#057: The Performance Curve – Dr. Laura Watkins

Friday April 29, 2022

What if we could have both high performance and well-being. What if we could look back having achieved our goals and having enjoyed the process. 

Host Fran Racioppi is joined by Dr. Laura Watkins, author of the recently released book The Performance Curve, Co-Founder at The Cognitas Group & Jumpstart Development, and former McKinsey consultant. Laura advises some of the world’s most high-profile leaders in finding the balance between performance and well-being by living on The Performance Curve instead of the Boom-and-Bust Curve. 

Laura and Fran break down The Performance Curve along its three catalysts, define the inner operating system, talk about vertical development and paradoxical thinking, and explain the benefits of living in Explore Mode instead of Protect Mode.

Listen to the podcast here

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About Dr. Laura Watkins

TJP 57 | Performance CurveDr Laura Watkins has been researching and working in the field of personal and organizational performance for over 20 years and is the author of The Performance Curve.

Her early neuroscience research looked at how the brain performs complex decisions and manages change. She then spent six years at McKinsey as a strategy and organisation consultant, and co-founded McKinsey’s leadership practice in Europe. She co-founded The Cognitas Group in 2008 in order to help leaders thrive, perform, and build powerful organisations. She has subsequently co-founded Jumpstart Development, which provides online, coach-supported leadership development journeys.

Laura works as a partner to CEOs and other senior executives to drive the change they are seeking in their teams and organizations. She is the lead faculty and program director for several long-running leadership programs for senior executives. The Performance Curve, co-authored with colleague Vanessa Dietzel, consolidates much of this experience, underpinned by neuroscience and psychological research. Laura has worked all over the world, with dozens of multi-national teams and organizations. She works in English and French. She loves winter sports and has worked as a ski teacher. She is also passionate about education as a means to combat disadvantage and was for many years chair of governors at an inner London school.


The Performance Curve – Dr. Laura Watkins

Performance is both objective and subjective. Most often, we can clearly determine if we succeeded or failed but too often, we disregard how it felt along our journey or the costs associated with our performance and the result. Paradoxical thinking tells us we must have one or the other, a grinding burn to success or the easy road to failure. What if we could have both high performance and well-being? What if we could look back, having achieved our goals and enjoyed the process?

I’m joined in this episode by Dr. Laura Watkins, author of the book, The Performance Curve, Cofounder at the Cognitas Group and Jumpstart Development, and a former McKinsey Consultant. Laura advises some of the world’s most high-profile leaders in finding the balance between performance and well-being by living on the performance curve instead of the boom-and-bust curve. Laura and I break down the performance curve along with its three catalysts, wisdom, fuel, and connection.ETJP 57 The Performance Curve Dr. Laura Watkins

We define the inner operating system in the complex web of mindsets, emotions, and habits that define our character and behaviors. We talk about vertical development, paradoxical thinking, and the benefits of living in explore mode instead of protect mode. Finally, Laura showed me how the easiest way to break my habit of eating leftover pizza for lunch is to order a salad in the first place, except I hate the taste of rocket salad.

Laura, welcome to The Jedburgh Podcast.

Thank you. I’m delighted to be here.

Performance can be defined as the action or the process of carrying out an action, a task or a function. Our performance in anything that we do can be evaluated. It can be good, bad or indifferent. Often we have had many conversations about this. We learn the most sometimes when it’s poor performance but we always tend to focus on when we have performed well. We have had conversations on elite, optimal, and peak performance but how we define performance and evaluate it is subjective and objective.

It’s objective in the sense that we can see the goal. Did we achieve the goal, our aim or our mission? It’s subjective in terms of, “How did we feel during this process? How do we feel after it?” Too often, especially in this world, we default to believing that the road to high performance must be grueling. It’s mentally and physically challenging that it takes every fiber of our being. We have to miss our kids’ sports games, have no sleep, and sacrifice vacation and everything to get there.

This attitude forces us to question our definition of success and performance and ask ourselves, “Is it worth the cost?” You have put forth the concept of the performance curve in which you have said performance means being effective and having well-being. I’m not going to lie. Before we started, I told you I was very excited to read the book and have this conversation. For too long, I lived in this world of, “Grind it out, never stop, and keep going. Why are you not focused? You should be doing something now.”

Since I started this show and talked to so many people, I have started to pull back and say, “You might be able to do things that you enjoy, feel good about it, and achieve some semblance of success.” We have a lot to cover. You are one of the renowned international experts in organizational development, the Cofounder of the Cognitas Group and Jumpstart Development, author of The Performance Curve, and a former McKinsey Consultant. Dr. Laura Watkins, thank you for joining me.

It’s a real pleasure.

