The ingredients of high performance that make the results possible

Focus, vision, review. Chris Martin tells TJ about the ingredients of high performance.

Reading time: 3m 30s.

In any line of business there is an unquestionable need to deliver results, to meet targets, to beat budget, to satisfy shareholders, to keep the boss at bay. We all need to be able to hold up a set of numbers that meet expectations.

But so often that unswerving drive towards a result stifles the focus needed on performance that makes it possible to achieve the result. In fact, in almost every financial services business I worked in over 15 years there was little to no separation of performance and results…more often than not they were viewed as one and the same.

Understanding how a result, good or bad, was achieved was often lost as the next target came into sight and became a priority. When things went wrong there would be an occasional deep dive into what happened, but rarely when an outstanding result was achieved.

In short, there was a lack of understanding of which performance ‘ingredients’ had created the result that followed. It meant that best practise was rarely shared and the chance of a repeat success was lowered even within the same team.

How can we look at what we do every day and work out how to get better without doing more?

In elite sport the picture is very different. When Roger Federer comes off court after a match he very rarely, if ever, speaks about the result. He talks about, the different aspects of his performance, what went well and what didn’t. His serve, his game management, his resilience, his mindset, how he reacted to his competitor’s tactics – he never once mentions the score.

It’s a quick insight, a microcosm, of how he will look to build on and improve his performance before his next match. It is the same in just about every sport. There is a relentless focus on the many and varied elements of performance that can support an athlete in improving what they do each day.

If you are an Olympic athlete training six hours a day, every day, training another hour won’t necessarily improve your performance and it’s the same in business. How can we look at what we do every day and work out how to get better without doing more?

Because invariably this is not really about working harder, although that can be a factor for some teams, but in the vast majority of cases it’s about maximising the time they have each day to improve how they think, collaborate and perform.

You may not need a seismic shift in the way you work but rather a tweaking of the daily habits that dictate your performance levels. How often do we keep on doing what we have always done without searching for a new approach to lift our performance?

For both business and sport, the further you progress in your field the more marginal these performance gains may become, but there is always room for the improvement that may give you an edge on the competition.

How can you get curious about the recipe of your own performance and the performance of your team? While there is not a magic formula that fits all, the below are three initial areas of focus you should consider adopting for a high performance mindset:

  1. Define your crazy goal. What is your gold medal, your overarching ambition? What would be your podium moment? To know how well you are performing it’s imperative that you are clear on the measures and end goals that will define your progress and build your belief.
  2. Focus on what’s most important. How often do we all focus on what’s in front of us vs what really matters to achieve our goals? How can you ensure that the majority of your time is spent on the critical workstreams that will help you achieve your crazy goal? How can you build that clarity not just for yourself but ultimately for everyone in your team – so they can be clear on what is most important for them to succeed and drive you towards the goal?
  3. Performance Review. Get into the rhythm of continually reviewing how you performed. After a sales call, an internal meeting, a project. What went well? What could you do better? What could you differently? Research suggests we spend up to 75% of our time in meetings – how hard do you work on making them as effective as possible?

The potential list of performance improvements should be neverending, the marginal gains ongoing. What can you do differently tomorrow that will make a difference to your performance?


About the author

Chris Martin is a director of Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?


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