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Help your people help themselves to be ‘match fit’ and truly sustain elite performance

Every organisation has people who are passionate about their work and who work hard, extremely hard. They put in the hours when needed, they go over and above to meet deadlines and get the job done. They get up at stupid o’clock to get on a plane or train and they usually don’t get paid any overtime to do it.

But how many of these people show up tired, emotional, stressed, undernourished or distracted? In other words, how many of these people actually bring the best of themselves to work every day, so that they are able to perform at their best?

At The Culture Builders, we talk about two types of people in organisations; Savers and Investors. Savers are those that do a good job and take their pay and benefits as a result. Investors are those that truly invest themselves and give the best of themselves to what they do. It’s organisations that are full of investors that are the high performing ones – teams and companies that outperform others again and again.

To ensure people are, and can continue to be, Investors, it’s important to focus on creating the right organisational environment. However, we also need to be sure that the individuals within that environment are helped to be ‘match fit’ so that they can truly sustain elite performance. In other words, we need to lead work across the organisation but also at team and individual levels that pays attention to the human bank balance of our people.

At an individual level, this is where most of the current corporate ‘wellbeing programmes’ come into play. Yet with fewer than one in ten (8%) of UK organisations currently executing a wellbeing strategy that supports the wider organisational one*, wellbeing programmes tend to be one dimensional, consisting of mental health roadshows, subsidised gym memberships and nutritional advice if you’re lucky. Helping our people to invest in themselves so that they are able to become an investor in our organisation is so much more than this.

Continuing the theme of Savers vs. Investors; if we think of ourselves as a human bank – we all do things everyday and encounter situations that deposit in our banks and we do things everyday that withdraw from our banks. We need to be intentional about making sure that our deposits far outweigh the withdrawals and thus that our human bank balances are in the black. Elite performers like commercial pilots, Olympic athletes, F1 professionals and the Red Arrows are just a few examples of those that intentionally make sure their human bank balances are healthy. They don’t just rely on knowing what they need to do – they do it.

So what, exactly do these elite performers do?

They know their purpose and they don’t get distracted.
They eat and drink to help them perform.
They know when and how to rest.
They look after themselves – body and mind.
They’re in tune with their emotions and the emotions of others – and manage them well.
They seek constant feedback – to get better and grow.
They invest in themselves and their organisations.

We categorise these powerful things into five key areas; our Physiological balance, our Emotional bank balance, how much we focus, our personal motivation and whether we have the right balance there, as well as our attitude to growth and learning. It’s not enough to be in the black with a couple of these – humans are systems and if one element is out of line, it affects everything else. We know ourselves that if we haven’t had enough sleep, it affects our emotions and our ability to focus. Very few people come into work each day to willfully underperform. But the harsh reality is that most of our people, even our top performers, are underperforming every day because they don’t have enough deposits in their Bank of Me™ to enable them to be the best they can be.

As senior HR leaders, we need to start with ourselves. When we fly we’re told to put our own oxygen masks on before helping others. The same is true here. If we aren’t intentionally managing our own bank balances, we can’t help others to do the same. The first stage of this is to reflect – to look at our own human bank balances and ask where are we depositing and where are we withdrawing. What do we do each day that deposits and withdraws from our bank? What about our teams? Our organisations? How much in pound notes are we losing from that willful underperformance? Imagine if every person was helped to be match-fit and have a bank balance that was truly in the black. What would that do for elite performance in our teams and businesses?

Employees are first and foremost human beings. Even if they are high performers with strong beliefs aligned to that of the company, they also have mental and emotional pressures elsewhere and ultimately, a tipping point. That famous saying about ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’? It’s so true. Let’s ensure our high performers don’t suddenly become victims of their own success – and ensure they are match fit with a bank balance in the black.

*CIPD ‘Growing the health and wellbeing agenda’ 2016
™ The Culture Builders 2016

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