“Finding The Zone” is a concept that most athletes are familiar with, but what about CEOs? We’ve all heard the sportscaster refer to an athlete as being in “the zone,” and so my question is this: “How do you find your performance zone as a CEO?” or better yet, “How do you find and remain in the leadership zone?” What respectable chief executive wouldn’t want to function at their best more often than they currently do? Wouldn’t it be a marvelous thing to be able to place yourself in the zone when needed? In today’s post, I’ll provide some tips for CEOs to help them be successful in finding the zone…

We’ve all no doubt had our individual moments in the zone. That said, I don’t know too many chief executives that wouldn’t like to find a formula that would allow them to replicate on demand their highest level of achievement and the almost euphoric feeling associated with peak performance. While all of us have experienced the zone, some of us clearly spend more time there than others.

In fact, if you examine peak performers you’ll find that whether they’re athletes, scholars, executives, soldiers, politicians, etc. they all spend more time in the zone than their counterparts who comprise the masses.

They seem to have the ability to reach down and call upon something special when the steaks are at the highest. Reflect back upon your personal history and you’ll find these peak performers to have been your team captains, class presidents, mentors, and other people of influence. People who know how to frequently find the zone tend to be leaders that inspire confidence and engender credibility through their decisions and their actions.

In thinking about “the zone,” as important as finding it is, learning to stay in the zone is perhaps even more critical. So, is there really any single formula that will allow a person to find and stay in the zone? Probably not…the main reason I answer in the negative is that everyone’s definition of success or peak performance will be unique to their personal needs or situation, which makes a one size fits all formula rather difficult to apply. The above caveat being noted, if you apply the rigor of the following disciplines to your personal situation, I believe you’ll not only find the zone, but you’ll be able to stay in the zone more often than you otherwise would:

  1. Knowledge: Rarely will you find a peak performer who doesn’t either possess superior knowledge and/or understand how to access and leverage the knowledge of others. Gain a superior knowledge of your subject matter, and create strong relationships and alliances with other subject matter experts such that you have a competitive edge. It is extremely difficult to find the zone when everyone around you has better access to information and more knowledge than you do. Never stop learning…when you think you’ve learned everything you need to know look-out for the brick wall ahead as it will hurt when you crash into it…
  2. Become a Great Communicator: Nothing will help you find the zone faster than becoming an excellent communicator. While knowing what to say, when to say it and who to say it to is important, knowing how to say it is even more important. Oddly enough knowing when not to say something is perhaps the greatest evidence that you understand the art of communication. Long story short, become a master of communications in both written and oral form and you will stand out from the crowd.
  3. Authenticity: I was listening to a panel discussion last week in which two different members of the panel articulated similar positions about being your authentic self. One member simply said: “Be yourself as everyone else is already taken” and the other member chimed-in by saying: “Nobody can be as good at being you as you can…you have the market cornered on you.” By being true to your core values, understanding who you are, and knowing what makes you tick you will already be ahead of most of your peers.
  4. Passion: Authentic people are not only very real and transparent in their dealings, they are also extremely passionate about what they do. Passion often translates into a very strong purpose which in turn presents the passionate individual with clarity, energy and a relentless edge that others do not possess. Passionate people don’t quit…in fact they just plain refuse to lose. If you’re not passionate about what you do it is highly unlikely that you’ll ever find the zone much less stay in the zone.
  5. Prioritize and Focus: There is an old saying which states that “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” If you allow yourself to be distracted your efforts will be less than your best, and your results will be diluted. Your authenticity and your passion will make your priorities clear. It is much easier for the passionate to focus on the right things, for the right reasons, and at the right times. It is difficult to find a passionate person who is not extremely focused.
  6. Breakout of comfort zones: If you think about comfort zones as danger zones you’ll be less likely to be derailed by apathy & complacency. Peak performers are rarely satisfied with the status quo…They are the change agents and innovators who turn the unthinkable and unattainable into reality. Mario Andretti once said that “if everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” If you want to find the zone more often be disruptive, challenge everything, fly in the face of conventional thinking, and push the envelope. Greatness is never found in the comfort of mediocrity.
  7. Who You Know Matters: Build a strong, diverse, and loyal network. Much has been written of late about ROR (Return on Relationships) and all of it in my opinion is true. In today’s complex global economy, long gone are the days of the person who stands alone. Your true strength resides in your ability to leverage your network to bring influence to bear on critical issues when needed. If you are not constantly building and improving your network you are making a huge mistake.

If you focus on the points listed above your chances of both finding and staying in the zone will increase measurably. As always, feel free to share any thoughts or tips about increasing performance by commenting below…