TJP 57 | Performance Curve

The Performance Curve: Maximize Your Potential at Work while Strengthening Your Well-being

You said, “Doing our best is easier when we feel our best. Dissolving the tradeoff between effectiveness and well-being is the key to unlocking the higher performance levels of a life well-lived but it all starts with the development of the inner operating system.” Can you define the performance curve and the concept of the inner operating system?

The first thing to say is to start with what you said at the beginning. We spend a lot of time pushing ourselves to perform but often it comes at a cost in terms of our well-being. With what we have said with the performance curve, let’s go right back to that definition of performance. We see performance as making the best out of our one precious life. It usually means being effective and getting great results but it also means having a quality of life, well-being, good relationships, etc.

TJP E57 The Performance Curve

“We spend a lot of time pushing, but often it comes at the expense of our well-being.”

In the performance curve, this notion is that performance is about those combinations of two things. How do we, therefore, dissolve the tradeoff between them rather than have them compete against each other? Very often, as we know, competing ends up with people pushing their effectiveness, which is great in the short-term but usually has a hit on their well-being over the longer-term.

You contrasted the performance curve with a boom and bust curve and a road we travel in which we think we are high performing because we are constantly busy and reacting. What’s the boom and bust curve? How does it compare to the performance curve?

The boom and bust curve is a way of coping with complexity and challenges. When we are under pressure, have a deadline, and have to do something new and difficult, we’ve got a couple of different ways to approach it. One way we can approach it is to throw our energy at the problem, use the extra fuel we get from an adrenaline burst to work harder and longer hours, and push our teams harder. We are going to get perfectly good results, at least in a short time. Over time, that is likely going to come at a cost to us. It’s going to erode the functionality of our brain. It’s going to be more likely to put our brains into a more defensive or protected state because we are depleting our resources.

We are not going to be able to bring our best thinking. Chances are, at some point, we are then going to collapse. When the next crisis, opportunity, whatever comes along, we are going to throw ourselves into it. We are going to see what we call this boom and bust curve. That contrasts with what we call the performance curve, which is when we face those challenges or we see them, instead of throwing our weight, energy, and adrenaline at the problem, we stop and say, “How is a different way than I can tackle this problem? In particular, how might I be holding myself back? In what ways could I grow to be able to tackle this problem in a different and more effective way?” That’s what we mean by unlocking this virtuous cycle of the performance curve.

It’s to say, “Let’s use a challenge to grow so that we can do a better job at the moment by tackling things differently.” That builds our capacity over time so that gradually, as we face other challenges or complexities in the future, we are continuing to tackle those with greater ease. It allows us to get out the door earlier, reclaim our well-being, and we’ve got a spring in our step from having been able to spend more time with our family, get to the gym or whatever. Our performance is going to be better. We are on a virtuous cycle.

The development doesn’t need to be crisis triggered. I liked that term that you used crisis triggered effectiveness. I’m certified as a crisis management planner in business continuity. When you work even as a Green Beret or in Special Forces, your entire job and life are designed around crisis management and response. How do you get into a situation where everything seems chaotic? Your job is to come in there and bring some calm to that and be effective in the face of crisis. As I was reading and understanding more about the performance curve, I enjoyed how you said you don’t have to wait for a crisis to start to build these core foundational traits within yourself.

We are going to be faced with crises, big or small, along the way. Sometimes we are going to have to react. We are not going to sit and do inner operating system development. We are not going to challenge our mindsets when there’s a fire in the building. We need to get out the door. We are not going to have a conversation with ourselves or anyone else about that. We are going to leave. The point is that when we can use those crises to grow, that’s very powerful but we also don’t need crises to grow.

If I’m approaching a particular meeting and I might not be stressed about that meeting, I might say, “I reckon that there’s a way to do this a little bit better and connect with the client differently. How can I show up better or differently to this meeting to get a slightly different result and stretch myself to grow so that I build my capacity over time?”

TJP 57 The Performance Curve Dr. Laura Watkins

“How can I actually show up better or differently to this meeting to get a slightly different result?”

You brought the operating system, and I mentioned the inner operating system. You broke the performance curve down into three core principles. We call them catalysts. It’s wisdom, fuel, and connection. I want to get into each of these three but I want to start with wisdom. As you laid out in the book, wisdom creates the foundation of so many of these things. We talk about the inner operating system. I certainly want you to explain it in your words, much better than I would ever be able to. You said the wisdom catalyst was defined as our ability to see and continually adapt our inner operating system as the world changes.

[bctt tweet=”Performance makes the best of one’s precious life. ” username=”talentwargroup”]

There are two main concepts or aspects of the wisdom catalyst. Number one, bringing our best as it is now, which I appreciated because we have had a number of conversations around peak performance versus optimal performance. Is your peak your optimal performance? It might be at some point in time but it probably won’t always be. The second one is growing our best over time. We talk all the time about humility and understanding, where we are, and how we have performed.

