I wanted to showcase more about what my performance psychology brand represents, and have - after much deliberation - landed on the word frictionless. This word represents to me (and I hope to you, but let me know!) the idea that performance, especially high performance, is hard enough - and that my job is to help you to do what you love, or to grit through the stuff that’s hard but necessary, or to pursue your Grand Passion…with more ease and less suffering. Less grind, more grace. Less getting in your own way, more working with a good and productive flow. Working with your mind and not against it. That’s what frictionless performance can look like…consider me your tour guide to teach you, show you, and equip you for the journey.
Are You a Performer? Are You a High Performer?
I find that people can answer the first question on one level readily enough, but for some of us, it might be baffling. Do I perform? I’m no athlete or musician. My response is that, actually, we are all performing all the team. Word policewoman that I am, I looked up the word “performance” and here’s the Dictionary.com definition: “the execution or accomplishment of work, acts, feats, etc.” To me, this says “behaviour.” Performing is doing. If we get down to that level of granularity, then of course we are all performers.
Am I a high performer? This is a different kettle of fish entirely. We could talk about the reality that sometimes we are and sometimes we are not. And that sometimes of our lives demand this, while others are more forgiving. And that frankly, high performance all the time would be unsustainable and unhealthy… and will be the subject of a future newsletter. But if you have no idea if you are a high performer or not because like many of us, you have not even thought about it, this article is for you. It is my contention that getting to “yes” on the high performer question, and from there learning how to do your version of high performance in a way that’s sustainable, easy (dare I say “frictionless” :)) and even fun is not just aspirational but necessary.
But first, some groundwork. What does “high performance” mean to me and my world(s)? Talking to sport coaches about this suggests that at least some of us worship our ideas of high performance on the altar of outcome. That is, I will hear from a coach something to the effect that ‘my good performance is when my athletes win or at least perform to potential.’ Winning is a very measurable and obvious metric, but not controllable in a fair contest. Even the idea of judging my own performance based on my athletes’ performing to potential, while devoid of the trap of absolute outcome, is still a few degrees of freedom away from any actual personal accountability. It would be the equivalent of saying that my performance is based on the weather, or on whether my direct reports bring umbrellas when the weather threatens rain. Not only is this an indirect route to self-accountability, but it is also cheeky to presume that because someone else performs well, it was due to me. Maybe…but maybe not.
Let’s bring it back to you and what you control. For coaches, this might mean stepping back from your athletes’ performance(s) on the day to define “high performance” for yourself. This self-analysis could involve coaching basics such as communication, knowledge, tactics, techniques, game strategy (what you know and how you share it). It could be more about you: qualities of energy, focus, optimism, enthusiasm (how you show up and your presence). It could be about how intentionally you develop and maintain those most important relationships with those you serve. It could be about logistics such as are you on-time, prepared, confident in your delivery? You could get even more basic and focus on your foundations of sleep process and quality, recovery activities big and micro, how healthily you are eating, your fitness and movement regimes, as well as how socially supported you are.
Good Enough Versus High Performance. I will say that the basics and logistics of what you do as a performer - the job competencies you had to demonstrate to get your job in the first place - are not what makes you a “high performer” at all. They got you into the “good enough to get and keep the job” door. And we can mistake “good enough” for high performance. I’d argue that many of us are skating through on good enough. Not because we are trying to do less than our best, but because - often - life gets in the way, or we are more about tending to everyone else at home and work and thereby neglecting our own high-performance needs. I hear this from coaches all the time, but what is most dismaying is when someone brags about the hours they work or the sleep they are not getting as if THAT is a sign of high performance. Quite the opposite, thank you. You are robbing yourself, and the people you serve, of your best self.
So I’m not here to have you curate the basic competencies inherent in your role but I am here to get you to reflect on your own high-performance underpinnings.
No matter your profession or calling, engaging in your own high-performance reverse-engineering exercise can be useful for getting down to what really underpins your ability to perform at your best. And then, of course, doing something about it.
Below I have crafted a list of areas that can influence one’s performance quality. I have phrased these in the form of questions as no list is necessarily your list, and I’d see this more as an exercise for you to ask yourself, ‘what does my high performance look like for me in this space?’ Picking up on energy, for example, when I am presenting or speaking, it’s definitely high energy all the way, while when I am home catching up with my husband (when I am performing well in that role, that is), I’m calmly attentive and actively listening.
(An Incomplete List of ) High-Performance Factors
ENERGY: Do you bring and can you sustain what’s needed for the occasion? Measured, excited, calm, assertive?
ATTITUDE: Who are you when you are at your best? Infectious? Deeply interested? Optimistic? Engaged?
STRESS COPING: Do you keep your wits and cool about you no matter what? Are you a good self-manager, are you aware of your triggers, can you bring calm-on-demand? Do you know how to recover after a stressful time or encounter…and do you?
EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Are you aware of your own emotions and work with them appropriately? Do you read others’ emotional landscapes reasonably well and interact wisely…or does this question flummox you?
COGNITIVE: Can you make efficient, good decisions? How’s your memory (the first thing to go when sleep is underdone)? Can you be patient and tolerate waiting when required? Can you think on your feet without too much fuss?
FOUNDATIONAL: How do you rate your ability to get enough good sleep and recovery activities? Eat well and in moderation? Manage screen time? Stay fit? Balance work, social, and family?
Below is a list of questions that relate to work-life qualities that can either buffer or undermine your performance.
Is your work fun? At least some of the time?
Do you like the people you work with?
Do you have at least one good friend where you work?
Does your workplace share your core values? [That is, high performance generally suffers whenever we feel obligated to do things we object to either ethically or morally].
I hope you find some value in checking yourself against these criteria and questions - let me know how you go!
I provide individual and group coaching on how you or your team can learn more about getting out of your own way and working with your mind for more frictionless and sustainable performance. If you want more information or have questions, you can reach me at email@example.com