At a mixer with business leaders recently, I was challenged to identify five things that could improve performance in any profession. I thought I would share my list, do these five things and you will improve performance in your chosen field.
- Develop Self-Awareness. You can’t improve performance without honing your self-awareness. Developing self-awareness is both a cognitive and somatic process. Cognitively, you want to identify your blind spots, biases, habitual thinking patterns, and how you emotionally respond in stressful situations. The goal here is to improve the quality of how you perceive and interpret your environment. If you are making decisions and behaving based on a cognitive bias, maladaptive habitual thinking patterns, or unchecked emotion, you are acting on bad data that you helped create. Somatically, you need to become aware of the bodily expressions of stress and emotion. You also need to know how your body feels in optimal performance.
How To: My own research of the Stanford Mindfulness program has shown that mindfulness-based training improves self-awareness in organizational leaders and elite performers.
- Do Predictive Modeling of Your Performance Environment. What performance tasks do you want to improve and when are these skills likely to come up in your profession.
How To: Think of critical and routine performance skills and skills needed to succeed on the biggest stages of your profession. Distill these moments into a checklist of critical performance skills.
- Mental Rehearsal. Now that you know what your critical performance moments are and what critical skills you need to use to improve performance; visualize these moments in your professional environment. Mentally rehearse your performance in this environment over and over; start in slow motion and then progress to full speed.
How To: Start with writing a script or outline of the environment, how the performance situation unfolds, and the emotions that occur before, during, and after the situation. The more detailed and descriptive the script, the more cognitive networks will be activated and the better the rehearsal (and your performance) will be.
- Practice in Low-Threat Environments. The first place to actually practice your new skill and improve performance is probably not in the big meeting or big game. Find a friendly non-sanctioning environment to practice your developing skill. Often there is a barrier to trying new skills if you feel like there could be a negative outcome or sanctioning if your new skill is not performed perfect the first time. Here is a hint…no skill is performed perfect the first time, or the second!
How To: Volunteer opportunities provide a great place to practice new skills and improve performance in a low-threat environment while doing something positive for your community. Practice communication, leadership, organization…all with people who are just happy you are there to help! If you are an elite athlete or coach, be sure to set-up these low-threat environments during a portion of practice.
- Integrate New Skill. Now that you have developed some capacity with your new skill during your mental rehearsal and practicing in a low-threat environment, it is time to use the skill when you actually have skin in the game. Start by using the new skill with peers, and then apply them on the big stage when all the cards are on the table.
How To: I can’t give you all the answers…besides; you have done the hard work and are now an expert, Move Mountains!
There is a reason why elite athletes and high-performing executives have personal coaches. It takes expertise to assess performance strengths and weaknesses and develop evidence-based training to optimize performance at all levels. Develop your cognitive skills, decision making, and poise under pressure with the TierOne Performance Consulting team or at the TierOne Performance Institute. We offer state-of-the-art individual and program-based training to optimize elite athletic performance and executive coaching. Also, checkout this YouTube clip on improving poise and mental toughness through distress tolerance training.
Remember – Put your mind on what matters.