Recently, I was talking with a client who admitted that his life has been chaos for the past few weeks. He has had fire after fire to put out, while trying to design and implement some major strategic and tactical changes in his organization. As usual, he started our conversation by apologizing for not fully following the Tignum strategies, but in the middle of his explanation he was struck by a transformational thought, “Actually, Scott, while I know I’m in a totally chaotic period, I am hyper aware of how I feel, what I can do to impact my performance, and how this has to be temporary because it’s unsustainable.”
This statement covers volumes of information in one sentence. The reality is that our clients are under high demand and significant pressure to perform. They have to deal with unexpected urgent and emergent situations that weren’t in their schedules but couldn’t be avoided. They live and perform in an imperfect world where things are constantly re-prioritized in order to be successful. As I listened to my client tell his story, I had a brief flashback to my prior life as a firefighter.
On many occasions we had to respond from call to call. One minute you are cutting someone out of a car and the next minute you are running into a burning building where you have zero visibility and you’re surrounded by chaos. What I learned from these experiences was that the real professionals, the highest performers, developed micro strategies that work on the fly. What I also learned was that those who left their performance to luck made some serious mistakes that at times were even fatal.
Here are a few of the micro strategies that will create High Performance in chaos:
_Prepare yourself for what you are running in to. (On a fire I did a 60-second size up of the situation and mentally rehearsed as many what-ifs as I could while we were responding to the call.)
_Grab quick recovery moments by dis-engaging, moving, breathing, and hydrating.
_Carry High Performance snacks with you because putting out fires requires a lot of energy. (If you don’t have food with you, there is a high probability that you will crash and make some serious mistakes.)
_As things speed up around you, slow things down inside you by controlling your breathing and re-focusing on the present task. (In fires this is easy because you can hear every breath in your breathing apparatus but in business this powerful intervention requires awareness.)
_Recognize distractions early and move them off your plate.
_Stay in the moment by fully focusing on what is in front of you (quit multi-tasking). This saves time, produces better results, and requires less energy.
_Vigilantly manage your thoughts - especially those that make you a victim. (Tough times are tough but High Performers reframe and refocus on the actions they need to take to be successful and also be sustainable.)
These strategies are simple but they only work when you practice them and you apply them. I’ve run into fires without a plan, without properly preparing myself, and without the focus that I needed. It’s an awful feeling to be 100 feet into a burning building and realize that you’re in trouble. In hindsight, I am lucky that nothing catastrophic happened, but the truth is, I was going through the motions on that fire - that wan’t High Performance. What I learned is that small things make a huge difference and when you can’t change the chaos, you better maximize yourself.
Reflecting back on my conversation with my client, the most important thing he said was, “I am very aware of my performance and I know when I’m stretching myself and this makes me constantly do every little thing that I can to be better and more sustainable.” I’d love to hear what you’re doing to create High Performance in your chaos.
By Scott Peltin
Founder & Chief Performance Officer