As we saw at the recent Olympics, athletes had trained constantly for the past four years to go faster, further or higher at this memorable event. Their training regimes not only prepare their bodies for the physical challenges, but involve mental, emotional and even spiritual preparation.
Now think about the demands made on you as a manager. You’re expected to perform at high levels hour after hour, day after day, year after year. The career of a top athlete may last perhaps 10 years. A business manager has to perform for 40 years or more. While trying to maintain a balance in my own business and personal life, my wife and I often discussed our priorities.
‘Health’ was always top of the list. Then came ‘Family’ and ‘Business’. We never disagreed about this, but keeping them in order was the problem! I’d often come home late at night when the kids were already asleep, in a foul mood after some hassle at work, to face an irate wife telling me: “Pete, you’ve got your priorities screwed up again. Its work, work, work and to hell with the rest.” Most times she was right. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz of LGE Performance Systems take a much deeper and professional look at what’s needed to live a balanced and successful life in their recent Harvard Business Review article, ‘The Making of a Corporate Athlete’.
They outline what they consider are the four key building blocks to sustained high performance:
Physical capacity: Without health, no one is of much use to anyone, family included. And the two most important elements in building and maintaining health are exercise, and what and how you eat. As a farmer you might feel your lifestyle gives you more exercise than most, but I suspect this is a myth. Most of your time is probably spent in the farm bakkie, on the telephone, or behind a desk.
Exercise means regular exertion to the point of copious perspiration. It means three or four weekly gym workouts, tennis, squash, cycling, running or some similar activity. Good eating means the right food in moderation at the right time. Not missing breakfast, grabbing lunch on the run and a big heavy evening meal.
In their work with high-performance athletes and managers, Loehr and Schwartz have also found that regular rest/recovery periods are a crucial part of maintaining peak physical capacity.
Emotional capacity: We’re all born with innate emotional characteristics, some of which affect our performance negatively. It’s important to realise that we can control and work these negative emotive traits out of our system. As Loehr and Schwartz point out, positive emotions ignite energy, while negative emotions lead to frustration, anger and resentment, and drain energy.
A good physical workout is a great way of getting rid of negative emotions.
Mental capacity: The area where managers spend most of their training time, working on developing skills and knowledge. But that’s only half the story. You need to create the environment where this knowledge and skills base kicks in and works for you.
I still do a bit of cycling, and so often, as I’m pedalling along, the solution to a problem I’ve been mulling over pops into my brain. Haven’t you had the same sort of experience?
This means taking time out to explore, question and develop your deepest values. Reading a relevant book or attending a workshop on the subject will enhance this capacity. Going off entirely on your own for a few days gives you a chance to do a bit of ‘meditation’. Don’t take your spiritual capacity for granted, it needs hard work.
Contact Peter Hughes at [email protected]. Please state ‘Managing for profit’ in the subject line of your email. ?FW
This article was originally published in the 28 September 2012 issue of Farmer’s Weekly.