Aim for Gold
"Aim for Gold, or you won't even achieve bronze". A favourite quote of one of my most inspiring junior school teachers (her initials were AIM) that resonates with me closely even today as I seek to reach new horizons. Working together with some exceptional leaders, I'm beginning to discover a critical factor in gold-achieving success, one that I'd not considered until recently. One that seems counter to overcoming daily challenges. It's one that Gareth Southgate highlighted at Guernsey's Awards for Achievement 2016 event. And it's this:
Leaders: Look after yourselves!
It sounds obvious, that leaders should take care of themselves; their physical, mental, emotional, 'whole' selves. Yet in the pursuit of success, of winning, of being the best, it's very easy to let personal accountability slip.
IN our work with our clients (coaching, personal and leadership formation), we see this manifest in four 'counterproductive skills' areas. These are mindsets and behaviours that rob leaders of peak performance yet are easily mistaken as being necessary or even desirable. They are neither! Here they are:
- Defeatist tendencies. Giving up a dinner reservation because work is too busy, not submitting that last course assessment on time thereby delaying graduation, blowing the bonus on something that doesn't really make you happy, not visiting your beachhouse for over a year. Defeatist thinking holds back passion and ambition, acting like a bucket of cold water and resulting in lost opportunities for pleasure. Our data for leaders with defeatist tenancies shows that this is mostly in the area of lost physical benefits; holidays cancelled, spa breaks lapsed, opportunities for healthy relaxation vanishing. The expressed reasoning is simple. "There's too much work". But without taking these opportunities, we're only working harder, not smarter. Leaders can (and should!) have fun. Our performance depends on it!
- Self Sabotage. Not returning phone messages, saying offensive and reckless things outloud in the name of 'just being honest' (telling your boss that they're useless), not taking enough exercise or sleep, not bothering to get your car serviced. These are all characteristics of sabotage, a carelessness with relationships, words, possessions and health. Some goals might be achieved, but with little care, opportunities, accolades and awards are soon lost. Looking after those good things - relationships, health - is necessary for gold-standard success. Great leaders take care.
Punishing, taking unnecessary risk, resulting in pain and stress in the belief that this is motivating and therefore 'positive', but it's not! Examples might include forgetting to lock the door on the way out, not pulling someone up who's undermining you, forgetting to put suntan lotion on at the beach, not wearing a seatbelt despite the driver's poor record. Yes, leaders should take risks, it's part of the excitement of being in a leadership role. But recklessness is costly. "Putting it all on red" might give a short term rush of excitement, but it's hardly a productive approach to a problem. Great leaders take considered risk, they don't play fast and loose.
- Martyring, solving everyone else's problems but their own and at the expense of personal health and goals. A good friend told me recently that "it's time that you started to cook your own exquisite dinner rather than cooking for everyone else". Martyrs stay in a place of pain or stress, avoiding medication and help, often working hard, inviting pity but with a growing sense of unhappiness. The switch? Recognising that other people should be held accountable; having those hard conversations and refusing to be put on any more. Leaders - run your race, not everyone else's.
Striving for gold-standard performance requires passion, accountability, awareness and agility. We need to look after ourselves if these skills are to be honed.
Have fun, take care!