Written by Alex Pirouz:
Running a business, whether you are a sole proprietor or own a large business, is not for the faint of heart. Given the numerous demands of a business, it is easy for even the savviest of business owners to become run down, and not be able to work at peak performance.
Depending on the size of your business and type of business, many business owners work an average of 50-80 plus hours a week. They make decisions daily that impact an entire organization.
It has often been said that to be a successful entrepreneur you need to wear many hats. You have to manage employees, work on planning and strategy, get involved in purchasing, accounting, marketing, sales, assess efficiency and safety, and the list goes on.
This can very quickly feel like a whirlwind, I know this feeling because I’ve been there many times over the past decade of being in business.
And as I sit here thinking about each of those experiences the one thing that helped me put it all together when at times it seemed completely impossible was my ability to perform under pressure and execute consistently when the odds were against me
I like to think of this as: Peak Performance. We hear a lot today about being your best, taking care of business, achieving success, performing at your peak. What we don’t always hear is what it takes to sustain peak performance.
To gain a deeper understanding into this topic I recently spoke with Frank Cuilui the ex co-founder of Velteo. A company which focused on integrating culture with process and technology for sales and service improvement.
Velteo’s high performance culture was recognized as second to none and was the critical element to its success. With less than 30 employees Velteo’s most often outperformed and out competed some of its biggest competitors.
Along the way Velteo received industry awards, deployed projects to some of the largest organizations in the country and gained international attention which ultimately helped him reach an exit 4 years later when he sold the company to an overseas competitor.
Wanting to be the best and pursue mastery were core values shared by all our employees. What I had learned in the many years competing in sports at a professional level is the science of rest and recuperation, and reflection was just as important as the effort you put into training if you were going to have a long and successful career.
Our culture was one where people had a natural tendency to push themselves to their limits all the time. This DNA was inherent in all our employees as it was something that we screened for in our interview process.
Our business environment had us competing with major players vying for share of wallet in some of Australia’s largest corporates. Our competitors were often more resourced and with larger bank balances. This made it all the more important for us to be at our best all of the time.
However this work ethic has a dark side as people often would push themselves close to burnout and would not be aware if we didn’t intervene. When everyone in the business is oriented this way you have a greater responsibility as a leader to ensure your teams health and well being, which sometimes meant forcing people to take time out.
We came up with a program called “GTFO” (use your imagination as to the meaning of the acronym). This was a free day the team went passed what we believed was a healthy level of utilisation in any given month. This was not logged as leave but simply a day for them to do whatever they pleased, as long as they did something cool and told us about it.
Peak Performance is a commitment to your physical, mental, spiritual being and to your personal growth and development at all times. Peak performance, in my opinion it is not something you can switch on and off; it is what you commit to and strive for always.
Though fictional, Batman is a fine example of what can be achieved when we strive for peak performance. He is driven, motivated and determined as he trains and maintains his superior knowledge, fitness and kit. He comes to life when he is fulfilling his self defined purpose and focused on his ultimate mission.
Almost every peak performer demonstrates ambition and belief and this, along with good tools and a unique combination of planning and impulse, makes it possible to succeed.
Below Frank shares 5 things you can start doing in your day-to-day routine in order to gain a higher level of peak performance:
1/ Take care of the physical. All too often the first thing we give up when we get busy is our sleep, our nutrition and our exercise. This creates a downward spiral in performance. When we stop doing these critical things we often find ourselves with increased stress and decrease in our executive function. We observed many times how this lead to poor decisions on projects, or how people reacted to situations. You then end up spending more time fixing the issues created because you let yourself go.
2/ Feed the mind. With so much information being available to us in todays day and age, we have entered a state of information overload. We need to pay more attention to what we feed our minds and should not limit it to simply what is related to our jobs. Creative inspiration and our ability to solve complex problems is often inspired through unlikely sources. Cut out the noise and distractions and focus on quality inputs.
In the organisational setting this means having a degree of trust to give freedom to your people to take a break and surf the web at work, and spend time on web sites that are often not related directly to the work they are performing for your business.
3/ Be aware of your limiting beliefs. What you believe to be true about the world determines how you behave in the world. We need to constantly be questioning our biases which we form through our experiences in life. There is a fine line between using past experience to make good decisions, or these decisions controlling our biases which lead to our judgement of people and situations that often lead to poor decisions anchored in fear. This level of awareness should not be taken likely. Its not something you learn in a weekend and like any skill requires practice. Mentoring and coaching in the workplace becomes an imperative to help people understand where they are and how they show up in certain situations. A culture of safety is required to foster the type of transparency needed to help people grow in this way, in the work place.
4/ Get off the grid. To maintain a state of clear thought it is important to unplug on a regular basis and get out with nature. Nature has a magical way of recharging our batteries and its often underestimated.
My advise is on a regular basis, (for me that’s monthly or quarterly as a minimum) turn off the phones, leave the iPads and other devices at home and get away with the family or friends to the beach, or to the mountains for a weekend. Simply spend time being with your thoughts, meditate, and doing any other activity that fuels your mind and charges your battery. Like anything else this is a discipline but it will pay dividends.
In my opinion peak performance is not just about business and achieving goals. It is also about balance between work and family, friends and fitness.
Working towards peak performance is a little like driving a car — it may become routine and you may even flip on the cruise control every so often. But it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and adapt to them when necessary.