I spend a lot of time thinking, reading, researching and coaching around performance at work: both long-term and in the moment. And from my work and the outstanding results of my clients, I notice a few common threads.
For peak performance just when you need it, here are the 5 traits and 3 golden rules that I talk to my clients about: to get them and their brains really performing.
1. FOCUS (but not concentration)
Focus is about continually coming back to your desired outcome, like a compass needle returning to North. It is not the forced effort or struggle implied by concentration; but rather, the natural flow towards your end game. Focus is the foundation of any peak performance, marshalling all our other resources.
Focus comes from overwhelming preparation. Solid preparation allows us to move into the “bubble” of performance by reducing the enormity of the event and zeroing us in on delivery. When in the bubble, no artificial devices, tricks or structures are required. We just perform.
Lesson 1: Preparation is key.
2. DISCIPLINE (but not inflexibility)
Discipline builds on focus and is about staying on message, whilst getting the balance right between diligent application and willingness to adapt. Discipline helps manage the emotions in a peak performance moment and is a recipe for resilience.
Discipline applies not just to (external) actions but to (internal) thinking: where we take ourselves down some only-tangentially related rabbit hole. So don’t overthink every step. Rather, keep your mind on the outcome and allow for deviations en route to your goal.
Lesson 2: Practice the big landmarks.
3. ADAPTABILITY (but not “winging it”)
The next trait of peak performance is the ability to adapt to rapidly-changing situations, both anticipated and responsive. The secret: stick to your goal; but feel free to move on from your pre-planned strategy for achieving it.
You’ll have heard the phrase: “no plan survives contact with the enemy”. To build a plan more likely to withstand rapidly-changing situations: have a focal point; review allowances for practical drift; and conduct a pre-mortem, challenging every aspect.
Lesson 3: Construct a solid, but flexible plan.
4. PRESENCE (but not tunnel-vision)
Presence is about bringing a style that is open, flexible and confident. To “dance” in the moment.
To be totally present in this moment requires trust in one’s inner knowing; and an openness to not-knowing and risk-taking. But is also requires that we do not completely negate the past or the future.
To develop your presence, practice this essential skill in all areas of your life. Whenever you are with someone, whatever the setting, practice bringing yourself completely into the moment, focusing fully on the other person.
Lesson 4: Develop presence as an innate skill.
5. COURAGE (but not fearlessness)
The final trait is courage. Not the absence of fear, but the acknowledgement of our fears, then coupled with the desire to succeed. Together, this pair gives us clarity and keep us looking for and solving the challenges along the way.
Nothing but fearlessness stops us looking for challenges and improvement opportunities. Nothing but fear – that is, “running scared” – has us looking only for problems and with no intention of resolving them.
Accept fear as mind and body readying us for the challenge. And resist the temptation to equate fear of the thing with being able to do the thing.
Lesson 5: Feel the fear and do it anyway.
3 rules to keep from choking
To our list of performance traits, I’m going to add 3 rules to ensure we don’t choke in the peak performance moments.
- Take Responsibility. We never know the finer details like we do when we take responsibility. Own your performance.
- Don’t Overthink It. Overthinking is the opposite of presence. It’s imagining the post-performance glory rather than the task at hand. You’ve done your prep. Time to perform – with presence.
- Stay Humble. Overconfidence quickly leads to recklessness. When we stop believing failure is an option, we start believing success comes regardless of bad decisions. Stay humble and challenge the difficult decisions.
Peak performance in the moment
What do you think of these lists? What crucial ingredients do you see in top performers? Ingredients that you’d love to add to your mix, in the moment.
Take a minute now to reflect on your own performance. And carry those thoughts forward to your next peak performance moment.