Peak Performance

  • August 6th, 2019

Recently, Pavan Talreja and his team, working with a major sports broadcasting client in Mu Sigma, held an interesting session at The Connected Mind. Taking up a creative ask from the Meet-Me-Time team, they decided to make use of some time they had at their disposal, which they felt could be put to better use. After 2 months of research and execution, their efforts boiled down to a PowerPoint presentation which was crisply delivered to the audience.

So what was it they spoke on? Why should it interest you? To get an idea, let’s start with a timeless quote from Michael Jordan:

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed”

He is a legend who pushed the limits of performance in basketball. But the real reason why I chose to start with him, or any of us would pick a sportsperson to drive home the point is pretty simple. They are performers. Not just any, no. There’s a special place in the world reserved for them. They’re peak performers.

So what is peak performance?

As Greg Wells puts it,

“Peak performance is a state that is also known as peak experience, the zone of optimal functioning and flow. It refers to a moment when an individual puts it all together, when they are in the zone, when everything flows, and when they achieve an exceptional performance.”

Watch Applying behavioral design for peak performance – a video by Andrew Zimmerman

Why are some people peak performers?

Simple. Their success is not accidental. They design their environment and behavior in a way that they reach peak performance.

Humans possess the basic instinct to survive – an instinct that makes us fight or flee. Our brain and body evolved to be able to survive. But is surviving enough? How do we move from surviving to thriving? Remember the feeling of competition when you joined your first team, the survival instinct?

How do we create an environment for people to reach peak performance?

According to Fogg’s model of behavioral change – for a person to perform a target behavior, he or she must (1) be sufficiently motivated, (2) have the ability to perform the behavior, and (3) be triggered to perform the behavior. These three factors must occur at the same moment, else the behavior will not happen. (BJ Fogg, 2009, A Behavior Model for Persuasive Design,

There are 6 ability barriers that prevent us from performing. Let’s look at them from the perspective of an employee struggling to reach office by 9.30am:

  • Physical Effort – Waking up and having a bath
  • Cognitive Effort – Worrying about showing up at the designated pick up point.
  • Time – Making sure to wake up by 8 as the bus arrives at 8.45
  • Money – Company pays for transport, so it is not a worry
  • Habits – 7 hours of sleep is needed, so one has to sleep max by 1 am and show up at the bus stop by 8:40 am. Doing it every day makes it a habit
  • Social In-parentheses – Feeling compelled to do something because everyone else does it

No behavior occurs without the presence of a trigger

Triggers are of two types – internal and external, and they should be timely, relevant and variable (different from time to time). You are more likely to read an email rather than clicking on a link (relevant). Similarly, you are more likely to respond to a text during the day as compared to one received at say, 2am (timely).  If you get the same kind of notification every single day you ignore it (variable).

To achieve peak performance we need to adopt certain techniques from performance psychology:

Being Present – which is tantamount to paying attention to your environment

So why are we not present? Few explicable reasons are:

  • Lot more distractions in today’s world than previous generation – Triggers
  • We are bored – No motivation
  • We don’t like the present moment – No motivation
  • Ability barriers in place to complete a task
  • We tend to concentrate on results & outcomes – Ability barrier

As Zimmerman puts it, setting a 14 digit password on your phone is like putting an ability barrier, once you are done entering the password you might realize how stuck up with your phone you are.

How must we stay present?

  • Remove the trigger that takes you away from the present moment
  • Add ability barriers that remind you that you don’t want to be here!
  • Accept what is! – Don’t be disappointed, Reward your awareness of not being present by celebrating
  • Learn that you cannot control results and outcomes – don’t let them define you!
  • Separate yourself from your professional self!
  • Focus on what you can control – attitude, effort and focus

Do you tend to focus on outcomes and results and judge yourself accordingly – to reflect on themselves that they are not good enough? Do you judge yourself by whether or not you are putting in your best? Can you control your results and outcomes? No, otherwise you would have won every game. It ultimately boils down to 3 crucial things:

  • Attitude
  • Focus
  • Effort

These are what peak performers rely on. Instead, what do we actually do? Most of us get dejected and quit.

How do we quantify peak performance?

  • Employees must learn to separate who they are as human beings than who they are as professionals
  • A feedback on bad behavior/bad results & outcomes must not be taken personally (You must not feel that you failed as a human being)
  • Treat it as a failure in activity than failure as a human being – Do not link performance to identity!
  • Quantify performance on 3 metrics:
    • Attitude
    • Effort
    • Focus
  • We will live with whatever happens after that!

How did they implement the Fogg model in their team?

Reach out to us, and share your thoughts in the comments, and we will share their action plan with you – which is not just a good way to utilize meet-me-time, but a team bonding exercise and productivity hack as well.