Do we have the curiosity to grow and the drive to become better as part of our core foundational character traits that we look at in the development of teams and individuals? Can you talk about the wisdom catalysts, these two principles, and why self-awareness is the foundation of both of these two principles?

The wisdom catalyst is about our ability to see and adapt our inner operating system. When we talk about the inner operating system, we mean all the default reactions we have in any given situation. It’s what we are trying to grow and build in the performance curve. Those default responses powerfully drive what we do. When we are faced with a challenge, we bring those well-worn neural pathways in our brain to bear. We will go straight for the fastest pathway, which will typically be something that we have built and wired heavily into our brains throughout our lifetime. For a good reason, we need to be able to react quickly and learn from experience. Those defaults will have served us.

If they are not serving us in that situation, we need to be able to recognize and shift them. We typically think of three defaults, which we layout in the book. One is our default ways of thinking, our mindsets. The assumptions and beliefs that we hold and may not be aware of them but are going to be pretty powerfully gripping in what we do on a day-to-day basis.

If I’m sitting here and I’ve got a default mindset of friends to catch me out, I’m going to be showing up in a certain way to this conversation, trying to bring my best. If I’ve got an assumption of, “To have an exploratory conversation, we can learn and grow together,” I’m going to show up with a smile on my face and have a bit more fun.

It’s the second of those two.

That’s what I’m walking in with as well. Those are mindsets we are not aware of that may be quite programmed in from school. We’ve got to perform or do our best every time. Otherwise, we are going to be caught out. They are very deeply wired and affect what we do. Our mindsets are one type of default that we want to work on if we want to be on the performance curve.

The second type is emotional responses. People often say to us, “I can’t take charge of my emotions. They have a grip on me. I sometimes don’t even know what they are but they are certainly pretty powerful.” I understand that. I spent many years feeling quite subjected to my emotions but I have learned over time to recognize what those are, make choices about my emotions, and understand them but have them serve me. Emotions are another important part of this.

Let me ask you one question about the emotions before you go on to the next one. You use the formula, and anyone who reads this knows I love formulas. I say it all the time. Emotion equals energy in motion. You talked about these four core emotions, joy, fear, anger, and sadness. You framed it in all these other things that you feel. People would argue that, “Those are not the only four emotions. There are thousand different emotions.” You could break them into these four. Why those four?

Energy emotion is a term that my fantastic co-author, Vanessa, uses a lot as a way to explain that we might have thoughts, and they might guide us towards action. Ultimately, the fuel that brings impetus to that action and makes it a reality is the emotion that comes with it. We have this pot of mindsets and thought patterns along with emotions, which then is what drives us to take action. There are lots of different ways to categorize this. It’s a whole industry of academics who have laid out what the different kinds of emotions are.

There are groupings where it’s 3, 6, 10, and 300. You can lay them out in all different kinds of ways. They have done this categorization and had lots of debates about it. It led to a general consensus about what is a typography of different emotions. We chose those four because we felt that a simple structure that, as we have worked with people over the years, they have been able to latch onto. Three of those are what people would often call more positive emotions. One of them is anger. People would say it is generally a more negative emotion. We see it that way.

We encourage people to say, “These emotions are all part of being human. They are all there to provide us with data for something that matters to us.” The key is that we recognize emotion. We are able to name it and figure out why we are feeling that way because that then gives us data about how we can react differently in the world. That ability to name emotions precisely and be more granular about our emotions to distinguish between nervousness and discomfort or joy and pleasure is key because it helps us get more specific about what we are feeling. It can act as a more clear clue as to why we are feeling that way.

It gives the action plan. That’s the biggest part about it. When was I looking at these four and thinking about, “Why they would pick these four, why would everything go in there,” you can say, “If I feel joy, fear, anger or sadness, once I identify it, I generally can now figure out how I best respond to those feelings and emotions and how am I going to get myself out of it and get me to the next spot.” I appreciated that. The 3rd one was habits.

I am passionate about habits. I used to do research on your sites and our lab. A lot of our experiments were based on habits. This is a topic that’s very dear to my heart. Habits are our default actions or responses. When we are presented with a stimulus, what is it that we do in the classic lab experiment? We talk about different habits, which we can go into as we work through the different catalysts.TJP E57 The Performance Curve Dr. Laura Watkins

Essentially, we are trying to do with habits to train our brains to have default reactions as efficiently as possible but in ways that serve us. We are going to have certain habits already in our repertoire like cleaning our teeth, having a coffee before breakfast or whatever it is that we typically do. We are also going to have defaults of how we react in certain situations. If somebody confronts us, do we tend to come back by raising the conflict, or do we tend to back away from the conflict or acquiesce?

