Peak Performance… | The Zebra Blog

Peak Performance…

I’m going to be releasing another white paper this month, and the topic is “peak performance”.

Peak performance is a term that gets tossed around a lot as the ultimate state of performance, but as I researched my white paper I found that what actually contributes to peak performance often isn’t fully explored.

So let’s talk a little about the elusive concept of “peak performance”.

Peak performers are those individuals who have developed and leveraged their skill sets in order to achieve the maximum potential results in their area of expertise.

It’s a concept that cuts across socio-economic classes, across both work and leisure activities, across race, gender, and sexual orientation.  We find peak performers in all walks of life, in all parts of the world.  The achievement of peak performance can be seen anywhere and everywhere.  But it’s not seen often.

The reason for this is simple: peak performers are not born, they are created.

Peak performance is not a natural gift.  It’s a set of learned skills and behaviors.  While many individuals are born with the drive that’s often associated with peak performance, they may not be born with the other skills necessary to achieve peak performance.  Likewise, an individual may be born with the ability to think outside the box (another key element of peak performance), but may lack the risk-taking component shared by peak performers.  Peak performance is difficult to measure, but it’s probably fair to assume that less than 10% of our population operates at a peak performance level.

Peak performers create customized performance “blueprints” that they are able to successful execute by focusing their efforts, aligning their skills, attitudes, and knowledge, managing their energies, and measuring their results.  The result is peak performance.

When I consult on performance, there are three categories I focus on:

  1. Attitude and mindset
  2. Action and implementation
  3. Systems and tools

For any agent to work at their peak, they must master a number of issues within each of these categories.   Within the first category – attitude and mindset – I’ve identified fourteen key areas of mastery.  Action and implementation contains nine key areas.  And systems and tools include four.  This week I want to talk about the attitude and mindset components of peak performance.


Attitude and mindset

Fourteen of the 27 peak performance issues are located in this category, which tells us a great deal about the role of attitude and mindset relative to the success of peak performers.

When it comes to attitude and mindset, peak performers:

  1. Visualize successes
  2. Focus on incremental results, not overall perfection
  3. Think outside the box
  4. Build discipline into their efforts
  5. Possess good problem-solving skills
  6. Are self-aware
  7. Are self-renewing (rejuvenate / regenerate) / have balance in their lives
  8. Understand self-programming
  9. Are mentally tough
  10. See the big picture
  11. Possess strong cognitive skills
  12. Can communicate well
  13. Understand “relational capital”
  14. Choose greatness

The ability to visualize successes is a key component of a peak performer’s success.  In fact, the lack of this one ability may be the fundamental reason so many individuals fail to reach peak performance.  Without the vision – and belief – of success, many efforts are doomed to failure.

It may be surprising to many to learn that peak performers are not necessarily focused on perfection.  In point of fact, they’re focused on incremental results.  Mastery of results at many stages leads to overall mastery – and peak performance.

Thinking “outside the box” is a key attribute of peak performers.  Approaching problems, issues, and ideas in non-conventional methods often allows peak performers to leap-frog over the competition, and to eliminate perceived obstacles entirely.

However, thinking outside the box does not equate to random action and activities.  Peak performers build discipline into their efforts, ensuring that great ideas don’t go to waste … and that they are working efficiently.  Self-management, and a sense of autonomy, is critical in reaching peak performance.

Strong problem-solving skills are shared by peak performers, who are able to work through, around, over, and under the obstacles in their way.  In fact, many peak performers view obstacles as opportunities to enhance their performance.

Peak performers are, by nature, self-aware individuals.  They understand their signature strengths, areas of challenge, beliefs, emotions, and thoughts.  They also have a keen appreciation for the way they affect others (and the way others affect them).   Clarity – about who you are, what you want, and why you want it – is critical to the achievement of peak performance.

The ability to balance work and home is a trait shared by peak performers, who understand that distractions and unhappiness in one area of life often spill over unproductively into other areas and the rejuvenation in our personal life will positively impact our business life.  Therefore, the peak performer intentionally balances these two areas, seeking out opportunities and experiences which bring joy, rejuvenation, and a sense of equilibrium to their lives.

Peak performers can “self-program”; in other words, they can prepare themselves for any experience which might come their way.  This preparation helps ensure peak performers will successfully navigate challenging situations by developing strategies for a variety of experiences.

A sense of “mental toughness” is shared by peak performers.  Although this term is frequently associated with athletics, mental toughness is a cornerstone of peak performance regardless of the field of discipline.  Individuals who are mentally tough are able to remain focused regardless of distractions and “failures”, and can actually use pressure to his or her advantage.  Mental toughness is not simply strength of spirit, but is a learnable skill that allows peak performers to overcome adversity and increase optimism.

Peak performers are skilled at “seeing the big picture”.  Coupled with the ability to visualize success, this skill allows the peak performer to strategically manage the process of success by reverse engineering their efforts – “beginning” with the desired outcome, and working backwards to develop strategies and systems.

The cognitive skills possessed by peak performers are critical to their success.  Peak performers have strong skills in the area of perception, reasoning, and judgment – and are often highly intuitive.

Skilled communicators, peak performers leverage their abilities in this area to persuade others, and to share ideas and information.

An appreciation of “relational capital” is shared by peak performers, who understand the value of building authentic, long-lasting relationships which enhance everyone’s opportunities for success.  Building these kinds of relationships requires trust, respect, credibility, experience, and integrity.  It’s relational capital that keeps fans, clients, and co-workers loyal.

Peak performers choose greatness.   Not content with mediocrity, the peak performer pursues greatness with intent.

How do these peak performer attributes match your reality?  Even in areas such as athletics which has a measure of physical skill required, much of a peak performer’s success depends on attitude and mindset.  You could be the most gifted athlete in the world, but without the attitude and mindset required for peak performance you will never achieve your potential.

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One Response to “Peak Performance…”

  1. Greg Shaw says:

    Hi Denise,

    I enjoyed your peak performance article and look forward to the rest.



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