Achieving Peak Performance

Athletes have to achieve peak performance � and maintain it - if they are to succeed. The rewards are fantastic for the small number of elite athletes but tail off very quickly as performance lessens. So, how can we use the techniques of sports coaching and apply them to business? It can work � and is most often used with sales staff (which like athletes are usually individuals but the concept has been extended to team-based working, and even to organisational development.

In the 1980s, Charles Garfield in Peak Performers (1986) spelt out six capacities or aptitudes of high achievers:

� missions that motivate,

� results in real time,

� self-management through self-mastery,

� team building and team playing,

� course correction, and

� change management.

In Garfield's second book, Second to None (1992), he moved the focus to organizational redesign, and the defined a peak performer (previously an enterprising individualist) as a fully participating partner. Peak performers are those who have the ability to collaborate in cross-functional and self-directed teams. They have an understanding of interdependent systems, of networks of people connected by shared values.

We now understand organisations � large or small - as being organic systems with each component part of an interdependent whole. World-class quality, superior service, high-performance sales, and high-achieving management strategies all depend on the deployment of superior collaborative skills.

In true interdependent organisations, each individual and team has others with whom they can share, brainstorm, develop and innovate. Although innovation, like invention, is often thought of as being 'the one great idea' dreamt up by the boffin in the backroom, in reality, it is much more likely to be the result of team-thinking and team effort.

However, as we take our original idea through to (hopefully) success � and as our organisation grows �. all too often we forget about all this �soft� stuff � we are too busy building the controls and the bureaucracy. Of course we need some of that � but not at the expense of ideas, collaborations and creative partnerships.

So � take a look at your organisation. Can your processes be redesigned to promote and take advantage of such collaborative activity, with the aim of a quantum leap in performance? Flexibility is necessary, anyway, to cope with the increasing rate of change of the external environment - aiming for peak performance simple puts the initiative back with the organisation to drive, rather than respond to, change.

The individual focus of peak performance transformation remains important. The individuals - in peak performing groups - need to be aware of their own attributes and makeup, and how they are likely to respond and react to other with differing makeup. They need to be confident of their own abilities and of their place in the team and in the organisation. As with athletes, they need to know when and how to 'raise their game'.

You should set about training your key staff to help prepare them for peak performance by helping them with:

� Understanding the nature of presence and charisma

� Techniques for developing and maintaining presence

� Basic meditation and relaxation exercises

� Transforming self-consciousness into self-awareness

� Projection: from playing a role to filling a role

� Adapting to the nature of those around you

� Motivation through effective communication

� Finding and overcoming the blocks to confident performance

� Aligning personal and organisational mission

� Focussing on the 'big picture'

This requires more than training courses � it involves more one-to-one sessions based on mutual respect and trust � as between athlete and coach. So start with those you see as having the greatest potential � work with them. Employ professional business coaches by all means � but you have to be involved. After all, it is your company � your future.

After all, aren�t these the things above the things you do as an entrepreneur? Surely you are not afraid of working with others who can deliver as well as you can?

Peak Performers : The New Heroes of American Business

Charles Garfield

Avon Books

ISBN: 0380703041

Peak Performance: Aligning the Hearts and Minds of Your Employees

Jon R. Katzenbach

Harvard Business School Press

ISBN: 0875849369


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