“Do you expect your people to give 110%” of themselves to their work?
“When the chips are down, do you push yourself and your team members even harder — even when you know they’ve been giving their all for some time now?”
“Do you believe that the road to higher performance is to pile on additional pressure?”
“Do you hear yourself asking how do I get the most out of people?”
As businesswoman Arianna Huffington discovered when she collapsed through over-work, too much pressure means something will eventually break. Giving 110% is not adding performance. As far as I learned 100% equals the total of something — so once you’ve used up 100% of your effort, you are into diminishing returns and on the road to burnout.
My friend is a great cook and loves her stove-top pressure cooker (also known as electric pressure cooking pot). She knows that she can produce great-tasting meals faster and more cost-effectively with it. She also knows that it needs a tight-fitting and secure lid to contain all that pressure so that it can do its job properly. Even so, she’s had lucky escapes when her oft-used cooking pot has exploded. Years of use see it reach the point where it just can’t take any more short, intense bursts of use. There’s a limit to how much pressure any vessel – and certainly the human vessel – can take.
Many of my clients are entrepreneurs, building mission-driven companies, out to make an impact in the world. There’s a thrill in their dedication to their business and there’s no doubt that a certain amount of pressure spurs them on towards their dreams of success. They get up each day with a passion for their work, ready to push themselves and their teams on — never giving up and staying committed to their goals. They have a hunger for creating more. Their passion and commitment can also mean they are constantly giving away more and more of themselves as their business pulls them in many directions.
I recall one client, whose business suddenly found itself in a crisis not of its own making. Everyone had been working really hard. They had just come through a busy period. And then crisis hit. It was going to call on all their capacities to get through it and find their way out the other side. It could have been like the lid blowing on the electric pressure cooking pot. One thing too much and everything would have blown up.
If they’d already been pushing themselves 110%, it could have indeed been fatal.
As it was, they were pretty much working at 100% so there wasn’t much left in the tank to deal with this crisis situation.
My client’s first step (with a little bit of coaching) was to ask himself:
And perhaps most importantly:
Before stepping into the crisis, or reacting immediately and making matters worse, he took time to prepare himself for what might be a bumpy road ahead. He wanted to be his best and know that he’d think and act clearly and meaningfully.
So he started by going for a long walk in the woods. Taking time to garner his thoughts and his energy. And of course to ask himself some questions before he took action.
Another client, CEO of a multi-location operation, found himself exhausted after years of running the show and taking too much on his own shoulders. So much so, that he didn’t have the energy left to work out a plan for his own retirement without some coaching help.
I often recommend that high-performance means operating at around 85-95% on a day to day basis. That way you know you have that extra bit to call on when needed.
You might want to ask questions like these and take a temperature check on your own effort and those of your team — before the next big goal, decision or crisis hits you:
Why wait till it’s too late? One small pause now will make a difference.
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