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  • Simon Rickman

Why PEAK performance is more vital now than ever

Updated: Jan 29, 2019

How can you climb your own mountains?

We live in turbulent times.  Of course, we’ve lived in turbulent times before (9/11, the ‘crash’ of 2008, 7/7 to name but a few).  But this one feels different.  When John Lewis announces that its half yearly profits are down 99%, then something is definitely wrong with the world in which I am used to living.  For the first time in my 50+ years of living on this earth, and in this country, I am really anxious about the future. 

All of a sudden, it seems that I have become part of that middle aged cohort called ‘grumpy old men’.  But where we used to complain about the type of music they play on the radio today (it was so much better in the ‘70s!), or why our neighbours can’t put their bins away (or is it because the refuse collectors can’t be bothered to put them back on their property?); we are now asking are more fundamental questions about our future, and more importantly, about the future world our children are likely to live in.

Since the Brexit vote, things seem to have changed, and not for the better.  Life is not as predictable.  As a ‘baby boomer’, I can reflect back on the past 50 years with my peer group.  The questions we asked in our teenage years are being asked again, but this time with more urgency.  “What is the meaning of life?”, “What are my values?”, “Who is there to guide me?” and “Where are our leaders?”  And these questions are beginning to permeate our lives at work as well as in our social environment. 

So based on the maxim that ‘you get what you role model, and you get what you tolerate’, I decided to set up my own business to get our ‘principles’ back on track.  This isn’t easy, as there tends to be too much focus on profit, and not on the people who generate it.  In particular, the people who I want to listen to this are too centred on themselves to hear it.  For example, one of my previous bosses seemed to be overly obsessed with making money at all costs.  It seemed to be his driving force every day.  Indeed, he once said to me, “When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I think about is ‘How much money can I make today?’”. 

When I recall this conversation to others in business, they tend to recoil.  “How did you respond to that?” they ask.  I replied with, “Well, that’s interesting, because when I wake up in the morning, the first thing I think about is, ‘How am I going to get the best out of my team’”.  The question and resultant debate is often around assessing who’s right?  So I aimed to bring the two pillars of ‘profit’ and ‘people’ to co-exist for the benefit of both.

My PEAK Performance & Potential programme has been designed with this as its outcome.  It’s based on a philosophy that is often quoted by business leaders, but rarely, in my experience, fulfilled.  Most of them declare, “We are a people business”, or “We put people at the centre of our organisation”, or “People are the reason why we are in business”.   The reality is that this is often said, but rarely lived.  Instead there tends to be an overly aggressive focus on the numbers.  So what becomes the measure of success is based on, “How many calls did you make today?” or “How many leads did you convert in to a sale?”, or “How many hours did you work today?”  These questions are all important, but they tend to focus on the ‘what’, and not the ‘how’ (even though, ironically, that’s often the first word of the question).  This focus on numbers is based on a short termism that has become ever more prevalent in our economy and society, and thus is becoming a habit in our business psyche. 

As I said at the beginning, we are living in uncomfortable times.  The philosophies of the last 25 years or so, that focused on ‘diversity’, and breaking through ‘glass ceilings’, and making what Covey calls, ‘The Paradigm Shift’, seem to have been put to one side.  Oh sure, we have the ‘Why Me?’ and the ‘Me Too’ Campaigns, that push against the accepted behaviours of the past.  But that’s looking like a distraction for what’s really happening around us. 

Brexit has been pulling us apart for the past two years.  It doesn’t seem to be bringing us back to a once ‘glorious nation state’ as promised by the ‘leave’ politicians.  The President of America doesn’t seem to be displaying the values of a ‘cultured’ leader.  Even the leader of the Labour Party seems to be allowing an ancient ‘hatred’ to colour his leadership principles.  In my humble opinion, we seem to have lost our way. 

And this also impacts the world of work.  With Brexit on the horizon, there is a real fear that great talent will leave our shores for other places.  So the questions leaders are beginning to ask are, “How do we retain the leaders of the future?”, or “How do we ensure that teams are motivated, positive and deliver results?”, or “How can we prevent the brain drain?”

I have spent my career helping businesses to become more profitable by focusing on the people agenda.  In particular, I enjoy turning high potentials in to leaders, and turning around dysfunctional teams in to winners.  This has become even more important than ever as we need to offer hope to the business leaders of the future.  A recent Deloitte survey found a negative shift in the millennials feelings about business’ motivations and ethics. 

Today, only a minority of millennials believe businesses behave ethically, and that business leaders are committed to helping improve society.  There is also a stark mismatch between what millennials believe responsible businesses should achieve and what they perceive businesses’ actual priorities to be.  And they recognise that although technical skills are necessary, so are “building interpersonal skills, confidence and ethical behaviour—all essential for a business to be successful”. 

So the PEAK Performance & Potential programme is designed to support the millennials, as well as anyone else who wants to reach the top of their personal ‘mountain’.  It’s built from the ‘principles’ of some of the world’s smartest business thinkers of the past 30 years (Covey, Canfield, Beck and Whitmore).  This potent combination of business philosophies has worked.  I’ve seen it in action.  I think it takes us back to the basics.  I think it proves that putting people on the same pedestal as profits results in even greater commercial success.   It’s the win/win we should be looking for to create a more positive future.

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