If we can train new habits that we automatically get wired into our brains is efficient for us. It essentially saves our brain from having to spend its precious decision-making resources trying to force us to do something through willpower. It means that we automatically react to some of the habits that we are most interested in. Habits help us stay on the performance curve and stop and question, “Should I say yes to this or not? What assumptions might I be making here? Why am I reacting in that way?” We are constantly giving ourselves data to challenge and grow our inner operating system.

The habits are a big part of the second catalyst. It’s the fuel catalyst, and that combines with purpose. I have a whole bunch of questions about habits. Before we get there, I want to ask about this iceberg exercise because I’m all about action. How do we take what we are talking about? How do we put it into practice? How can I apply this if I were to take it? I looked at the iceberg exercise, and I was like, “I could do this now and probably come out with so much better understanding of how these three mindsets, emotions, and habits interplay.” Can you describe briefly the iceberg exercise you do with clients? Why is that so important to understand how your mindset, emotions, and habits play off each other?

We have run iceberg exercises with upwards of hundreds, if not thousands of people, over the years. It’s been helpful for them to get insight into what they are thinking and how that’s driving what they do. Let me try and illustrate it here so that you could try and have a go at it at home. It would be to think of a situation or a way in which you want to grow or a challenge you are facing. Taking the example that I gave earlier, I want to get better at feeling confident when I’m public speaking. Let’s take a random example. I can then say, “Let me lay out what my iceberg.”TJP E57 The Performance Curve Dr. Laura Watkins

The idea of the iceberg is that you’ve got things on the surface, which are the results that are visible. Laura shows up nervous and stutters in her public speaking and comes across as not very convincing to people, and they judge her for that. That might be the things that are visible, which are the results, and you’ve got the behaviors. Stuttering would be an example of long silences or getting lost in my train of thought or whatever. Those would be the behaviors, the things that you or other people can see, what you do and how you do it or what you say and how you say it.

You go to what’s underneath the surface of the iceberg. The pieces of the iceberg are hidden deep underneath the ocean surface but powerfully connected to what comes up and is visible on the top of the iceberg. That’s where we put the mindsets and the emotional responses. I might have some assumptions down there around public speaking as a moment when I’m going to be judged or not capable of doing this, or whatever it is that’s fueling me to respond in unhelpful ways. I lay out all my mindsets, the ways I’m thinking, and the assumptions I’m making that are fueling my behaviors and the results that I’m getting. That’s the left-hand side of my iceberg. What I do is I say, “What would be a different way of thinking and feeling about this situation?”

I essentially map and recreate my desired iceberg to get a different result. I might say, “The result I want to get is that I want people to feel inspired and excited by what I’m sharing with them.” What might be some of the behaviors that I would need to bring to drive that different outcome? I would need to do perhaps a better job of listening and being able to engage with them. I might want to be able to be more fluid in my presentation or more convincing when I give examples or whatever it is that is going to make a difference to that outcome.

I come to the mindsets that are going to drive that new set of behaviors and bring out a more constructive set of emotions to bring all that into practice rather than saying, “They are here to judge me,” I’m going to say something like, “They are here to learn and exchange. They are here to listen to me and take from it what’s valuable for them.” I’m essentially recreating a different set of mindsets that are going to fuel a different behavior and outcome. It’s not to say that I’m trying to come up with a fake mindset, some positive mental attitude. It’s shifting my perspective or focus on certain mindsets to other ones.

[bctt tweet=”You need to train your brain to have default reactions as efficiently as possible in ways that serve you. ” username=”talentwargroup”]

There might be people in the audience who do want to judge me but let me place my attention on the ones who want to share, learn, exchange, and take from this what’s useful because that’s what’s going to serve me at the end of the day. When we interviewed a lot of people for the book, how many of the top performers had these deliberate ways of shifting mindsets to place their attention on the things that were going to serve them rather than ruminating and getting stuck on the unhelpful stuff that was only going to make the whole thing a self-fulfilling prophecy?

That was one of the most interesting points about the performance curve and this inner operating system. As leaders, our job is to figure out how we identify opportunities from a challenge. How do we reframe situations that we are in to be able to respond effectively not only as ourselves but also to drive our teams and our organizations? In episode ten, we spoke with an Organizational Psychologist, Dr. Alan Echtenkamp. We spent a lot of time in that episode talking about this VUCA world, Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity in this world of constant unpredictable change.

