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  • Peak Performance Smarts: Vacation, Vacation!

    “Take a rest: a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”
    – Ovid

    Peak performance requires action, focus and persistence. However, for peak performance to be sustainable over the long-term, regular rest periods are also required for the body and mind to refresh.

    This is where Vacations come in.

    While a Vacation is not a complete cure-all for on-the-job challenges and workload, it can definitely help with regaining energy, perspective and balance. For leaders in particular, perspective and balance are key attributes for effectiveness.

  • Would You Hire Yourself? Take a Clean Slate Approach

    Biz man crop_OK

    “This is interesting,” said the CEO, studying the whiteboard we’d filled with a detailed position profile. Hank, I, and several board directors were updating his company’s succession plans in light of his expected retirement in two years. Updating his own position profile – role, responsibilities, and success criteria – was key to identifying possible internal candidates for his job.

    “Our business has changed drastically in the past eighteen months,” Hank noted. “We have more overseas suppliers, more regulation to contend with here and abroad, and more strategic alliances to manage.” He shook his head in mild disbelief. “If I were looking for someone to fill my shoes now, I probably wouldn’t hire myself.”

  • Is Your Team Too Smart to Win?

    Argument crop_OKWe know that smart people can come together in projects and produce exceptional work. What is less discussed is that smart individuals can — and do — come together as teams only to generate dysfunction and sub-par results.

    Back in the 1970s and 80s, British management researcher Meredith Belbin discovered unexpectedly poor results with teams formed of people who had sharp, analytical minds and high mental ability. He dubbed these teams of smart people “Apollo teams,” as his research coincided with the American lunar expeditions.

    In case after case of team-based assignments, he found that Apollo teams often finished near the bottom, compared to teams that possessed less individual and collective intellectual firepower.

  • “Lean Back” to Win? – Productivity and Competitive Advantage in the New Normal

    Americans now work 8.5 hours more per week than they did in 1979. Office workers spend more than a quarter of each day writing and responding to e-mails. And nearly one-third of working adults get six hours or less of sleep a night, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

    This bias to overwork, however, is not the route to innovation, optimal decision making or peak performance. Instead of “leaning in,” research on creativity and productivity tells us to “lean back” for competitive advantage.

    Finally, there’s an evidence-based case for “less being more.”

    Five Ways to “Lean Back” for Success

    1. Observe the 90-Minute Rule. Extensive research on peak performers ranging from athletes to musicians shows that working in 90-minute intervals maximizes productivity. This is because we move from a state of alertness progressively into fatigue approximately every 90 minutes.
    2. Include a “Do Nothing” Option. When making decisions , especially after lengthy deliberation and discussion, be sure to include a “Do Nothing” option. Adding this option to choices has been shown to correct the tendency towards a bias to action and doing more.
    3. Go for a Walk. Stanford researchers found that walking increases creativity substantially and with lingering post-activity effects. And it does not matter whether walking is indoors on a treadmill or outdoors.
    4. Take a Nap. A 60- to 90-minute nap improved memory test results as well as eight hours of sleep in research conducted at the University of California, Riverside. In another study, when air traffic controllers were given 40 minutes to nap, they performed much better on tests that measured vigilance and reaction speed.
    5. Get More Sleep. Studies show that lack of sleep is the single strongest predictor of job burnout. Increased sleep, on the other hand, has been shown to significantly increase physical and mental performance.

    Working Smart in the New Normal

    “Leaning back” involves a radical re-thinking of how to elevate individual, team and organizational performance in our 24/7 business world. The smart money is on strategic investment of time and energy. Leaders need to set a tone at the top with their own values and actions in promoting a culture of high-value time utilization and regular personal renewal.