Many times in the evolution of a movement, in the growth of an idea, the original genesis is lost. This week, on the heels of the digital iBook release of Sink, Float, or Swim: Sustainable High Performance Doesn't Happen By Chance It Happens By Choice (iBooks // Lulu); it feels like the perfect time to look back at why we wrote the book and whether or not it is still relevant. In February of 2009, on a rainy day in London, we met with our first client, Sandy Ogg, in a corner breakfast cafe to pick his brain about the challenges facing HR and the impact of the "great recession". This was a critical time for Tignum because within 2 weeks in January every one of our 2009 engagements had been canceled due to budget restraints, the cancellation of all leadership development, and the travel freeze put on by so many companies.
At that meeting, Sandy told us that the problem with what we do is that executives don't understand how important their Mindset, Nutrition, Movement, and Recovery habits are to their business performance. They hear these pillars and they immediately think it's about health and everyone knows that no one cares about health until they're sick. He also shared that in his personal experiences as a Chief HR Officer at Unilever, business leaders don't understand the importance of personal preparation for their own key performances. Unlike athletes who are coached, supported, and evaluated on their preparation - executives leave their performance to chance. Not because they are lazy, but rather because they don't really know how and in their busyness they go into default mode. They rely on their position, their past experiences, and the habits they learned in business school to hopefully get them through - but unfortunately this rarely produces their best performance.
When we started writing our book, we looked at all the data we had collected over 3 years of working with top executives, and we quickly noticed that you could look at performance (at work and away from work) as a continuum and everyone fell somewhere along that continuum. On the far left were those people who were struggling with exhaustion. They were burned out or near a burnout and they didn't know how to stop themselves from sinking (Sinkers). On the far right were those people who were full of energy, passion, focus, concentration, and preparation. They brought their best game to everything they did and this deeply impacted those around them (Swimmers). And in the middle were a mass of people who were just trying to make it through this week, this month, or this quarter. They were treading as hard as they could to keep their head above water. They occasionally had a great day, which gave them false hope, but most of the time they were comfortably numb (from Pink Floyd) and didn't realize that they could be better (Floaters). The more we wrote the more we realized that we all actually move on this continuum every day but we are always just one choice away from moving towards the right - moving towards being a swimmer.
It's interesting now, 6 months after we first published our book, how many people have written us to comment on how they look at their day and their personal choices differently. They have a clear vision of themselves swimming and they look at their Mindset, Nutrition, Movement, and Recovery choices as the key to making it happen. They are now moving from knowing to actually doing. This is what inspires us as we travel around the world and work with executives to help them experience being a Swimmer. As we get close to the end of 2010 we have sensed that there is a real movement taking place. Leaders are realizing that there must be a better way to approach their daily performances (both at work and away from work). Companies are learning that it's not enough to just put a cliche in their mission statement about how important their people are - they have to prove it. They are learning the value of having their top talent become Swimmers.
We hope our book Sink, Float, or Swim has helped this movement and we hope that it's new release on iBooks will help more people learn that they can be a Swimmer.
By Scott Peltin and Jogi Rippel // Cofounders of Tignum