Achieve More in 2021 – 6 Tips to Strengthen your Professional Foundations
“There are no shortcuts to success.” This saying has been used ad nauseam, but that’s because it holds a lot of power, and I know for a fact, it’s as true in sport as it is in business. I do, however, think that the full saying should be “There are no shortcuts to sustainable success, so make sure your basics are world class!’ High performers across all industries, from surgeons to chairmen, pianists to the military and of course athletes, never take their basics for granted. Like Roger Federer hitting millions of tennis balls against a wall for over 30 years, investing in and maintaining world class basics are the foundation to success, and high performers know that to ignore this, is to self-sabotage.
It’s all too common that we begin a new year with huge goals, but soon thereafter, a combination of personal and workplace challenges leaves us feeling under pressure. This leads many people to start derailing – clutching at straws, blaming, giving up, searching for silver bullets or turning to the 1%ers – rather than doubling down and keeping their professional fundamentals tight.
Athletes believe, that when you’re under extreme stress or pressure, that your competitive performance will reflect your “norm” … your average training standard. This prompts the question, “how can we invest in and keep elevating that ‘normal’ performance level and push it closer to world class?”. Well, like any athlete or musician who trains, you need high quality repetition of the basics to create unshakeable, world class foundations.
Now is the time to set up your year ahead by respecting and heavily investing in the quality of your basics. Create and entrench meaningful structures, routines, habits and behaviours while you are fresh and energised post-holiday period. Do it mindfully, with full awareness and intention. The longer you can maintain your focus on doing the little things right, over and over again, the stronger your fundamentals will become and the better your performance under pressure this year will be.
Here’s a few things to consider:
Clarity and Accountability Always
When there is greater clarity and alignment around the values, visions and goals of an organisation or team, individuals thrive! Take the time now to understand where your industry is at, what it needs, and particularly how your organisation plans to succeed. What is the vision you are working under, what are the macro and micro goals that need to be achieved, and have you discussed and clarified with your manager and/or team what priorities, standards and expectations need to be met?
With clarity you can be more purposeful, accountable and focused on delivering. From here you need to setup and communicate your boundaries, put structures in place and get your operating rhythms down to allow you to achieve your individual goals and support the realisation of broader business goals. Where will you be spending your time, how will your diary support this, how will you team and what will you delegate, how long should meetings be and will they have clear purpose and always finish with actions to drive priorities forward? If you are consistent, organised and focused, you can then help others to be more engaged and better prepared so they too can understand what is needed to create quality outcomes.
Harness your Energy, Attitude & Language
Put thought and effort into the energy, engagement and passion you are bringing to every interaction! This is your personal and professional self, and it is extremely powerful, so be conscious and deliberate with it. Set up mental triggers, such as each time you join a new meeting you will come in with a clear head, high energy and a positive presence. Or if a situation is bringing negativity to an environment, then you be the person that challenges everyone to reset and look for ways to problem solve differently. Don’t be afraid to let your style shine through, ask people how they are, choose to be an engaged listener, crack a joke if that’s you. Be the person you’d want to put on the team, by adding with your presence and work to drop or limit any negative elements possibly holding you back. Remember the saying “people don’t remember what you said, they remember how you made them feel”.
Enhance your Skills and Maximise Opportunities to Learn
Hone your zone! You know what field you work in, so understand what makes ‘the best’ great and keep improving your skill sets and experience. The bar is always rising, so keep trying to become a master of your craft considering all the necessary attributes of your role - technical, practical, leadership, emotional, social, wellbeing, etc. Don’t just focus on the obvious, professional skill development is diverse and different for everyone. For example, wellbeing is quickly becoming treated as a business-critical skill that can be improved through training and development , just like sales and negotiation skills, so if you need to update or add some complimentary skills, then set a goal and go get them. High performers and learning go hand in hand, but not in the ‘attend every available webinar’ kind of way. Strategic learners observe, they experiment, and then they reflect. Learning requires risk taking, being open to trial and error and seeking feedback. Insights come from pushing outside your comfort zone, actively planning and then reviewing. Make a professional habit of inciting curiosity and asking questions, find ways to bring people together and open up conversations, encourage diverse and creative problem solving. When you’re in a constant state of learning, you are more highly engaged and quicker to adapt with change.
Minimise Distractions to Maximise Output
Many of us are transitioning back to a traditional workforce setting (at least part-time), and with that comes new disruptors and distractions. Spend time now to consider how you work most effectively and brainstorm what typically causes you to lose focus. Consider all factors and understand how they might steal your time and pull your attention, then setup appropriate mitigation strategies! Are chatty colleagues less likely to interrupt if you’re wearing headphones, do you write/work better when all digital notifications are off and you’re mono-tasking? If you labour on certain tasks, then work in short focused bursts offset by effective energising micro-breaks. Know yourself and better control how you work to be more efficient and effective.
Use Transition Times to Reset
High Performers know how to recharge their batteries and reset their mindset, in both a micro and macro fashion. They proactively embed routines as a transitional way to get themselves into the right physical/mental/emotional state to perform while offsetting accumulated stress and decision fatigue. This is something we can all do – think morning and night routines, to/from work transition periods and in-between meeting micro-recovery breaks – to ensure we arrive at the next place we want to be with the right energy and attitude. On the playing field or in the boardroom, high performance depends as much on how people renew and recover energy as on how they expend it, on how they manage their lives as much as on how they manage their work. When people feel strong and resilient – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – they perform better, with more passion, for longer. They win, their families win, and the corporations that employ them win . So take the time to think about your life and then plan your transitions to maximise your ability to decompress, recover and adopt the right mindset for what is ahead of us.
Put Mentors and Support Structures in Place
I cannot undersell the value of always having mentors and support structures in place. When life gets tough (which it often does), scrambling for support, advice and guidance is the last thing you want to be doing. High performers prioritise and invest time in fostering their relationships with mentors or coaches over time. Mentor relationships will all be different and come from inside as well as outside your organisation or industry. Use them for strategic support, scenario planning, problem solving, coaching, resource acquisition, cheerleading and even personally/professional guidance. Having a strong circle of connections that you regularly connect with, also has a direct positive impact on your resilience and mental wellbeing – all the more reason to prioritise this now! We can take a lot of things for granted when it comes to our professionalism, and having strong fundamentals is no exception to this. Only when you expand your awareness, to focus on the quality of what you do as well as how you do it, will you unlock repeatable, sustainable success. Like a surgeon doing complex surgery, Roger Federer is a universal example of a master who makes what they do look effortless! This comes from thousands of hours of quality practise, thinking smarter and putting time into the basic fundamentals that elevate their chances of sustainable success. So, what about you?
Greatness starts with action, so start 2021 as you mean to finish! Invest in your basics to stay on course and in control, and know, that you can confidently stretch for bigger goals because your foundations for success are set in place and becoming stronger every day.
 The priority for workplaces in the new normal? Wellbeing by Liz Hilton Segel for the World Economic Forum
 The Making of a Corporate Athlete by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
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