When we are tired physically or mentally, or under stress, our decision-making ability falters and our performance suffers. Technique gets sloppy. Emotions and other distractions become more pronounced.
One term to describe this is state is “decision fatigue”.
What can leaders do to fight decision fatigue?
First, learn to recognize the signs of physical and mental fatigue in yourself and your team. Then, put that awareness to work in how you and your team go about scheduling so that key tasks coincide with periods of peak performance.
Second, and the focus of this piece, build more physical and mental endurance and resilience. Literally train yourself and your team to perform at a higher level; raise your “default” setting.
Why do leaders need to build physical and mental endurance and resilience?
“Every next level of your life will require a different version of you.”
But when fatigued or stressed, we default to hard-wired coping mechanisms and analytical frameworks, even if they are ill-suited for the situation at hand. We fall back to the level of our training. Another way to describe it is to say we turn on “autopilot” or cruise control.
But the path from the present state of things to that ideal future version is going to challenge you, or your team, in new ways again and again. What got you here won’t necessarily get you there.
Two final benefits of greater physical and mental endurance and resilience are, first, when things do go sideways or when an opportunity appears, high performance leaders can tap into reserves of physical and mental energy when they are needed most and, second, they know how to remain focused despite fatigue.
How do you build physical and mental endurance and resilience for high-performance leadership?
“Proper preparation prevents poor performance.”
Adopt a beginner’s mentality.
Growth and learning require that you step outside your comfort zone. It is going to take some trial and error to overcome each unique challenge. Results won’t necessarily happen overnight and growth isn’t linear. Find ways to make your mistakes learning opportunities and use that learning to improve your strategy and execution.
Remember how you get to Carnegie Hall.
Practice! Improve your craft, learn new skills and techniques. Challenge yourself physically and mentally in a low- or no-risk environment. Failure is part of the process. Consistent practice and a beginner’s mindset will help you develop the confidence to rise to the occasion. Also, consider the saying, “Amateurs practice until they get it right. Professionals practice until it can’t go wrong.”
The harder you work, the easier it gets to work hard.
Endurance and resilience are earned, not given. Create the frameworks to build the habits you need, stay on track by celebrating small wins at first, and then refine and ramp up the intensity in order to reach that “next level” as needed.
Work hard, and smart.
Go back to that first step in fighting decision fatigue. Learn to recognize when it’s time to press, and when it’s time to rest and recharge.
Greater complexity can also mean higher stress, so high-performance leaders develop coping mechanisms that help them manage the stresses and demands of their leadership roles. They also know when to engage other professionals that have the resources they need: Experts, coaches, therapists, mentors, and more.
In addition to physical activity, hobbies or a mindfulness practice (yoga, meditation, journaling, and more) can be excellent stress management techniques, and inspiration can often be found in seemingly remote places.
Modern leaders face demands and challenges requiring ever greater physical and mental endurance and resilience.
High-performance leaders know how to manage and expand their physical and mental capabilities to meet and overcome these challenges.
They create and adapt routines that include exercise, proper sleep, adequate hydration, and a good diet. These are all powerful contributors to overall performance and well-being.
Additionally, high-performance leaders are perpetual students of their field or industry, allowing them to adopt a proactive, rather than reactive, posture.
They know that proactivity has the dual benefits of being both a competitive advantage, and also a stress management technique.
Finally, they know that an empty vessel fills no cups, so they have developed a positive self-care routine that includes things like hobbies and mindfulness practices in order to sustain high performance.
Taking the time to develop and refine high-performance routines results in the creation of virtuous cycles of growth and development at both the individual and organizational levels and, by extension, higher levels of achievement and success.
Here are some real-world examples of high-performance development in action:
About the Author:
Matt Beckmann is the Founder & Managing Director of Ascent Consultants. In addition to experience as a former Chief of Staff to the Missouri Auditor and as a Corporate Vice President and General Counsel, he has advanced training and certifications in law, business, coaching, athletics, and leadership. His blog content, inspired by his deep passion for unlocking his reader's best potential, consistently equips business owners and individuals with the knowledge and resources to overcome obstacles that may be hindering growth.
Ascent Consultants provides business and strategy consulting, executive and leadership coaching, and leadership assessments. By converting client growth goals into an actionable "game plan," we help companies and individuals unlock their full potential.