He presented this idea of what he called VUCA Prime, which is where you need vision, understanding, clarity, and agility. I had that conversation. I have read it a couple of times since and tied it into other work that I’m doing with teams and organizations. When I read The Performance Curve, it backed that whole concept out for me because it said, “For me to create vision, understanding, clarity, and agility, to combat volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, it starts with understanding myself and the drivers, this mindset, the habits and emotions that are going to frame my thought process in these different situations.” I appreciated that. It took that one step back. I was interested in your thoughts on the VUCA world and how that concept plays into these three foundational elements.

It sounds like an episode I need to read. We are going to build on what you have said, which resonates a lot for me. The first point is the performance curve is a way of being able to survive and thrive in the VUCA world.

TJP E57 The Performance Curve Dr. Laura Watkins

“The Performance Curve is a way of being able to survive and thrive in the VUCA world.”

In the VUCA world, we constantly have to deal with unpredictability, uncertainty, and so on. We need to be agile and flexible, as you have described in that interview. What we are trying to help people do is develop flexibility and agility to think and react differently.

The second point I would make is that in the VUCA world, all that change, uncertainty, and so on can quite easily bring out in us a threat state. It can quite easily make us feel on the back foot, defensive or in a fight or flight status. It’s what we call in the book a protect mode. This is a fundamental neuroscience principle that underlies everything that we write about. What I see day-to-day in life is something I wish I had learned when I was a child and teenager or whatever. I wish I hadn’t learned it at a later age.

I hope I am redundant eventually because everybody knows this stuff way before they learn it with us as an executive in the ’30s or ’40s. The key here is that when your brain goes into that defensive state, the brain’s prefrontal cortex isn’t working as effectively. Many people will know that that’s the seat of executive functioning. That’s where we bring our best problem-solving rational thinking, and so on. If our prefrontal cortex is not working at its best, we are not going to make the best decisions. We are going to be more emotionally reactive. We are not going to be able to resolve conflicts.

Getting back into what we call an explore state, which is we are more focused on the rewards and opportunities in a situation, is going to help our brains, blood flow, and reactivity settle down so that we are able to bring our best thinking when the brain is no longer on red alert. In a VUCA world, our ability to recognize where we are on that protect explore spectrum is key. What you mentioned about self-awareness and hidden drivers is very relevant for me because what it is that we find is the first track route to protect or explore our hidden drivers.

Those are the deepest-seated mindsets that fuel the whole iceberg I was describing. These will be the hidden needs or fears that each of us will carry around. We will typically have a couple that will drive us. For me, I’m driven by wanting to be and feel valuable. When I feel like I’m being useful, I will run towards anything. The way to get me to do something is to say, “Laura, it will be valuable if you did X.” I’m there. If I feel like I might not be adding value, I feel very threatened by that. If I’m in a meeting where I haven’t got much to add or don’t get invited to a meeting, and I think I should have been there and feel like that’s because they don’t think I’m useful, it sends me into protect state.

The point is for people to recognize what are the drivers like that fuel them because they will wrap a whole load of other mindsets around that, which will send them more into protect state or explore state. Once they better understand those triggers, they can use them to their advantage. In the example I gave, if I can tell myself there’s an opportunity to add value to a few people in this room, maybe not everybody but at least a few, that is already going to send me to a much better place than saying, “There are a few people in that group who aren’t going to find what I’m saying useful because they know it already.” It’s a shift towards explore state, which unlocks a whole better performance from your brain.

TJP E57 The Performance Curve

I thought about the two in terms of protect state being almost like a defensive posture, which is our default position. Alan Echtenkamp and I talked about this. When you are threatened, your default position is to go internal, close up, almost regardless of who you are. What leaders have to do in these times of being threatened is they need to go external. They need to begin to over-communicate, find opportunities to solve challenges, and be in this exploratory phase. I’m having a similar conversation with some of the athletes I work with, where we play very defensively.

They operate as a team very defensively like someone is coming to take something from them. I’m like, “You have to go out and be offensive about this. You have to get on the attack. You never win anything by trying to protect what you have. You win by trying to seize the next objective.” I thought about this protect versus explore in those two domains. Thinking about your hidden drivers, virtue, closeness, value, authenticity, mastery, security, freedom, strength, and harmony, how does one identify what their primary and secondary hidden drivers are?

That was another concept that you brought up here. You have a primary and a secondary one. You referenced the Enneagram.  We have had a couple of conversations about the Enneagram. We talked to Drew Newkirk in episode four about the Enneagram, where you have a primary and a secondary, and they correlate. There are the wings. I was fascinated by that whole experiment and evaluation. How would you identify, “This is my primary and secondary hidden drivers?”

Certainly, you can have a coach and work through it. Many coaches will be going to this level of depth and trying to work with people on these topics. If you are doing this for yourself, there are a couple of different things that you can do. The first thing is you can, as you have implied, use one of a few different tools to dig into this topic. The Enneagram is a great one. I’m a big fan of that. The list that you read out there about hidden drivers is drawn from a version of the Enneagram that I have studied and found personally valuable over the years and the same with many of my colleagues.

