Optimizing Star Performance for the High Road

Last week, I attended the WEBENC conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota as part of the Canadian delegation of WEConnect International. Always learning; always growing; and always  seeking opportunities to be in the company of high-achievers. Target Field, Minneapolis, MN.  Home of the Minnesota Twins. Welcoming WEBENC Participants

With thousands of women business owners from around the globe ascending on the Twin City area, hotels were at full capacity.  This provided an interesting personal challenge upon arrival when I learned that the B&B I booked into had been without power for three days due to a major power outage. The owners had no idea when power would return.  Although they risked revenue loss for the week on top of other losses, they scrambled to find alternative comfortable accommodation for me. They even chauffeured me to my new accommodation.

At the Embassy Suites, the staff rallied to serve my need for a room and soothe my weary soul. Every employee I encountered was empowered to make my stay comfortable, pleasant, and less stressful. They empathized and understood that living day-to-day with uncertainty (not having a place to stay) would affect my ability to enjoy the conference and their lovely city.  A day did come when there was no vacant room. As I was leaving the hotel, a staff member, Kristin, came to my rescue.  Kristin miraculously found a vacant room which guaranteed my stay throughout the rest of the week.

Safely back home and upon reflection, I recalled that rooms were given to some staff members because their own homes were without power. I suspect that Kristen gave up her own room. At the very least, I suspect that she took a stand to make things right for a guest.  Probably risking personal and professional consequences, she tapped into her own wisdom and judgment of what was best given the complexity of the situation.  She made a high-stress decision indicative of a Star Performer and a testament to her strength of character, personal leadership, and engagement in her profession.  Her decision is worthy of my glowing feedback, testimonial, and review.

The following feature article focuses on development of character, wisdom, and virtue – the markers of Star Performers and critical to taking the high road.

Developing Character and Wisdom

Mediocrity is the gateway to disengagement and boredom. To sustain high level of achievement, we each need to be continually learning and growing in spite of uncertainty and anxiety. Growth in character and wisdom is paramount to developing Star Performers who will make decisions based on what is "right".

Anyone in a leadership role faces high-stress decisions each day. In the absence of a consistent commitment to growth and development of Star Performers in leadership roles, executive teams are prone to create a culture of “groupthink.”

With groupthink, group members try to minimize conflict, avoid consequences, and make decisions without critical evaluation of alternative ideas and viewpoints in complex situations. The safe road beckons strongly when there is accumulative stress and rising risk. The fear of stepping out of the group with a better way or speaking up for what is right holds many high-achievers back.

The Bumpy RoadBumpy Road

High-achievers travel a bumpy road.  They want to maintain the best path for their careers and yet still want to support organizational goals. Knowing how to navigate these tough environments is crucial for any achiever who wants to ascend to the top ranks and become a Star Performer.  A significant challenge for high-achievers is knowing who and when to ask for help and feedback to stay on the “high road”.  It takes development of character, wisdom, and virtue to stay on the high road.

Knowing what is the right thing to do is at the heart of personal and professional leadership.

History requires leaders to find and do the right things, in the right way, against the right time frame. It requires them to develop the capacity for executive wisdom and the ability to deploy it. It requires that they both see and pursue the development of virtue in their own characters.

Leaders routinely face situations for which they have no rules to guide them and all too often for which they have little or no knowledge. In these circumstances, they are always anxious and face incredible pressures to behave badly because they more often do not know what they do not know. Almost nothing is more difficult, anxiety arousing, and humiliating than for a leader to admit that he or she does not know the right thing to do.

~ Richard R. Kilburg, Executive Wisdom: Coaching and the Emergence of Virtuous Leaders, APA, 2006

Developing character, wisdom, virtue and true expertise in any domain takes time, a determined spirit, and the courage to act and then be accountable.  The high road is rife with risks and anxieties. BUT, it can be an exhilarating experience with opportunities for star performance.

Optimizing Performance for the High Road

Reflecting on my recent personal travel experience as an analogy, the journey can be less stressful in spite of the risks and anxieties.  Consider how a safe environment provided by a professional coach can help your high-achievers develop their character and wisdom and navigate the high road with high performance.