Last month I had the privilege of sharing stories with a number of world class leaders. One of them is an icon of the deal. He tells the story of a career of finding his way into the most risky and profitable business zones that his colleagues barely comprehend. Sure he has lost some, but he has won again and again transforming many aspects of his organisation and their clients.
As I listened to his work, it was hard to understand how he could work so close to the line so consistently. I asked myself if he was a gambler, manic or uniquely gifted. I cornered him afterwards to understand what he did for self care. Without hesitation he said he always sleeps 7 to 8 hours, has practiced breath control (3.5 breaths per minute pre-negotiation) and taught himself to vividly visualise alternative outcomes. In short, he is a business yogi with a distinct series of success rituals. His practice is clearly defined, ritualised and perfected in real world dramas.
A good life, great leadership, innovation and flow rest upon carefully developed rituals of success. Hope is not enough – no matter how many pills, books or weekend courses you consume. We have to get way beyond the cognitive understanding of success.
Elite performers devote thousands of hours to locking down the habits of success. Day after day, year after year they drill themselves in the key practices that enable outstanding results. The drills are conducted under the scrutiny of experts who fine tune, challenge and drive execution.
This is extrinsic practice. It is deliberate, scheduled, conscious and focused. When the performance arrives we have to switch to intrinsic systems. Trust, release, relax, feel, and merge with the moment. Every thought and struggle hinders performance.
As swimming coach, Jan Cameron tells her athletes: “In training make it happen, in racing let it happen.”
This discipline of ritualised practice is gaining traction in leadership. Repeatedly over the last month, I heard how these global leaders have embedded their practices. Impressive.
Yet, they tend not to share their habits. They are private, personal and sometimes a bit secretive. World class leaders today simply cannot keep it all together without rituals of success. They should share their stories.
We are frequently asked to deliver everything we have in a few hours. We get trapped into thinking that a quick reminder will solve distress and liberate performance. This is no more than “ticking a box” to keep someone happy.
Performance in flow requires deep engagement with exploration, personal definition and execution of the right disciplines. For our people and our organisations to succeed we must think more like sports franchises. We must define the habits of excellence. We must support, coach and reinforce compliance and motivation at a community and individual level.
Some practices shared at this leadership summit:
- Always get a good night’s sleep
- Never stay out past 10pm – book a driver/taxi
- Take great care of your intimate relationships
- Exercise every day and make sure travel allows it
- Breathe really slowly and deliberately
- Meditate or find a contemplative practice
- Connect and network for all you are worth