How To Perform Like An Elite Athlete
A Practical, Actionable Guide To Help Busy Sales Managers Achieve Sustainable Success.
What is your Ideal Performance State (IPS)? Athletes often describe it as “being in the zone“. It’s the experience in sports when all the physical, psychological, technical, and tactical elements of performance fit together like a perfect puzzle.
In his book, “The Inner Game of Tennis“, Timothy Gallwey proposed that performance (p) is equal to potential (P) minus interference (I), or p = P – I. In other words, without interference performance would equal potential but as we all know that’s not always the case.
Performance (p) = Potential (P) – Interference (I)
So, what’s stopping us from achieving our IPS, and therefore top results more often and with greater consistency? We can learn a tremendous amount in this area of results from elite athletes. They are in the business of getting top results over and over again. And they’ll be the first to point out that we can’t control results, which is why we need to pour our attention into the process—the PERFORMANCE itself.
What creates performance?
Most people are unaware of the ‘why’ when they perform great one day and terrible the next. You’ve likely experienced this yourself—whether that performance be a business presentation, a sales call, or a contract negotiation. I know I have.
A few years ago, I had a string of presentations. They went amazingly well. The feedback was great from the participants on the insights they gained, their confidence in the new skills I had trained them on, and their overall motivation was through the roof. It felt amazing. And then the next day I could just feel that something was off. I was flustered. I didn’t connect with the audience at all. I didn’t land my points. It all went flat. I bombed!
So, what had gone wrong?
Did I use up all my talents & skills?
Did I just completely lose it overnight?
Just like an athlete, your ability isn’t simply there one day and gone the next. It’s always there. So, if ability isn’t the determining factor of performance and results, then what is?
It’s your ENERGY that is constantly changing. Energy is defined as a “fundamental entity of nature, that occurs and flows within a system to produce changes within the system. Regarded as the capacity for doing work it’s how much usable power the system has.”
Picture this… At the time of a big sales presentation, what’s more important in that moment, your talents, your skills, or the energy you’re bringing to the performance?
Your energy is what’s behind how your talents and skills will get used. Obviously, sales managers can perform successfully even if they smoke, drink, and weigh too much, or lack emotional skills, or mental focus, or a higher purpose for working. But they cannot perform to their full potential or without a cost over time—to themselves, to their families, and to the corporations they work for. Put simply, the best long-term performers tap into positive energy at all levels of the performance pyramid.
How is your overall energy?
Extensive research in sports science has confirmed that the capacity to mobilize energy on demand is the foundation of IPS. There are six Performance Influencers—physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, social, and environmental factors—that can work for you, and to any degree that they do not, detract from your energy and performance potential. The factors that influence performance vary from person to person, and sometimes, from situation to situation.
Extensive research in sports science has confirmed that the capacity to mobilize energy on demand is the foundation of IPS.
When all six influencers are ideal for you—without interference—your performance will be defined by your potential, or p = P. Understanding the factors to look at, determining which ones affect you and how, and exploring ways to remove the effects these influencers have on you will provide you with the means to intervene and, therefore, to achieve your ideal performance state more often and with greater consistency.
Which Of The Performance Influencers Are Most Affecting Your Performance Now?
Physical factors involve those things that create physical wellbeing. The way you treat your body directly influences how you feel, think and perform. In practical terms, the patterns of your breathing, the foods that you eat and when you eat them, the quantity and quality of your sleep, the degree to which you get intermittent recovery during the day, and the level of your fitness influence your physical energy and potential for high performance.
Emotional factors are, simply, those things of or related to emotions. The way you think about, express, and manage emotions—in yourself and others—influences your energy and performance potential. As a sales manager, learning to be aware of, understand, express, and control your emotions, and being able to create the emotions that fuel your performance, is essential for creating the inner state associated with “being in the zone“.
Mental factors influencing your energy and your potential for high performance manifest in how much brainpower you have available at any given moment to complete the task at hand. It’s built on your ability to be present in the moment—to be alert, focused, and clear—in order to harness your mental faculties for decision-making, idea generation, and action.
Spiritual factors are the intangible and immeasurable items that influence performance. These factors involve your sense of purpose for, and meaning in, all aspects of your life. Because they are at the heart of what motivates and inspires you, spiritual factors have a very strong influence on the energy that you bring to any particular task or activity.
Social factors are those related to society and the people who are around you. While the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical areas are internally focused, the social area is more externally focused. You don’t exist in a vacuum, and how you react to and interact with others can have a strong influence on your energy and performance potential.
Environmental factors are those that are related to the setting and/or conditions in which you work and perform. In addition to the people around you, there are tangible, physical external elements that affect your energy and potential for high performance. Though environmental factors aren’t always under your control, you can learn to control the effect they have on you.