There are also other tools that you can use. We would list a few different ones in the book that does a pretty good job of helping people get to their hidden drivers. The other way you can do it is to use your self-awareness. The example I described, where we say, “Pay attention to when you are in protect state or explore state,” is a good way of getting to your hidden drivers.

If you go out for the next week and say, “Let me have a little calibration of when I’m in protect state or an explore state. I felt a bit on the defensive there. Why was that? What happened? What was it about that and how I reacted to it that gave me a clue to my hidden driver? They asked me to come and talk a bit about my knowledge of a particular topic. I love it because I feel knowledgeable. Maybe feeling knowledgeable could be a hidden driver for me. Let me pay attention to it.”

A couple of days later, you are feeling threatened because you didn’t have the answer to something in the meeting. Why was that? For me, it would be because I felt useless. I didn’t feel like I was adding value but for somebody else, it might well be because they feel their knowledge is being shown up. That would be a clue that perhaps they have a hidden driver around feeling knowledgeable and not feeling ignorant. You can pay attention in that way. If you do that over the course of time, you will learn quite a lot about what drives you. TJP E57 The Performance Curve Dr. Laura Watkins

I want to ask about vertical development because, when threatened because of the less experienced we are when it comes to dealing with complex challenges that may come our way, we tend to become myopic. A lot of the performance curve comes from the ability to shift our mindset, increase our perspective, view things in longer-term solutions, remove constraints, and be able to face complexity from a multitude of different angles. Can you talk about the concept of vertical development? Why is that so important to switch your mindset from protect to explore?

Vertical development is a huge topic. I could quite happily talk about that all day and certainly for another whole show but let me say a couple of things about it. The first thing is I’m a neuroscientist, and that’s usually how I talk about myself. It’s a field that many people understand. Vertical development, which is something I have worked with since my university days and particularly in my professional practice over several years, is at least as important as neuroscience to understand how we tick, grow, and support others to grow.

It’s very central but it’s not well-known partly because it’s theoretical and quite conceptual, and you have to get your head around it. Partly, it’s tricky to work with because there’s an element of progressing throughout your lifetime. People have to be careful about not boxing people into certain stages and applying a judgment around that but it is worth understanding.

Let me give a couple of simple starting points to understand it. The first is the idea that throughout our lifetimes, we as adults tend to go through a certain maturing process. When we are younger, perhaps teenagers or early adulthood, we tend to have a socialized mind. We tend to get our ways of seeing the world and making sense and decisions from external sources.

We will be quite influenced by our peer group or people in authority, what seems in or out, and the way things tend to be done around here. As we mature, we realize that we can have our own points of view, and there are different ways to do things. Perhaps we have a view about what’s right or wrong, and we become what was called self-authoring. Over the course of our lifetime, some of us will gradually release from that self-authoring of having a fixed point of view and realize that there are many points of view, no right or wrong answer.

The world is nuanced, complex, and tricky. When we can switch and see things in different ways and be more versatile, we are ultimately going to be able to rise to that complex world more effectively. There’s this pathway of development that people tend to go through over their lifetimes. Most of us are in those earlier stages but some people will go on to develop later on. Interestingly, the further up that development, the more effective people are, especially at senior leadership levels. The levels of complexity that people face in these complex jobs are aided by the ability to bring different kinds of thinking.

[bctt tweet=”You need to bring in many different points of view and see the nuances more clearly. ” username=”talentwargroup”]

It’s not binary anymore.

The world is less binary. You’ve got to be able to bring in many different points of view, recognize and adjust, and see the nuances a lot more clearly.

You talked about mindset and brought up three specific mindsets that also tie into this vertical development piece. It’s the accountable, the growth, and the big picture mindset. As you describe the later stages of this development, you have to move through these as you go through the course of your life. Can you talk a bit about the difference between accountable, growth, and a big picture mindset? How does that play into vertical development?

On the one hand, we are saying, “The key is to understand, recognize your mindsets, and be able to shift them when they are not serving you and find more productive ones.” We are also bringing a bit of a point of view, which is that we have seen that there are certain mindsets that, when people can systematically adopt them, generally get better results. It’s the three mindsets that you outlined. The accountable mindset is the idea of us seeing ourselves as agents in situations.

We have influenced at least the situation that we are in or in the way we have responded and choose to respond to it and, therefore, got agency or some influence over what we then choose to do. That’s a fundamental choice that we can make in life to feel in control. It can feel quite threatening or challenging when we realize that we have influenced something. It can feel quite cozy and a bit of a relief to sit in its counterpart, which we call the victim mindset.

