As Edward M. Hallowell explains in his most recent book, Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People, published by Harvard Business Review Press (2011), “Many people need help in getting rid of the obstacles in their way. In the workplace, this is the challenge that managers face: to help people overcome these obstacles and enter into [what Hallowell characterizes as ‘The Cycle of Excellence’]. While I have made many suggestions on how to do this, my concluding suggestion is this: do it your way. Ultimately, neither I nor anyone else can tell you what to do more skillfully than you can tell yourself.”
Hallowell does share his own thoughts about how to achieve and then sustain peak performance. He suggests a five-step process.
1. Put people into the right jobs so that their brains light up.
2. Overcome the potent forces that disconnect people in the workplace both from each other and from the mission of the organization, and restore the force of positive connection which is the most powerful fuel for peak performance.
3. Effectively use play – imaginative and improvisational collaboration – to catalyze advance work, and help people tap into this exceptionally productive but yet undervalued activity of the creative mind.
4. Create conditions in which people can “grapple and grow” because they want to work hard, making progress completing a task that is challenging but exciting as well as highly valued and appreciated.
5. Doing well – shining — feels so good. Therefore, be sure to recognize and praise [begin] anyone [end] within the organization because “a culture that helps people shine inevitably becomes a culture of self-perpetuating excellence.”
Hallowell adds, “Each step is critical in its own right and translates into actions a manager or worker can [begin do and do now. [end]. Each step builds upon the other. [begin] The most common mistake managers make is to jump in at step 4 and ask people to work harder, without first having created the conditions that will lead workers to want to work harder [end].
“Whatever you do, your goal as a manager should be to minimize feelings of alienation and falseness within your organization, while increasing feelings of openness and honesty. You want to make sure people feel permission to be real.”
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Edward M. Hallowell, MD, a psychiatrist, served as an instructor at Harvard Medical School for twenty years and is director of the Hallowell Centers in New York City and Sudbury, Massachusetts, and is the author of two Harvard Business Review articles and 18 books.