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Tied, overwhelmed and plagued with uncertainty! So how can you perform at your best?

“What state are you in when you perform at your best as a leader?”

I first came across this powerful question in Michael Buntings brilliant book; The Mindful Leader. If you haven’t read it I’d highly recommend it.

We intuitively know the answer to this even if we haven’t thought about it before.

We know that we are most likely to do our best work when we are well rested and full of energy rather than feeling out of sorts or sleep deprived.

We respond best when we are calm rather than flustered or overwhelmed.

We achieve our best results when we are courageous, open and supported rather than fearful, closed and under attack

And we create the best outcomes when we have confidence in our abilities rather than experiencing uncertainty or we are out of our depth.

Simple really! So when was the last time you focused on preparing yourself for high performance?

In his book, Michael Bunting encourages us to “deliberately cultivate a state of wellness and be a beacon of goodness, responsiveness and clarity even in the toughest circumstances.”

The more I think about this the more obvious it seems.

Elite athletes follow this practice – so why wouldn’t we? They know that to perform at their peak they need to take care of their mind, body and soul.

They train hard, fuel their bodies with the right nutrition, incorporate periods of rest and recovery and more and more they are placing their trust in the power of meditation and mindfulness.

The winning team of the 2018 AFL Grand Final – Richmond, attributed some of their rapid rise to the ultimate goal to the introduction of a daily mindfulness practice.

So if we know that these are the ingredients for high performance – then why are we not setting ourselves up for success? I think the simple answer is that we think we are too busy or that it really doesn’t make that much of a difference.

I now believe it makes all the difference!

Since introducing this concept to the ladies in my inner circle program – The Leadership Connection, they have told me that it’s one of the things that has made the biggest difference to them, not only professionally but also personally.

So what have they done that’s making such a big difference?

Here are 4 Keys to deliberately cultivate high performance.

1. Start well. How we start each day has a massive impact on our outcomes and our performance. It sets the foundation for our energy and focus. A chaotic, rushed start will often leave us feeling chaotic and rushed for the rest of the day.

Where ever possible create a routine that sets you up for the type of state that enhances your performance. This is likely to be a different for all of us but for me this includes a little exercise while listening to an educational podcast, a healthy breakfast and a review of my high priority action list.

I know that when I by pass this routine for a sleep in, both my mind and body feel sluggish, leaving it nigh on impossible for me to work as effectively or productively as I’d like.

2. Know what matters. This is all about clarity. Without clarity confusion reins and nothing good comes from a state of confusion.

Getting clear on what matters most to you, your team and the business allows you to prioritise and focus your time and energy. It keeps you on track and allows us to choose what requests to say yes to and which to say no to.

We can choose to be busy being busy, ticking off a to do list OR we can make time for the projects that really move the dial and get us seen and recognised for all we are capable of.

3. Slow down to speed up. This may seem counter intuitive but I believe we must all slow down a little.   (Me included!)

Rushing from meeting to meeting, checking emails and sending off quick messages to manage the latest disaster is not conducive for creative or strategic thinking. How often have you reacted to a situation in a way that only made it worse, during a time of busyness or stress.

Spending time planning is a worthy investment. As is creating what I call “white space;” that precious time in your calendar where you have NOTHING planned.

It could be as simple as blocking out time over lunch to get outside and breath. You might be surprised at how the answer to a problem you have been stewing over, suddenly seems so clear. 

4. Listen.   Building self awareness through listening is critical. Listening to you body, your thoughts and your emotions will all leave clues to what’s working and what’s not.

Aches and pains and recurring illness are often signs that something is out of alignment. There is significant research that demonstrates the link between our emotional and physical wellbeing.

So listen to your emotions. I recently spoke with a senior professional woman who expressed her frustration, having either cried or become angry on a number of occasions in the presence of senior leaders.   Not only was it unhelpful in the situation, she felt it undermined her authority and her position.

And listen to your thoughts. A persistent racing, chaotic mind or self defeating self talk will not support high performance.

So what will you do to deliberately cultivate a healthy physical, emotional and mental state? The simple decision to manage your internal world more effectively will create positive change in your external world.  Let’s make these small every day tweaks to improve how you perform as a leader.

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