It’s these six Performance Influencers that are at the heart of sustainable sales success. Any time you’re not performing to the best of your ability, something is interfering and most likely a physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, social, or environmental factor is holding you back.
Before participants in our 3-month Sales Performance Accelerator™ program start their coaching journey, they complete a quick Performance Influencers Audit. (See the exhibit “Are You Headed for Burnout?”). Once they are aware of their biggest energy deficits they take the ELI Assessment™—a highly detailed questionnaire designed to surface people’s behavioral patterns and to measure how effectively they are harnessing their mindset for sales success. This gives us a clear picture of their current performance potential and of the obstacles that stand in their way.
"Are You Headed For Burnout?"
Performance Influencers Audit: This audit serves as a starting point & provides you with a short overview of your current energy capacity & of the obstacles that stand in the way of creating & sustaining your Ideal Performance State (IPS).
___ I don’t regularly get at least 7-8 hours of sleep, & I often wake up feeling tired
___ I don’t take regular breaks during the day to truly renew & recharge
___ I frequently skip meals or settle for something that isn’t nutritious
___ I don’t exercise enough (meaning at least 3-4 times per week)
___ I frequently find myself feeling irritable, impatient, or anxious at work, especially when work becomes demanding
___ I don’t have enough time with my family & loved ones, & when I’m with them, I’m often distracted & not present
___ I have too little time for the activities that I most deeply enjoy
___ I don’t stop frequently enough to express my appreciation to others, to celebrate little wins throughout the day, or to reflect on the things I’m grateful for in my life
___ I have difficulty focusing on one thing at a time & I am easily distracted during the day (especially by email & my mobile phone)
___ I spend much of my day reacting to immediate crisis & demands rather than focusing on activities with long-term value & high leverage
___ I don’t take enough time for reflection, strategizing, & creative thinking
___ I work in the evening & weekends & almost never take an email free vacation
___ I don’t spend enough time at work doing what I do best & enjoy most
___ There are significant gaps between what I say is most important to me in my life & how I actually allocate my time & energy
___ My decisions at work are more often influenced by external demands than by a strong, clear sense of my own purpose
___ I don’t invest enough time & energy in making a positive difference to others or to the world
___ I don’t have the amount & type of interaction that’s right for me (time spend with others vs. alone)
___ I don’t have a few good friends around me who want to see me succeed
___ I spend too much time around negative people who drain my energy
___ I don’t have someone at work who I trust & who’s supportive
___ My working conditions negatively impact my job performance & productivity (e.g., distracting noise, lighting, equipment, etc.)
___ I don’t keep a clean & organized workspace & I often find myself looking for things I can’t find
___ I don’t alternate between sitting & standing at work to prevent musculoskeletal problems such as lower back & neck pain
___ I don’t use an ergonomic office chair & I often look down or lean forward while working
How is your overall energy?
Total # of statements checked: ___
Guide to scores:
0–5 ➝ Excellent energy management skills
6–11 ➝ Reasonable energy management skills
12–17 ➝ Significant energy management deficits
18–24 ➝ Energy Crisis
What do you need to work on?
Total checks in each category:
Guide to scores:
0 ➝ Excellent energy management skills
1 ➝ Strong energy management skills
2 ➝ Significant energy management deficits
3 ➝ Poor energy management
4 ➝ Energy Crisis
On average, participants get ten to twelve of the above 24 questions “wrong,” meaning they’re doing things such as skipping meals, struggling to focus on one thing at a time, failing to express appreciation to others, or spending too little time on activities that give them a sense of purpose. While most of our clients aren’t surprised to learn these behaviors are counterproductive, having them all listed in one place often helps them realize the extend to which these behaviors are holding them back.
Of course, even the best performers who train at all levels will have bad days and run into challenges they can’t overcome. And while it isn’t always in our power to change our external conditions, we can train to better manage what’s within our control—the energy we bring to any particular task or activity. We aim to help our clients harness their Performance Influencers to thrive in the most difficult circumstances and to emerge from stressful periods stronger, healthier, and eager for the next challenge.
How to get started today…
Identify the one or two key Performance Influencers (from the audit above) that are currently holding you back from achieving your Ideal Performance State more often and with greater consistency and create a plan of action to reduce interfering factors. Ask yourself: “What’s one change of behavior I can commit to, that if I did on a regular basis, would have the biggest impact on my energy, performance, health, and sales success?” The key is to decide, commit, and follow through.
THANK YOU! For your time and commitment to becoming the best version of yourself. If you find this guide valuable please share it with friends and colleagues who want to take their energy, performance, health, and sales success to the next level. Just forward www.saschaheinemann.com/how-to-perform-like-an-elite-athlete/ via email to them.