I’ll be attending the pre-events at the Lineman’s Rodeo in Overland Park next week. As I’m making travel plans, I’m reminded of the focus and concentration I’ve observed at past rodeos. The competitors will no doubt again exhibit Peak Performance. They will be focused on hitting the best possible marks in each of the clearly defined and scored events. They will be in excellent physical shape, get plenty of sleep the night before, and work flawlessly as a team.
It is always amazing to me how the pursuit of excellence – requiring Peak Performance – can turn everyday tasks into moments of high drama and immense personal satisfaction. It seems that few things motivate us like strenuous effort that leads to great personal competence and outstanding team performance. It is one of life’s great joys to be a part of something special, distinctive, memorable; to achieve Peak Performance. I’m sure it is why the competitors strive to come back year after year.
But, what about the rest of us?
How do we achieve Peak Performance? How would we know if we did? What are the discreet, measurable events that define Peak Performance in our job? What is our rodeo equivalent?
I’ve observed that some perform perfectly well in school, for example, where the criteria are clearly defined. However, peak performance in the workplace is more challenging because it rarely comes with a rodeo-like structure. We have to define our own competitive performance goals and standards. If we want to experience the satisfaction of a rodeo champion, we have to set up genuine challenges with our everyday tasks and then accomplish the goals.
Getting by day-after-day will not get you to Overland Park, nor will it allow you to become a peak performer. J.J. Watts, the All-Pro defensive end for the Houston Texans, believes that all of us should want to “outperform our contract.” I agree. And, for a surprisingly selfish reason.
It is much more satisfying to engage in deliberate, strenuous effort that leads to genuine competence and excellent performance than it is to simply “go to work.” Preparing for specific rodeo events has parallels for each of us. First, the rodeo events are based on the exact same tasks the competitors perform each day at work. This means we can base our own peak performance on our everyday tasks as well. No special circumstances required. Second, “outperforming our contract” simply requires that we bring a competitive amount of focus, effort and desire to our everyday tasks, just like the linemen.
Fortunately, others have researched the essential steps required for peak performance, providing us a guide for creating the essential conditions in our own work.
Brian Johnson shares 10 steps to peak performance that he derived from a careful reading of the best books on the subject, from Stoicism in ancient times to contemporary bestsellers. These steps work for engineers and engineering teams, operators and station crews, managers, and even writers and external consultants. For more information about the steps in Peak Performance 101, please click here. (https://www.optimize.me)
Throughout the nation, many utilities are renewing infrastructure. We are replacing poles, undergrounding circuits, rebuilding stations, adding SCADA and automation, and increasing physical and cyber security. Completing these tasks provides the opportunity to achieve the competence necessary to perform at our peak.
I started thinking about how recent storms in both Houston and Florida created a rodeo scenario for each of the utilities involved. Many employees completed everyday tasks, but with heightened speed, attention and consequence. Utility-wide storm preparation and practice is what allowed each organization to operate at Peak Performance. The arrival of outside crews expanded this dynamic even further. Everyday tasks are turned into moments of high drama and upon conclusion, immense personal satisfaction. It is as if we’re not actually working during storm periods, somehow, we’re “just doing what needs to be done.”
It is important for us to realize that performing our day-to-day work professionally prepares us for peak performance. We’re not just working, we’re preparing for the time when peak performance is essential. And, it seems we all get a turn. From winter storms to storm surges, and from earthquakes to heat storms, we all get our rodeo moment.
This perspective hopefully provides an enhanced view of our day-today work, just like it does for the rodeo competitors. We can all visualize peak performance to establish appropriate goals, engage in deliberate practice, develop appropriate grit for tough weather, create presence when reassuring nervous customers, plan for the long term, manage and overcome setbacks, and do so in a systematic and professional manner.
Like lineman, we have an obligation to prepare ourselves for peak performance on a personal basis as well. Again, drawing on Johnson’s model, we see that that requires five essential steps.
- Create a Meta Goal – Your goal in a sentence?
- Today’s Plan – What can you do to get better today?
- Focus and Motivation – How can you make sure you show up for your next session with focus? What hinders you?
- Seeking Feedback – How do you get feedback? Where / with whom do you share your work?
- Exceed your Comfort Zone – How can you leave your comfort zone? Can you find ways to practice under pressure?
The Lineman’s Rodeo gives us all an opportunity to think about the nature of our contribution. For me, it reminds me of the possibilities and it what it feels like when accomplishing a difficult goal. I’m also reminded that it is up to me to choose Peak Performance and then to come up with a systematic approach for success. Nothing like defining your own boot camp!
It is not for the faint of heart, but it will ensure that you are “outperforming your contract” and, if in a field-based role, it will likely keep you safer as well. Wishing those in all T&D roles Peak Performance in the future and those competing in the rodeo, a safe and gratifying day.