Advance Leadership

by Rich Bishop – Stop accepting mediocre!

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How to Find Competitive Calm in the Spotlight

How to Find Competitive Calm in the Spotlight | Advance Leadership by Rich BishopThere were just a few seconds left, and the opponent was on the verge of scoring to win one of the biggest sporting events of the year. The end seemed inevitable. The crowd knew exactly what was about to happen. The millions watching at home knew it, too. Everyone expected the game to come to an end on the next play. They just didn’t see this coming…

The offense lined up with the ball in a formation that Malcolm had seen before. In fact, he had practiced defending a play that looked like this countless times… and was burned every time. He knew in his heart what was coming next and wasn’t about to be burned this time, even though millions of people watching were expecting it. Nerves can stop anyone’s body from performing the way they expect. Would the spotlight be too much for this rookie?

When the ball was snapped, Malcolm was calm because he thought he knew what was coming next. He sprinted to the spot where he had practiced for the last few days. If he was right, he might have a shot at stopping what seemed to be an inevitable touchdown. A few steps into his sprint, he wasn’t surprised when the ball was fired right to where he was going. He leapt into the air and felt the ball hit his chest. He held on for dear life as he was hit immediately. He hoped he could just hang on…

 

Last week, we introduced you to the idea that preparation, experience, and focus create a competitive calm that separates a great performer from a good one. We’re using the illustration of sports, but this is just as relevant in your business as it is on the football field. Have you ever been thrust into the spotlight? Maybe you’ve been asked to present a critical topic in front of an influential group or a potential customer at work. When the spotlight is on, your level of competitive calm will determine whether you flop or flourish.

Experience

Experience is a major contributor to your ability to generate competitive calm. Experience is actually the best kind of preparation, because it’s much easier psychologically to draw on past experiences in the spotlight than it is to rely on practice alone.

Your brain build muscle memory just like your other muscles do. When you first start to run, it may feel awkward and you may struggle to make it very far. However, continuing to run over time will make your muscles become accustomed to the motion and will make running easier. The same is true in big-time situations at work. The more you are in it, the easier it gets.

Focus

Focus is another area that can create competitive calm. Our brain goes into a state of hyper-focus when pressure is put on us, but too often we use that focus on the wrong things. We have to ask ourselves, “What is the most important thing to focus on?” Without asking that question, our brains will focus on what’s most familiar rather than what’s important.

What do you focus on when times are stressful? Psychological studies on focus have been conducted over the years that all point to the same answer – we will create what we focus on, both good and bad. Have you ever heard the comment, “don’t look down” if you’re standing at a height? If you focus on what’s below, your body will subconsciously work to move in that direction. The same is true for your business goals. If you focus on what could go wrong, then something inevitably will. (Important note here – having contingencies for things going wrong in a plan and focusing on things going wrong are two totally different things!)

Don’t believe the power that focus has on your body? Try this little experiment:

On a blank piece of paper, draw two lines crossing from one end of the paper to the other like a giant plus sign. Then draw a circle around the center about 6 inches wide. Next, take a paper clip and tie it to the bottom of a string about 6-10 inches long. Place the paper on the floor. Rest your elbow on your knee and hold the string between your thumb and forefinger with the paper clip over the center of the crossing lines. Focus on the paper, and in your mind, picture the paper clip moving along the line that goes from top to bottom. Hold your arm and hand completely still. Simply focus on the paper and imagine the clip moving back and forth along the line. What happens?

Next, do the same thing along the line going from side to side. Then, imagine the clip moving around the circle. What happens? Try to tell yourself “the clip is NOT going to go up & down along the first line.” Say it to yourself over and over again. Does it make a difference if you say something will happen or won’t happen?

Now do you believe in the power of focus?

 

Malcolm Butler not only had the preparation that allowed him to defeat the Seahawks’ attempt to win Super Bowl XLIX, but he had the experience of being in the spotlight all season. When the Patriots needed him to step into big situations, he did. His focus was outstanding in the world-wide spotlight too.

As he fell to the ground, all he could do was think, “Hold on. Just hold on.”. He knew that if he could just grasp the football all the way to the ground, that the Patriots were going to pick up their fourth Super Bowl victory. When he reached the ground, his teammates picked him up in celebration realizing that they had just done the improbable. The Seahawks were inside the Patriots 10 yard line with seconds left on the clock, and Butler had shattered their dreams of an inevitable last-second win. The competitive calm that Butler demonstrated in the biggest moment of any football player’s career shows that big things can happen in big situations when you exercise your competitive calm.

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What Separates Great Leaders from Great Doers?

What Separates Great Leaders from Great Doers | Advance Leadership by Rich BishopThere were just a few seconds left, and the opponent was on the verge of scoring to win one of the biggest sporting events of the year. The end seemed inevitable. The crowd knew exactly what was about to happen. The millions watching at home knew it, too. Everyone expected the game to come to an end on the next play. They just didn’t see this coming…

Every day, leaders in business are put under pressure to win just like leaders on the sports field. There are deadlines to meet and goals to achieve if they expect the company to be a winner. Just like in sports, business leaders have to manage complex plays by their competitors and stakeholders in order to stay ahead. Emerging leaders show a knack for getting things done. The most productive employees are often the ones that get the most opportunities to advance. Chances are that you’ve seen the golden child of the organization… the one that rises quickly from one rank to the next because they can produce at a high level. But being a great doer only gets you a chance to be in the spotlight. You still have to execute under pressure.

