Here’s what the smartest executives know about top performance

executives growth mindset high performance high performing teams leadership motivation Sep 25, 2022

How many of you – either as managers or employees – truly understand the drivers of high performance?

Do you genuinely appreciate the importance of work-life balance?

Do you pay attention to healthy eating, exercise and sleep?

In many organisations, these ‘fluffy’ areas are neglected.

It’s about staying busy, face time, being the first in or last out. It’s about ‘just dealing with’ ever-increasing workloads, more and more demands, tight deadlines and sudden changes.

However, let’s get real. 

Humans have limitations and this needs to be addressed seriously in many workplaces.

Yes, employees are essentially ‘human resources’. 

Oxford University Press defines resources as a “stock or supply of money, materials, staff, and other assets that can be drawn on by a person or organisation in order to function effectively”.

But it’s not that simple.

Human resources are not machines. We all have a breaking point and that differs from person to person.

I’m sure we’ve heard more than enough about how mental health is now a huge cause of sickness leave in the UK. According to the most recent ONS study on Sickness Absence in the Labour Market, mental health problems such as stress, depression and anxiety contributed to 15.2 million days of lost work in 2013.

That is HUGE. No doubt about it.

And it cost the UK economy a whopping £8.4bn.

So, what to do next?

If you are an employee or an executive, then read on and reflect on whether you actually operate (and think) in the ways described.

If not, why not?

1. The smartest executives know that every employee has a different work rhythm.

We can’t expect everyone to perform at the same capacity all day, every day.

Personal productivity is not constant or sustainable for weeks on end.

We have ebbs and flows in the way we work. Non-work related factors can and do affect our job performance.

Let start by accepting this.

Luckily, leaders can support their people to improve personal productivity and performance by introducing holistic strategies, tools and frameworks.

We should work with, not against, performance variability.

Smart executives know this when it comes to planning meetings.

For example, Monday morning is the typical time for teams to get together. These meetings often go on for longer than planned.

Monday morning is also prime work time! Your team should be fresh faced and recharged after the weekend.

So why use this ‘golden’ time for a meeting?

Why not shift your weekly meeting to Friday, when people are slowing down for the weekend anyway. Let’s be honest, you don’t see much output on a Friday afternoon (at least not relative to the rest of the week).

Try this.

Set a Friday afternoon team meeting (perhaps combine with a long lunch) to wrap up the week’s achievements, outstanding tasks and challenges. Set your plans and actions for the following week.

That way, everyone can:

a)   enjoy the weekend with a clear head;

b)  mentally ‘close the door’ on work at the end of the week; and

c)   hit the ground running on Monday morning, with focus and clarity on what they need to achieve.

This won’t work for every team but it’s a suggestion…

2. The smartest executives lead by healthy example

The best bosses are role models of high performance. Agree?

They inspire their teams.

They look healthy, composed, organised and they have their act together.

Who wants to climb a career ladder that leads to stress, weight gain and poor health?

We must appreciate that we are human. The food we eat and way we treat our bodies WILL affect our focus, productivity and health.

Wellbeing is not a nice to have. It’s an essential part of high performance.

Healthy people = happy people = productive people.

3. The smartest executives recognise that everyone has different performance drivers.

Employees may be more productive if given stimulating work, or more time for exercise and sleep, or more space for thinking, or fewer distractions….

Everyone works differently.

Give your teams the space, permission and trust to work in their own way. Allow them to look after their bodies and minds so that they can perform at their best in work and in their home lives.

4. The smartest executives appreciate that time out is critical, not wasteful.

Productivity 101.

It might be counterintuitive but taking a breather is vital for high performance.

Just because your workers don’t ‘look’ busy, it doesn’t mean they aren’t productive.

People need time to think in the age of knowledge work. 

Give your people permission to schedule in thinking time without guilt. This isn’t ‘contingency’ time that can be replaced with a meeting or other interruptions.

Allow your people time to plan their work and avoid the ‘just do it’ mentality that comes with no direction, focus or vision.

5. The smartest executives know the difference between lip service and authentic action.

A controversial statement, so take note if this strikes a chord with you.

It’s all well and good introducing wellbeing programmes and performance initiatives, but if you don’t believe in the value and if you don’t personally show up, you’re not sending the right signals to your people.

If you truly want to create high performing teams (and why wouldn’t you?), then make the effort and demonstrate to your people that you are engaged. Show that you are firmly committed to helping your teams to perform at their best.

6. The smartest executives have a learning mindset

In the 21st century, the pace of change is definitely increasing. What you know today may not serve you in the future. What works today may be obsolete in the future.

The best leaders constantly look at how teams are impacted by an evolving world and how their people can work more effectively every day.

I’m fascinated by how human workers may be displaced by artificial intelligence (AI) over the coming years - that even includes highly qualified individuals like lawyers - and what the human race is going to do to adjust. But let’s save that for another article.

We need to stay on top of our game in different ways, not compete. We may not be able to outperform AI, but we can give our human resources more care and attention so that they can effectively do what they do best…

And that is to think independently and create. With a productive and focused mind.

So, give your people the tools and strategies they need for peak performance.


Abigail Ireland is a peak performance strategist with a background in corporate banking, strategy, business management and entrepreneurship. She is also a qualified executive coach, NLP practitioner, personal trainer, Pilates instructor and nutrition coach.

Abigail takes a unique 360-degree approach to high performance and personal productivity, drawing on her business and wellbeing expertise to deliver targeted services for her clients.

Contact us to discuss how we can help your people to be excellent.

If you or your team need help mastering your mindset, talk to us about how we can set you up for long-term success. Discover how to achieve enhanced focus, greater resilience, higher productivity and top productivity.

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