Healthy Business Performance & Resilience
Dr Cath Bishop is a World Champion, Olympic Silver Medallist and former International Diplomat. Cath now works as a leadership speaker, consultant and facilitator for Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? drawing on her practical experience from two high pressure careers as an Olympic rower and a senior diplomat specialising in conflict stabilisation.
Focus on healthy performance
Athletes always look at performance as involving body and mind, as involving all aspects of our daily life. It would be crazy not to! The way we live our lives, the choices we make about our mindset, behaviours and relationships directly impact on how we perform whether at work, on the sports field, or at home.
Yet in the business world, there can sometimes be certain topics that are ‘off limits’, even though performance is key and there is a desire – similar to that in the sporting world – to raise the bar constantly and set new records in terms of achievement. There can be a sense that success can only be achieved by discussing what happens in the office, and unfortunately in some cases, a belief that more work will mean higher performance.
Working harder doesn’t make you go faster…
When I was training as an Olympic athlete, we were absolutely clear that year on year we needed to make progress. If we hadn’t won at the World Championships or Olympics, we needed to go faster the next year; and if we had got on the podium at the World Championships or Olympics, we still needed to go faster the next year – that much was always certain. But we also knew one thing for certain – training harder wasn’t going to make us go faster.
We were already on the limits of how much we trained – usually 3 sessions a day, 2 hours each; 2 of those sessions on the water, 1 session in the gym, with rarely a day off. Simply saying let’s train another hour each day would have been madness – we would have barely made it to Christmas before our bodies would have broken down with injuries. We were already on the limit of injuries and testing what volume of training was possible.
That meant we had to look at other ways of going faster – training smarter, looking at how we recovered, looking at the quality of those training hours – sometimes through physical intensity, sometimes through sharpening our mindset. We looked at how well we ate, drank (water!) and switched off.
Although being an Olympic rower was all-consuming, it was essential that we found ways to switch off, forget about oars and boats, and immerse ourselves in something else, whether it was a film, good book or catch-up with (non-rowing) friends. The same thinking applies for me now in business – in order for me to perform to the best of my ability, to have enough energy and focus when I run Performance Programmes, or on stage as a motivational speaker, I must be applying the same rules for my wellbeing – just as if I were still training as an Olympic rower.
What’s the biggest drain on resilience at work?
SEEDS – Sleep, Eat, Exercise, Drink Water, Switch-off
Health and resilience are increasingly becoming hot topics in the workplace – why wouldn’t they be central, if high performance is what businesses want?
Thinking about whether we are ‘business athletes’ offers a helpful approach, if we want to improve and deliver sustained high performance levels. It is essential to work out if we are hydrating well, using good nutrition to fuel ourselves, being active on a daily basis (not necessarily going to a gym, but ensuring we have movement and activity each day to avoid sitting down endlessly), as well as finding ways to switch off regularly to ensure that we have some work/life balance.
5 SEEDS to plant:
Energy is a great concept to think about – resilience is often described as about how long we can endure, but less about how we can recharge. We shouldn’t see each day as one long draining of the batteries, but ensure there are points of the day that are energising – working with positive, inspirational colleagues, going for a walk, or investing time in reflection. When you look at your calendar coming up, think about which elements of each day will energise you and which might be draining – where you can, ensure there’s some of both.
Businesses that are serious about performance have to wake up to this area – it’s not rocket science, drinking water and moving regularly are entirely natural behaviours that require no time or money, yet they do sometimes require a change in habits and mindset. This behaviour shift sits at the heart of performance and our work with organisations at Will It Make the Boat Go Faster? – how to reset our thinking, our behaviours and the way we interact with colleagues and customers, in order to ensure we are reaching our potential.
Something we always ask our clients is – ‘What are you going to do differently tomorrow?’. Ask yourself the five questions below and write down the small changes you could make to your health and wellbeing to make your boat go faster. Set yourself a challenge of improving each of these by 1% week on week – you might be pleasantly surprised by the difference it will make to your performance. Good luck!