I learned from my friend Tony Robbins, best-selling author of Unlimited Power and Awaken the Giant Within, that three things determine whether an individual is in a peak performance state. And the same three factors that determine individual energy also produce organizational energy.
The first factor that determines whether somebody is in a peak performing state is what that person focuses on. The brain is like a computer. It does not know the difference between the truth and what you actually tell it. Therefore, as human beings we can program our minds. As Norman Vincent Peale said many times, positive thinking works much better than negative thinking. The clearer the positive focus people have on what they are doing, the better the chance for high performance.
What is focus in organizations? It's the visionary part of leadership, including an organization's mission, values and vision of perfection. These are the things that focus people's energy.
The second factor that determines people's peak performing state is physiology -- how you walk, how you breathe, how you act. Physiology has to match focus, or the brain disconnects. If your ball lands in a sand trap in golf, and you say to yourself, "I love to hit it out of sand," and then you walk toward your ball with your head down in an unconfident manner, your brain will believe your body language. It is important to recognize that actions -- not words -- are what matter.
In organizations, physiology translates into behavior. We hear people saying all the time, "You have to walk your talk." For energy to be maximized in an organization, what you're focusing on must be translated into behavior. An organization can focus all kinds of energy on serving customers, but if an individual serving a customer acts indifferent, the customer will believe that person's behavior, not the organization's rhetoric.
The third factor that determines whether someone will be in a peak performing state is that person's routine -- how he or she goes about doing something. What is done first, second and then third? If you saw any part of the Olympics on TV last summer, you may have noticed that great athletes use a very consistent routine.
A routine that matches with aligned physiology and focus is powerful in terms of individual performance. In organizations, what compares to routine? Systems, including policies, procedures and guidelines. How often have you dealt with a company that says customers are important, interacted with a very friendly, customer-oriented person and then run into a systems problem that completely breaks down the relationship and makes the problem unsolvable? Unless systems align with behavior and vision, organizations will have problems. W. Edwards Deming felt that most problems in organizations are systems problems.
In one of Robbins' infomercials, he says that he improved my golf game by 15 strokes. He actually did, from one round to another. One day, I shot 54 for nine holes. I have been playing golf since I was 6 years old and hadn't been lower than the 50s in years. I ran into Tony on the way to San Diego and told him my plight. He told me about the importance of focus, physiology and routine. We then developed a thought, behavioral and routine pattern that I could use over and over when hitting my golf shots. The day after I returned, I replayed the nine holes where my 54 disaster had occurred and shot 39. Whenever I play now, I go back to those three factors.
Tony recently worked with Greg Norman in preparation for his return to the Masters Tournament. As you recall, last year Norman blew a 6-stroke lead on the final day to end up losing to Nick Faldo by 11 shots. In watching Norman that year, I had little doubt about the eventual outcome. I observed changes in his routine and physiology. On Sunday, he was spending almost eight to 10 seconds longer over the ball than he had on the first three days of the tournament, when he was running away from the field. He also wasn't walking with that swashbuckling Australian style that showed the confidence he had the first three days. The first three days, he seemed to be focusing on being "out in front of the field." Afterwards, he seemed to focus on "not losing." With focus, physiology and routine out of whack, there was no way he could have played well on the last round.
I'm thrilled to see the power of these three factors in determining peak performance, especially in relation to energizing organizations. Unless there is a clear focus and vision, and aligned behavior and systems, no organization can hope to be world-class.
About the author
Ken Blanchard is chairman of Blanchard Training and Development Inc. in San Diego and author, with Michael O'Connor, of Managing by Values (Berrett-Koehler, 1996).
© 1997 Blanchard Management Report, Blanchard Training and Development Inc. Telephone (800) 728-6000, ext. 5201, fax (619) 743-5030 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.