Want to improve your performance at work? Ask a code red director, a 5 times Olympic champion, an old-timer and a hologram.
There are some key lessons I learned on how to improve my performance at work in the last couple of years. They shape my work every day, help me to stay focused and productive. It works for me. I just wanted to share them with you because I hope they inspire you.
To go faster you need to relax more
Context: In my teens I was a competitive rower. Many years later I watched an interview with rowing legend Sir Steven Redgrave (he won 5 times Gold in 5 consecutive Olympic Games). He said that “if you want to improve your performance and row faster you need to relax more”. WHAT? How is that supposed to work in a race, heart rate at 199, every muscle is aching and you tell me to relax to go faster??? Insane! And yet, I realised it is true. Remember the stories about people really trying hard to get that dream job, that career, that swimming pool….
Takeaway: Whenever I realise that I am trying too hard to achieve something, that I am too focused on a task, that I have blinkers on, then I try to rest, question what I am doing, take a break, relax my brain. When I am refreshed I start again at 2x the speed and in the right direction.
Either run fast or find the shortcut
Context: Some guy in some movie (I cannot remember the name) was pretty relaxed about a much younger colleague being promoted over him. He said “He runs much faster than me but I know all the shortcuts”! BAM! Been there, seen that. Experience over youth and energy. Do you prefer to sprint the long distance or walk the shortcut? How about a young person already knowing the shortcuts?
Takeaway: I like talking to people who have a lot of experience about something. They say it takes a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice to become excellent at something. If someone has 30 years of experience in doing something…I’ll be damned if there is nothing you can learn from them! So when I am stuck with a task, I try to find someone with a lot of experience and talk to them. Maybe they know a shortcut that saves you hours or days of time and effort. Find them in your company, family, sports club (the oldest active rower in my club is 89!!! 70 years of rowing experience!!), LinkedIn…
Code Red! Questions are everything!
Context: “I’m sorry, my responses are limited. You must ask the right questions” was the standard response that Will Smith (alias Detective Spooner) got from a hologram he interrogated about a crime in the movie “I, Robot”. We are usually impressed by the people who seem to have all the answers. Honestly, these people annoy me because I never have all the answers….Very rarely you meet those people who are able to judge the most complex situation in a matter of minutes by asking 3 or 4 questions. I once talked to a guy who worked as “Code Red Director” for a technology company (there are some stories to be told at dinner parties I bet). They call him when all the manuals and experts cannot solve the problem. He said “my secret is this one key question I always ask first: what’s the last change you made?”.
Takeaway: I build a catalogue of key questions. Every time I come across one of these really valuable questions and I add it to my catalogue. Hopefully, one day people come to me not because I have all the answers but because I am the guy who asks the right questions.