Five Habits of Top Athletes to Enhance Your Leadership

Susan S Freeman Blog

superbodiesThis week’s Step Up Leader Tips borrows from Leading Blog.

Dr. Greg Wells, author of Superbodies: Peak Performance Secrets From the World’s Best Athletes is a scientist who specializes in extreme human physiology. He draws a parallel between elite athletes and top executives to help business leaders perform at the highest level, even when under the most extreme circumstances.

An athlete steps up to the starting blocks in the Olympic stadium. They stand tall, take a few deep breaths, and shake out their muscles. Thousands of people cheer while they are introduced, but their eyes never waver from the lane they’re about to run down. When the gun goes off, they explode into high performance action.

How can we apply this scenario to a business situation? The same techniques that athletes use to perform under pressure allow business leaders to excel in the workplace. Here are five top practices that will improve your health and performance both at the office.

1. The Power Pose. Before competition, athletes often stand tall with their shoulders back and head up. Adopting certain postures improve performance by changing the levels of hormones in your body. Recent research by Dr. Amy Cuddy from the Harvard Business School has shown that adopting a “Power Pose” increases testosterone levels, which is a repair and regenerate hormone, and lowers cortisol, which is a stress hormone.

2. Relaxation Breathing. Stress and tension undermine performance and contribute to the development of chronic, stress-related illnesses. Taking a few deep relaxing breaths and exhaling slowly can dramatically change your psychological state and boost performance. Pause and take a few deep relaxing breaths to regain control of both body and mind.

word-image3. Focus. In sports, it’s obvious that staying focused is critical for success. Physiological science tells us that humans simply can’t focus on multiple things at the same time. We live in the age of distraction, bombarded by emails, social media and text messages all day long. To perform at your best, it is critical to find time each day to focus exclusively on only the most important projects and tasks.

4. Hydrate properly. Athletes know how fundamental water is to their performance. A dehydrated body and brain are sluggish on the track and in the office. Caffeine is great in moderation – one or two cups of coffee per day, ideally 30 minutes before a mental energy boost is required. Other than that, it’s water all the way to maintain focus and stamina. And plenty of it.

5. Be 1% Better. An athlete who delivers an incredible performance in the playoffs is showing the result of thousands of hours of practice. We can do the same thing with our food, sleep, exercise, thinking and work. Strive to be 1% better each day. A 1% change might not seem like much, but those small daily improvements amplify your life. It’s like earning compound interest for your body and mind.

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Are your habits helping you practice off the field, so when you’re in the game you’re at peak performance?

Developing the capacity to perform at this level can be enhanced with an accountability structure. For more information on how this might be helpful to your leadership goals, visit susansfreeman.com/services .

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