As some on you know I work with professional athletes. I have drawn parallels between athletic performance and workplace performance for many years. The former presents a microcosm in one event of how workplace professionals perform per quarter or year or whenever they are ‘measured’ for their performance against business goals. One athlete I am working with had a tournament that started on a Friday. From a neuropsychology perspective, I helped her understand that her tournament actually starts 24-48 hours prior to Friday. Those 1-2 days are crucial emotionally and intellectually. On those two days, and this is covered in my books, it it critical to (1) do activities that you enjoy and (2) avoid activities/people that can make you unhappy. This “EQ Taper” allows athletes to fill their “EQ Tank” given that when Friday comes along, and knowing the inherent nature of competition is one of anxiety as mistakes can be severely consequential, so that the brain has enough front-loaded positivity (dopamine) to make it more difficult to get it to make poor decisions and perform poorly.
I have given the same advice to leaders in businesses. I will have them look at their calendar and pick out those 1-3 key meetings of the day. I tell them the most important hour to manage is not those times, but in fact the hour or two before those key meetings. And to do the same activities as athletes do. The longer or more important those key meetings, with staff, peers, superiors, customers, suppliers, the more tapering is recommended. Getting rest the day before, a good night of sleep and perhaps some physical exercise can release all kinds of ‘relaxing’ hormones that can allow the mind to make better decisions than going into these sessions stressed. Professional athletes have no choice but to get the most of their performances as they have limited careers, aggressive competition and financial (livelihood) consequences. They do not want to leave any performance variables to chance. They understand that during competition, the largest variable to manage is their own emotional temperature. Workplace collaboration and functions should be no different.
This week, look at your calendar and pick out those key meetings/calls for the week. Look at your activities just before those meetings and also the day/night before. Think about those two sets of activities described above and proactively orchestrate them. Note not just how better you are ‘feeling’ but how better you are ‘thinking’ after doing this. The next step, as a leader, is to then institutionalize this approach across your team/company. Everyone should not be running from one meeting/call to another as not all meetings/calls have the same performance requirements. Understanding which ones in a day or week are more important to the success of the organization can be a powerful way to increase everyone’s performance simply by taking better care of what is done before those sessions.