Should leaders expect peak performance 24/7?

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Securing extraordinary talent is just the start for the HR director. An equally critical part of the HRD’s role is ensuring that pivotal individuals are mentally and physically ‘prepared’ to perform at the highest level over a sustained period.

There’s little point in buying a Porsche and not ensuring that it’s ready to perform to its potential, let alone allowing it to burn out. No company would do that with its machines and hardware so why do we leave it to chance with people?

This isn’t a health or vitality play, it’s a strategic high performance drive for individuals who are critical to the company’s success. 

High-profile burnout reports are cementing an urge among more enlightened firms to invest in grooming leaders and their immediate teams for peak performance. Not a quick fix for pressures caused by impossible working conditions, low pay or lean resources, but proactive work to develop resilience for continuous high performance under tough conditions.

Boards are starting to realise that analysts are beginning to assess and measure how a business enables its high-fliers to excel under 24/7 pressure. Leading global firms, including AOL, are now readily citing this work as a ‘game-changer’.

Since 2006, Tignum has performed diagnostic testing on more than 2,000 executives and leaders. At last count, 67% of top executives had metabolic disorders or other health-related risk factors that decrease productivity, 84% of top executivess said they don’t have sufficient energy to meet daily demands, and 90% didn’t have personal strategies to prepare themselves for their peak performances.

Cases of executive burnout, rustout, mental health issues and even suicide are on the rise, but remain largely hidden. It’s about time companies become significantly more pro-active in priming leaders for sustainable high performance. If analysts are starting to taking a closer look, shouldn’t the HR director be curious?

In fact, maybe human resources should be called human performance. After all, HR is about supporting people to maximise their productivity, impact and effectiveness. The HR director is a member of a pivotal triangle (CEO/FD/HRD), which ensures that critical business plans are delivered on time, in full. To that end, he/she is increasingly the high performance facilitator, provider and coach as well as everything else.

This is about the crucial preparation of key people who must deliver and who need energy, clarity and a never-ending ability to revive, re-energise and recover, not feel constantly overwhelmed and drained. We take no chances on testing and preparing business hardware and assets because we understand how to engineer them. So why do we avoid the challenge of engineering sustainable high performance in our most important, most exposed people?

Scott Peltin is co-author of Sink, Float, or Swim and chief performance officer at consultancy Tignum

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