If we are going to move forward, taking charge of what we do or at least how we respond to things, and how we feel about them is key even for the most challenging situations we might face. The growth mindset, which has been well popularized and researched by Carol Dweck and her colleagues, is a little bit related but it’s saying that we can either have the belief that all of us can grow and change. The growth mindset has been well-researched and unexplained by Carol Dweck and her colleagues.

It’s the idea that in a growth mindset, we have a belief that people can grow and change. We don’t have a fixed dose of capacity. Its counterpart is the fixed mindset but rather that we can grow and change. With that, we see challenges like the public speaking I was alluding to as opportunities to grow. It takes us out of protect state. You can see this in the brain scanner. When people are in a growth state, they have less protect activation in their brain. They are more able to bring their best and learn. When they get feedback, they are more able to improve.

By contrast, when they are in the fixed mindset, it’s a belief that we have a dose of capacity, a bit of the rhetoric around IQ. We are born with some dose of capacity, which isn’t what the Founder of IQ, Alfred Binet, wanted us to believe. That’s the way we have tended to use IQ tests these days. If we’ve got that fixed quantity, constantly every time we are facing a test, it’s a test of our capacity. Therefore, we are trying to do our best, which puts us in a defensive state.

When you give feedback to people in experiments when they are in a fixed mindset, where you have induced a fixed mindset in them, they will often get worse. This is a key mindset. There’s no point giving people feedback on a role if their brain is in such a state that it’s going to put chances to make them get worse. It’s a key distinction.

That is important because so many times, we talk about the feedback loop. We default to like, “You’ve got to bring them in and tell them how they are doing.” We forget that the message, what matters most in the communication of that message is how it’s being received. We always tend to default to how I feel when I present this information. There are three parts, the sender, the receiver, and the message itself. I always feel like we think first about how we feel delivering the message.

Secondly, what was contained in the message? We put at the back of the list how it was received by the person on the other side when the most important thing is how it was received by the person on the other side. Did they receive it in the manner in which you intended? Second, what was said and contained? Third, who cares how you felt? What matters is how they respond. Did they elicit the response you needed them to elicit when you said, “I’m going to go present this message to them?”

This is where the growth mindset comes in because you want to build a growth mindset in people. Your capacity to give feedback to them and have them take it constructively is going to be much higher. If you get that one baseline thing there, the feedback can flow. If you don’t have it, the chances are the feedback could make them get worse. I know a lot of organizations over the last few years have invested a lot in shifting their performance management processes and moving away from the very save it all up until the end of the year and have an annual review type process.

There’s avoidance of feedback during the year. The process is one thing, and that’s great to make those changes. What needs to come with that is an investment in people understanding that this isn’t about having a feedback culture. It’s about having a learning or a development culture. Those mindsets that go with it allow the feedback to flow and be received and put to good use.TJP E57 The Performance Curve Dr. Laura Watkins

I only know this because I have learned it the hard way.

The feedback sometimes makes my skin crawl too but this is one of these things where perhaps we are wired a bit to go into those defensive states. The more we can recognize that and say, “This is an opportunity for me to learn how to be even more valuable. Let me go after that, Laura, even if my instant reaction is how are they going to judge me.”

The third one was the big picture mindset.

This is probably less written, studied, and thought about than the others but we think it’s important as well. This is the idea that we can approach situations by looking at the bigger picture or looking at a very narrow or tunnel view. When we take that bigger picture, we bring in and see more elements of the situation, and things are connected. It’s more of a systems-thinking approach. It allows us to make a decision with a bigger picture in mind rather than with our narrow interests.

That might mean that we try to make a decision that’s better for the business as a whole rather than the individual. We make a decision that’s better for other stakeholders outside our organization, not just our organization. In the end, the health of the wider system is going to create a better environment for all of us to flourish.

Once we understand the wisdom, these foundational pillars or principles that we have laid out here, the second catalyst is this fuel catalyst along the performance curve. As you have defined it, this is the ability to sustain the continuous development of our inner operating system day-to-day and over the long haul. You’ve given it two main aspects, having a sense of purpose and putting habits in place. We touch a little bit on habits. You said, “Fuel is about energy and momentum.” What is the fuel catalyst? How does it build upon the wisdom catalyst?

The wisdom catalyst is our ability to see and adapt to our inner operating system. Once we’ve got that capacity, we need to do something about it. That’s where the fuel catalyst comes in. It says, “The performance curve is a lifelong journey. We are going to fall off the performance curve quite often and get back on it, and we need something that’s going to keep us on there. Hopefully, it’s the most fulfilling approach in the end but it’s not cozy and easy. We need the effort to keep us on it.”

