Improving Human Performance

In business, we should seek to create an environment which enables everyone to work at their best. Often, I think we accept average as the norm because well, that’s what average is. But great businesses are not built on average and a culture of everyone’s best to the forefront every day is what we should be striving for.


Active Knowledge Question:

Are you conscious of what underpins heightened performance and how you may support such performance within your business?


What Is Human Performance?

Only I Can Tell

Human performance refers to how much of my capability and potential I bring to the task at hand. It’s a very grey area as who is to judge what my real capability and potential are? I’m probably the only one who can truly know whether I am giving something all my talent and effort.

Externally we can compare, make judgements and society certainly has its default set of performance standards – wealth, position and power – but they are not real measures of performance nor success. Success is again, something that can only be judged from within.

But as individuals and as leaders in business, we should seek to understand what allows some people to perform at what we may see as being heightened levels. Why? Because in my experience someone performing at heightened (optimal) levels, is more successful in their lives, are far happier in life and contribute to and support others.

In business, I see people who are working at optimal levels of human performance as champions of success because their presence is infectious in a good way. They act as an example and support others to also achieve success in their lives.

Note, I used the term ‘optimal levels of human performance’ as there are cycles and seasons in everyone’s life. And running at 1000 miles an hour every day until you collapse and then getting up and doing it again is not reflective of heightened performance; it’s the opposite as it is not sustainable and typically leads to poor outcomes. 

Many, however, think of performance in terms of hours and days worked, but we all understand that hours worked does not equate to the highest output. But our business systems and paradigms struggle to accept and develop alternate measures of a person’s work effort for which they are paid.

In business and life, the goal should be to have everyone working at their best with the best all the time. In my recent article, Anchoring Culture, I noted that business culture should be anchored in that which will support optimum human performance and that which underpins the competitive posture of the business – two sides of the coin.

The competitive engine that exists within every business creates the eco-system that sets the ceiling and floor to success and does so principally through the impact it has on human performance. 

My Best

Human performance is about being able to deliver my best performance as an individual consistently. It’s not about ‘beating’ others in a competitive sense, although winning may be an outcome.

It’s about giving my best and improving upon that – working at an optimum level and bringing to ‘table’ the best l am able to offer. Everyone’s skills and energies are different, and there are cycles and seasons, but we are all able to achieve a state where we are working at our best each day.

At a personal level, and in business, motive is a key driver of performance. If I am not motivated, then it’s likely that my performance, my effort, will be less than optimal. But if the right motive is present, then my efforts will be magnified and compounded.

Money is a poor and non-enduring motivator. In fact, it seeds self-interest, politics and short-termism in businesses and will disperse and neutralise performance if it is used as the principal tool of motivation in business.

Placing motive to one side, there are patterns and habits that an individual can seed into their daily lives which underpin personal performance. These patterns and habits are what I describe as the Achiever Traits, and I believe they also support the forming of the right motive for you as an individual. 

In business, we should understand these patterns and habits and ensure our eco-system uplifts and reinforces these elements and does not block or diminish them. 


Achiever Trait Unpacked


The achiever trait describes the combination of characteristics that collectively represent the personal engine that underpins and drives the ability of any individual to be successful. These characteristics formed through patterns of behaviour into habits and then traits enable a person to achieve their optimal performance, and success, on an enduring basis.

At a basic level, I describe the achiever trait as comprising three sections – core, triad and cloud:

  1. The core consists of the traits of humility and gratitude, which allow you to learn, accept and give thanks.
  2. The triad incorporates:
    • Body: your physical, mental and emotional health and vitality.
    • Beliefs: What you think of yourself and what you believe the world thinks about you, consciously and subconsciously.
    • Words: The words you speak and think to yourself and to others and the impact they have, again consciously and subconsciously.
  3. The cloud represents your dreams, passions, imagination and the freedom you allow yourself to play with what is possible, impossible, and what you love to do in life.

Seed and create your core, work and strengthen the triad and allow yourself time in the cloud. Enduring success is built through this approach with all elements being interdependent – one element out of balance will adversely impact all the other elements.

Underlying Elements

Unpacking this framework and looking into some of the underlying principles that are encompassed with it:

  1. The way you view the world around you, how you interact with it, and how you view yourself are foundations of your performance system and can either degrade or uplift your optimal performance: 
    • Degrading:
      • If you need to always be better than others , to always be right, driven by unfilled wants and desires, non-acceptance of others and their ways, rejection of change – these aspects will eat away at you, create anger, build barriers and undermine your ability to bring your best to the forefront.
      • An uncertainly of your place or position, doubts, fears, always comparing yourself to others – these aspects hold you back and will not allow you to seek opportunity.
      • Excessive consumption, harming the world you live in, taking what is not yours, failing to be truthful, treating with others unfairly – these actions will place you in opposition to the world you live in and others, and will isolate and drain you.
    • Uplifting:
      • Humility and an attitude of gratitude opens your world to opportunity and connections. It seeds a positiveness in you that is recognised and attracts ‘good things’.
  2. Your health and vitality are critical for you to be able to recognise and step into your potential and the opportunities that will present themselves. There are many aspects to sustain this strength including:
    • Exercise that not only strengthens but creates openness and space within your body.
    • Breathing practices that revitalise the entire body and removes stress and toxins.
    • Rest being not only sleep, but activities that allows creativity to be restored and stimulated.
    • Consumption – the right food and drink, in the right quantities, at the right time.
    • Cleanliness – not contaminating your body with activities or substances that harm.
  3. The people you share your life with either in person or via technology should reinforce who you are and who you want to be. This circle of connections will also have an uplifting or degrading impact on your optimal performance.
  4. Growth through learning, acceptance and opening yourself to explore new things is vital so that you do not stagnate.
  5. Restraint and non-attachment expressed by contentment with your life is an indicator of balance. It’s not that you’re not ambitious nor seeking great things, but you are not allowing yourself to become excessively obsessed.
  6. Focus and concentration reflect your ability to restrict your senses so that you are not continuously distracted and can sustain the discipline to focus and achieve outcomes.
  7. Meditation is a daily practice as it creates space and peace within your mind and will allow you to centre yourself in your life and wellbeing, and support connections with others and the world you live in.
  8. Acceptance that we are not in total control of what happens within our world or life, but we do control how we respond to events.

There is a performance system which we can adopt as individuals that will support and allow us to achieve optimal performance and greater success in our lives.  It’s not new and has been known for 1000’s of years but it requires commitment and discipline and is only achieved through hard work. I call it the achiever trait.

Success comes from being intentional, and as individuals, if we want to heighten our personal performance, we need a proven approach and to commit ourselves to making it part of who we are. 

And in business, we need to be conscious of what underpins individual success, as it is the combined talent and efforts of each individual that will deliver the success we seek in business. Supporting everyone to achieve their optimal performance can only lift the level of success of our business to levels we never thought possible.

In business, it is our competitive engine, with purpose and motive as the cornerstone, that will support performance.


An entirely new level of performance.

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All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel