The world is obsessed with performance. Skills development, process improvement, organization change management, even personal growth paths – they are all aimed at increasing our performance and suggest various means of achieving this seemingly ultimate goal. But what is this desired Peak Performance? Can it be identified, measured, and stimulated, externally or internally? This article will provide some answers.
First, we need to differentiate between Peak Performance and Maximum Productivity. These phenomena are distinctly different, but many people in leadership positions still mix them up. Once, a corporate client invited me to design and deliver Peak Performance training for their employees. In pre-contract negotiations, I asked what they wanted to achieve with the training, and the answer was: “We want our people to demonstrate better results at work, to hit higher KPIs”. So, I designed a Productivity training for them, and it included skills development, process, and roles understanding and better communication. The client got what they wanted – their request was exactly about Productivity, not Peak Performance.
Productivity is the measure of a person’s success in the workplace, his or her ability to complete more assigned tasks in less time. Employers want productivity because it gives them higher returns for their salary investment. And they often call it Peak Performance, simply because it sounds better and helps mask the truth – their desire to squeeze as much as possible out of their employees. Productivity is measured with KPIs, and employees can be easily compared to each other based on their productivity.
Peak Performance is a psychological state of great inner motivation, a subjective feeling of confidence and satisfaction that makes a person perform to the best of his or her abilities. It relates to the company’s mission and vision, and its alignment with the employee’s personal goals and values. Peak Performance is not about the number of completed tasks but more about the mood and state of mind or a person. Skills training can only indirectly influence Performance through higher confidence and a sense of accomplishment. What is more important is corporate culture, quality of communications, friendship, support, and recognition that the person gets in the office.
So, you want to be a peak-performing person? Here are a few tips on how you can achieve this state:
- Live your life like money doesn’t matter.
Money is a factor that often clouds our judgment and makes us take bad decisions. While a certain level of financial security is absolutely necessary, more money does not bring more happiness and satisfaction. And when you have to sacrifice your emotional comfort for money and stability (like tolerating boredom, toxic cultures, or bullying bosses), you will never be able to perform at your peak. When selecting between a better-paying and a better-feeling job, please select the latter.
- Build your communities.
People are the best source of energy and emotions. Staying at the peak alone is not possible for long. You will need support from others who share your passions. To attract like-minded people, you need to communicate your interests, to make them known via social media and face-to-face talks. Build your own small community – and plug into its energy. When such groups appear at the workplace and their interests relate to work tasks – we get the legendary top-performing business teams.
- Allow your life to change often.
Nothing lasts forever, not even your interest in the things that you love. Peak Performance is not about mastery and doing one great thing your entire life – it is about being true to yourself and accepting the fact that you change, and your interests change with you. Staying at the peak requires finding new sources of energy every time when boredom starts to creep in: new people, new projects, new roles. Accepting and even embracing this change and the uncertainty that comes with it is necessary to find and maintain your Peak Performance state.
It can be a challenging journey but certainly worth it. Living a life that you want and doing the right thing is much more fulfilling and satisfying than being able to out-produce your peers. When you need guidance along the way, turn to the best coach – your heart. Keep your integrity, stay true to yourself, listen to your emotions – and you will be at your peak often.
© Alexey Morov, 2020.