The offense lined up with the ball in a formation that Malcolm had seen before. In fact, he had practiced defending a play that looked like this countless times… and was burned every time. He knew in his heart what was coming next and wasn’t about to be burned this time, even though millions of people watching were expecting it. Nerves can stop anyone’s body from performing the way they expect. Would the spotlight be too much for this rookie?

Competitive Calm

What separates great leaders from great doers is competitive calm – the ability to stay calm and perform under pressure. Stress and pressure on your body makes it go into a flight-or-flight mode. Extra testosterone and adrenaline shoots through our bodies and activates certain biological responses that help us in times of need. Picture the caveman being chased by the saber-tooth tiger – every little boost was needed. That caveman (or cavewoman) still lives in you today!

Competitive calm comes from preparation, experience, and focus.

Preparation

Preparation allows you to anticipate what’s next and helps you to keep the situation in perspective. This new perspective calms us in times of stress. Athletes practice plays over and over again so they can overcome that fight-or-flight mode even when the spotlight is on. Being confident in what is coming next helps reduce the stress that the body is feeling. When the spotlight is on you, do you get nervous, or does your performance suffer or reach another level?

When the ball was snapped, Malcolm was calm because he thought he knew what was coming next. He sprinted to the spot where he had practiced for the last few days. If he was right, he might have a shot at stopping what seemed to be an inevitable touchdown. A few steps into his sprint, he wasn’t surprised when the ball was fired right to where he was going. He leapt into the air and felt the ball hit his chest. He held on for dear life as he was hit immediately. He hoped he could just hang on…

Preparation is a critical component to competitive calm, but it’s not the only one. Next week, we’ll look at the importance that experience and focus had on Malcolm’s play. Understanding it could just be the difference between you getting that promotion or being stuck in the same position.

In the meantime, ask yourself:

  • Am I fully prepared to reach my next goal?
  • Do I know exactly what is needed in order to reach that goal?
  • Have I anticipated what could go wrong in pursuing that goal?
  • If you have a major presentation coming, have you rehearsed it for at least 5 time the length of the presentation? For example, if you have a 10 minute time spot, have you prepped for at least 50 minutes? It may seem like overkill, but this is the type of preparation that separates great leaders from great doers.

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Why You Need to Summon Your Inner Athlete for Business

Why You Need to Summon Your Inner Athlete for BusinessLife can be draining. You’ve got so many things to keep up with that you might feel like you’ll never get ahead. And just when you get close to being on top of things, you get hit with something else that sets you back. Yes, life can feel like a climb up a mountain while you can’t see the top.

When did “busy” become the most popular response when we ask, “How are you?”. I hear it all the time. We have made “busy” is a badge of honor!

Because of all this craziness, we’re run down and tired. Because we’re tired, we aren’t as effective as we should be at what we do. We feel behind, which only adds to the frustration and the feeling of being behind. It’s a vicious cycle. Is it possible to get ahead?

Is More Coffee the Answer?

One answer to getting ahead is that you could have another cup of coffee. More coffee is actually good for you, right?  While studies do show that coffee has some very strong benefits to mental and cardiovascular health, caffeine is an energy “borrower”. You may feel more energy now, but too much will make you feel even slower later. Is this truly the way to go?

There’s An Athlete In You…

We need to have more energy in order to be able to start getting ahead. Once we can master our own energy, then we can make a major dent in that sluggish feeling we have. Professional athletes spend a lot of time working on their bodies. They train hard and push their bodies to the max. Can those of us who work in an office environment learn something from them? Absolutely!

Athletes don’t just train hard… they maximize their energy to do so. And that is exactly the piece that many of us are missing from our crazy schedules.  What are some of the things that we can learn to help us get ahead? None of this is going to be a shock. You’ve heard it before when talking about your health. But these have a major impact on your performance at work, too. It’s not just about your health… it’s about your energy.

Nutrition

“You are what you eat.” When we’re running at such a fast pace, it’s fast food and vending machines that we hit first. That’s the last thing that we should be eating! That sugar and grease slow us down. I’m not saying that you need to go munch on kale and drink veggie smoothies all day long, but even small changes can make a BIG difference to your energy level.

A few tips – Keep healthier snacks on hand – chocolate protein bars in your desk drawer for those mid-afternoon chocolate cravings and almonds for those mid-morning or late afternoon munchies. At lunch, stay away from greasy fried foods! You don’t have to make big changes, just start with these small ones.

Exercise

We all know that we should be exercising more. When people ask me, “What does your FitBit actually do for you?”, I tell them that it reminds me of how lazy I am during work. Looking down and seeing only two lights on my wrist tell me that I need to get moving. We don’t realize how lazy we really are when we work behind a desk all day. That drains us of energy. Exercise and movement, while it may sound counter-intuitive, actually creates new energy for us. Get up from your desk and walk around the block a few times a day when you have those cravings for another cup of coffee. Your body would prefer the fresh air and extra blood flow. Are you doing enough to move during the day?

Sleep

I admit that this is the area that I have to focus more attention on. I’ve been doing ok on 5-6 hours of sleep a night. The less I sleep, the more that I can get done! But I have found that I would have a “crash” night every two weeks or so, where I fall asleep on the couch at 8pm. I’m not giving my body enough rest, which means I don’t have the energy during the day to be at the top of my game. Medical studies show that 7-9 hours is optimal for performance. So while I’m not going all the way to 9 hours, I am making a better effort to hit 7 hours and it’s making a big difference.

 

It’s obvious for athletes to care for their bodies and their energy to enhance their performance. It may be a little less obvious for people in business, but it’s just as important. If you feel like your energy levels aren’t where they should be, start making a few tweaks to your eating, exercising, and sleep. Small changes there could make a big difference to your productivity.

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