One of the great privileges of traveling so much is that we get to work with a lot of amazing people and to see for ourselves what high performers do and don’t do. In fact, one of our passions is to learn as much from our clients as they learn from us. Over the past 10 years it would be an understatement to say we have learned a ton.
One thing we have observed is that there is a normal learning curve that everyone has to follow. Whether you are a new CEO, a new team leader, or even a new golfer, you will basically have to evolve from a beginner to an intermediate to an expert. This would seem like a linear evolution but it clearly is not.
When beginners approach a new role or skill they tend to over simplify it. This is smart since complexity would destroy motivation but it also creates a whammy effect when you move into the intermediate stage. Beginners often say things like, “it isn’t as hard as people make it out to be”, or “I don’t know why people act like it is rocket science.” By the way, beware of the new CEO who is saying things like this. Also, beware of the sideline critics who always commentate on how simple things are because they rarely step into the arena where they would have to sweat, bleed, cry, or commit.
As a beginner evolves into the intermediate stage of their development they all of a sudden realize the complexity of the job or task and tend to over complicate things. At this stage they are fraught with frustration and tend to get buried in all the details of what they are learning. At this stage it is easy to lose site of the ultimate goal of mastery and to just get caught up in the day to grind of complexity. This approach also takes enormous energy and creates overall tension so it can not only be no fun but it can lead to self-abuse and defeat.
As an intermediate begins to master their role or their task and become an expert they suddenly discover a new peace. They now create simplicity out of complexity and almost make it look easy. They have figured out how to balance great peripheral vision (awareness) with an amazing discipline to focus on what is really important. They often say things like, “the most important 3 things are….,” or “when I address my team the 3 most important take aways I want to impart are…” I don’t know why these brilliant people tend to see things in 3’s and 5’s but it sure seems that way. I have seen leaders like Sandy Ogg (former CHRO of Unilever and Operating Partner at Blackstone) do this with leadership, John Reid-Dodick (Chief People Officer of Dun and Bradstreet) do this with culture change, and Vas Narasimham (Head of Global Product Development at Novartis) do this with team strategy alignment.
Another observation I have made is that high performers tend to value the benefit of doing simple things savagely well while others tend to over value complex solutions. Mark Verstegen (the president and founder of EXOS) trained the German National Soccer Team to a world cup championship by focusing building simple movement patterns to perfection. The Navy Seal mindset training course focuses on 4 simple (but very effective) strategies: goal setting, reframing self-talk, managing emotional states, and visualizing success. As we have worked with clients to power their culture shift towards Sustainable High Performance I have seen how some want to make it over complicated while others realize that a high performance culture is the product of doing some simple things consistently and authentically.
I hope these observations help you in your journey to high performance and as always I’d love to hear your thoughts.
By Scott Peltin
Founder & Chief Performance Officer