Author: Georgina Barrick
Every so often in life, if you are paying attention, you may meet a truly extraordinary person.
These people are rare and, I suspect, if you’re not alive to the possibility, their magnificence may pass you by. Often, they aren’t the loudest or most flamboyant in the room, or the most obvious.
Mostly, they’re incredibly hard working, humble and selfless people who just vibrate on a different frequency.
Meeting someone extraordinary can be quite unsettling. Being faced with someone who is living their full potential – with no excuses – calls into question your own life, efforts and the excuses you make for not doing more, being more or being better. Professor Carol – Ann Benn is one of these people to me.
I have started to question what separates the ordinary from the extra-ordinary. What drives someone to operate at a level so far beyond their peers that they are immediately set apart, driven forward faster than those around them. More simply, what creates sustained high performance in some of us, but not in others? And, if we can gain insight into what drives the individual, can we use this understanding to drive ourselves and our teams to high performance?
In trying to understand this, one of the interesting books about performance that I’ve come across is ‘High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way’, written by acclaimed coach and speaker, Brendan Burchard. In it, he shares the 6 habits that his research suggests lead to sustained high performance – and happiness.
Some of these habits may be common sense, but together they create a roadmap to high performance. And, alongside increased consciousness and awareness, they create a vibrational level that moves us from ‘just getting by’ to a state of flow. I’d like to share them with you…
High performers constantly seek clarity – about their goals, direction, strategy and intention.
And, while they might not always get the clarity they’re seeking, asking keeps them focused on what is important and helps them to sift out distractions.
Similarly, high performance teams focus on ensuring that members clearly understand interdependencies, have clearly defined roles, support the decision-making process and are committed to shared goals.
A suggestion that really resonated with me is to start each workplace interaction by asking: ‘What is our intention?’, ‘What really matters?’ and ‘What do we need to achieve?’
In reality, while most of us are exhausted by mid-afternoon, having lost energy throughout the day scrambling to keep up with changing meetings, tasks and events, high performers aren’t.
Instead, they use the time between tasks or meetings – called transitions – to give themselves a short, psychological break. Some get up from their desks, others meditate or spend time in quiet reflection, but all use the time to recharge and shift focus from one activity to another so that they’re primed to perform again.
Burchard’s suggestion that we plan our days in 45 to 60 minutes chunks, with breaks in between, seems within reach for us all.
Energised team environments emphasise team development, continuous learning and motivation.
For high performers, succeeding isn’t about passion, preference or need.
Performing with excellence is as necessary to them as breathing.
And, raising this necessity is personal. It’s all about having someone to perform excellently for – family, team or peers – and reminding yourself of this reason constantly to focus your intention and mental ability towards the right goal.
For high performance teams, necessity is created by focus on a collective mission and purpose – where members can see beyond individual workload and goals towards the team’s higher purpose.
High performers increase outputs that matter – or, simply, they focus unwaveringly on what they have identified as the main event, without being distracted.
They’re also more productive because they have the subconscious ability to think and plan ahead.
Burchard’s research shows that high performers see five steps ahead at all times, identifying the major moves that they’ll need to make to achieve their goal, what to avoid and what skills they’ll need to develop to complete each move.
One of the ways that high performance teams achieve increased productivity is through clear and constant feedback. Knowing how they’re tracking – and where they’re going wrong – helps teams to take action to correct inefficiencies quickly.
High performers are influential – by influencing how others think and challenging them to grow.
If you’re lucky, you have an admired mentor who subtly shapes how you think by questioning your approach – ‘What do you think about this? Have you thought about approaching it in this way?’ and, who, in doing so, pushes you to think unconventionally and creatively – and be your best.
If you do, you’re likely to have a high performance mentor.
In high performance teams, creating an environment where members feel secure enough to constructively criticise and challenge processes – the status quo – builds influence.
When confronting risk, hardship, judgement or fear, high performers show courage in many ways.
Firstly, they speak up for themselves – and others – sharing truth that makes them vulnerable.
They also ‘honour the struggle’ – appreciating that true success take blood, sweat and tears and that working through the tough times is a necessary part of the process. They expect hardship to come with achievement, believing it be character-building. South Africans call this ‘vasbyt’.
Finally, high performers demonstrate courage because they’ve identified someone to fight for – a family member, friend or peer – and their determination to fight through uncertainty or fear comes from wanting to work hard for this person.
Focusing on these habits and constantly challenging yourself in a non-judgmental, but honest and conscious way, can shift old patterns and move you into a more authentic state of being. Like all things that are really worth it, this takes practice and discipline, but is a challenge that can have amazing results.
Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co, Insource.ICT/ IT Edge and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.