Having recently become a more avid golfer, and mildly addicted to the Golf Channel, I asked myself the question as to why the same small group of golfers, more or less, finish in the top 20 on Sunday afternoons, even though at this level these professional golfer’s skill set is likely not remarkably superior to those who finish the tournament at the bottom of the list or who fail to make the cut on Friday. I was also pretty certain that this phenomenon could apply to a variety of human endeavors, whether in sport, business, sales….virtually any type of performance. I pulled a small team together of Vered Eyal, Tracey Levison and myself to examine this phenomenon. We pooled our collective experiences and concluded that the traits and attributes of High Achievers were NOT the same as Peak Performers (those who consistently perform at the highest levels and do so without creating some level of turmoil in the process, either for themselves, others and their organizations).

To date, the research which we have conducted has consisted of a literature review, and there isn’t much of it, as well as discussions conducted with senior-most leaders in a variety of industries (Real Estate, Insurance, Pension Plans, Investment Banking, Professional Services, Retail and Consumer Business). We have identified a number of attributes which we believe differentiate between High Achievers (HA) and Peak Performers 2 (PP) and have built a 9-month program to help HA become PP in business as well as other domains in their lives. We have also constructed an assessment tool which isolates those aspects of high achieving behaviour which need to be addressed in order to move towards Peak Performance. The rationale for doing so is that we see HA and PP as being on a continuum and that as one identifies and masters particular skills and attitudes, the likelihood of achieving PP status is enhanced.

 

What High Achievers and Peak Performers Have in Common:

  • Attain high levels of achievement because they focus and drive towards their goals until success is attained
  • Are self-managed, independent-minded and dedicated to achieving their goal(s)
  • Understand and recognize indicators of average performance
  • Make finer discriminations than average performers
  • Have specific knowledge and superior problem-solving skills
  • Their general abilities, such as intelligence and memory, are not necessarily higher than average performers

 

Attributes of a Peak Performer:

  • Performance is continually enhanced thus the individual does not stagnate
  • Finds balance between personal and work life
  • Harnesses stress to be a positive force for growth, change and performance
  • Takes well considered risks
  • Controls and changes maladaptive patterns of thoughts and behavior
  • Recognizes and acknowledges shortcomings and seeks to manage them constructively
  • Achieves a “flow state”
  • Aspires to leave a positive legacy
  • Conscious of the impact one has on others and does not achieve at their expense
  • Serves as a role model for others
  • Collaborative and a valued team member
  • Exhibits strong Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
  • Knows how to manage and resolve conflict
  • Surrounds themselves with others who add to their lives and sheds or avoids toxic relationships

 

Attributes of a High Achiever

  • Tends to experience serious work – life balance issues
  • Some or many maladaptive patterns of thought and behaviour
  • Too great a dependence on one strength
  • Strive to achieve perfection vs. excellence
  • Performance anxiety is common
  • Can experience incongruence between values, goals, beliefs and achievements
  • Often has interpersonal strife, whether at home or work
  • Stress management challenges: tend to stay as busy as possible, talk fast, walk fast, no time for small talk and uses electronic devices excessively
  • Fierce competitors, even amongst colleagues
  • Consciously or unconsciously compares themselves to others
  • Frequently blames others for their frustrations
  • Confides in those who tell them what they want to hear
  • Have numerous blind spots
  • Sensitive to critical feedback

 

Consequences of High Achievement

  • Higher risk of burning self and others out
  • More prone to emotional, physical and relationship problems
  • Inconsistent performance
  • Overly concerned with self-image
  • Feels vulnerable to setbacks
  • Overreacts to even minor frustrations
  • Won’t risk experimenting with new strategies and approaches
  • Lacks creativity, stays with the known
  • Fearful and oversensitive to criticism
  • Hesitates making difficult decisions and festers over even small changes

 

Building Peak Performers (a 9-Month Program)

a. Self-Assessment and Goal Setting
b. Introduction of Peak Performance Concepts, including Peak Performance Models and distinctions, perfectionism versus excellence, achieving “flow states”, managing stress, building EQ, internal versus external locus of control, managing work-life balance
c. Field work and journaling
d. Guided readings
e. Guest lectures with Peak Performers from the fields of business and sport
f. In-person meetings with Peak cohort
g. On-going Feedback and coaching meetings with Peak Coach
h. Peer Coaching Triad meetings i. Internal mentoring

 

In Conclusion

The 3 of us, that is, Tracey, Vered and I, debated as to the minimum anticipated level of effort and time required to truly have a positive impact on a HA who desires to become a PP. Given that we see these two “types” as being on the same continuum, we concluded we could have the greatest impact by focusing on those HA who exhibited both a base of PP characteristics (so this program is not for everyone) and who were genuinely committed to the level of effort required to learn and incorporate the skills which they were lacking, rather then virtually absent.

Our Peak Quotient (PQ) assessment tool is intended to identify those elements of peak performance absent in the High Achiever’s behavioural repertoire. Based on this selfassessment, the participant both identifies their developmental needs, and with coaching, crafts their program goals. Our 9- month Peak Performance Development Program (PPDP) has been designed to close the gap between HA and PP. The program optimizes a number of approaches which, in and of themselves, have already demonstrated their significant transformative potential.

What is unique to our program is the way these methods have been organized and integrated, as well as the focus on those individuals who arguably will be in a better position to optimize the learnings, for themselves, their teams and their organizations. Hopefully, this brief article has “peaked” your interest in Peak Performance either for yourself or on behalf of your organization. We would be pleased to meet with you and/or others to discuss how the program would apply.