I truly learn from mistakes by changing my beliefs, decision-making and actions?
2) To what extent do I surround myself with - not "good", not "very good" - great people?
3) How persistent am I in strategizing, taking action and making adjustments to achieve results?
These are the three attributes common to CEOs on the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies. If your total score is less than 18, then hold a meeting in the mirror and ask, "How do I need to change to help my organization grow?"
Inconsistency kills. When you as a leader act inconsistently you kill your credibility. You demotivate your people. And you undermine your ability to win.
What does inconsistency look like? When you say one thing but do another. When your work environment sets up your people to fail. When you put the wrong people in the wrong positions. When your strategy is out of touch with market realities. Every example of organizational failure I have come across is a result of inconsistency.
What's the solution? Ruthless Consistency. If you are truly committed to winning - however you define it - then that commitment must be consistently reflected in what you say and what you do. In what you don't say and don't do. The decisions you make, the actions you take. All the time. Every time. Ruthless Consistency.
It means developing and sustaining the right focus for your organization. It means getting the right people in the right positions. And it means creating the right environment so your people can and will do what it takes to win.
Do you have the right commitment to make this happen?