That’s where the fuel catalyst comes in. The idea is that it’s both the impetus to move forward, where the purpose is important. It’s also a way to make things easier. It’s less friction-ridden, and that’s where the habits come in. When we talk about purpose, we have two things in mind. One is that the purpose is somehow larger than ourselves. It’s not about us and making ourselves or even our very small family unit. I found our close family and friends somehow happier or better but it is serving some greater purpose outside ourselves. That from the research is the purpose that is going to be the most fulfilling in the longer time.

The other element for a purpose that we are always looking for is, “Does it make me feel good? Does it somehow bring me joy? Is it somehow exciting and rewarding to me?” It is not that save the world purpose that other people might find impressive but that somehow, “It’s joy-filled for me.” The idea is to try, find, and pay attention to when we feel like we are doing something meaningful and joyful and be able to find and gradually place our attention more on avenues that allow us to do more of that.

[bctt tweet=”A learning culture allows the feedback to flow and others to receive and put it to good use. ” username=”talentwargroup”]

The idea is not that it has to be some huge grand purpose that we wake up in the morning and we are going to solve world peace or hunger. It’s to say, “If we can do everything a little bit more purposefully, we will gradually, over time, have more of our time feel purposeful.” It could be that we are washing the dishes in a more purposeful way. We are saying, “We are going to enjoy and appreciate the moment of calm and silence while we are doing that.”

It could be that when we are going out and about on our morning commute, we say, “We are going to smile and be warm to the bus conductor and the people who look a little bit down and tired on the bus as a way to bring a bit of joy to other people on the way to work.” Those things will pay back in spades for us as well as create a better life for those around us.

I have called it to act with intention. We talked about it a lot in sports. When you show up to practice and go through the motions of a warmup, there’s a huge difference between waking up, going to practice, and saying, “I’ve got to be here now and get this stretching done. I’m going to get ready to do my workout,” versus waking up and saying, “The deliberate actions that I take are to warm up in this manner, which prepares me to execute in this manner.” That whole process is elevating and changing the way that you are thinking about it. You have termed it making a shift from “I have to,” to, “I want to.”

We spoke with Jason Khalipa in episode 54. Jason wrote a book called As Many Reps As Possible. He was the 2008 CrossFit Games champion and founded a company called NCFIT. If you look at the videos, I worked out with him. He smoked me. I had a headache for the rest of the day. His whole attitude is this attitude of as many reps as possible, meaning that everything you do is a deliberate action.

When you are there, you are in the moment. You are present. It might only be for a few minutes, for 6, 8 minutes or a whole day. It doesn’t matter. When you are focused on that task, that’s what you are focused on so that you can execute it with the most intention possible without distraction. I think about that when you talk about it here. You use the term high fuel purpose, high personal heart factor greater than ourselves.

You spoke about them here but I’m wondering, can your purpose change over time? We are thinking long-term here. We have talked about big-picture thinking. When we are trying to stay grounded on some of our long-term goals, people may get into a situation where they think, “What if my attitude about this changes?” How do we approach that?

There’s a lot of rhetoric around, “Let me discover my true purpose.” Going back to what we were talking about around mindsets and the victim mindset and so on, it’s a bit unhelpful to imply that somehow, we have one true purpose. It’s a choice for us to be drawn to something and adopt it. It’s important for us to recognize that and know that it is a choice. When our lives or the world around us change, that purpose might slightly evolve, gradually shift, and have continued patterns. The chances are the hidden drivers are fueling that purpose.

If they are reasonably stable over our lifetimes, they are likely to be influencing us to have a purpose. That’s got some consistent narrative to it but it might also change quite substantially. For me, my purpose has always been for many years about something to do with understanding and helping people to bring their best and use neuroscience and psychology to do that. That has been very stable. As of the last few years, I’m a mom as well as an Executive Coach and Consultant.TJP E57 The Performance Curve Dr. Laura Watkins

I bring quite a bit of that purpose into how I bring up my daughter. That, for me, is a very important part of my sense of purpose. I wouldn’t probably describe it exactly that way but it’s certainly a strong, intentional way in which I live my life. As we move through different phases in our lives and things become important, our purpose can gradually evolve. When we recognize that we are no longer fueled by something, that’s a good warning sign to ask ourselves, “Why is that? Is there something else that’s now drawing us powerfully? If so, how might we take some time? How can we gradually adjust ourselves to place more energy on that?”

I don’t think we should fear it or shy from it. Let’s dig back into habits. When you and I first spoke and talked about doing this, we brought up habits. I was referencing that I was eating poorly. I had been in the wrong space over the winter. You were like, “If you don’t want to eat the pizza for lunch, throw the pizza out after you eat it.” I remember looking at the screen talking to you and being like, “That was such an easy solution. Throw the pizza out, and then it’s not there. I won’t eat it for lunch the next day.” You have a five-step process for implementing habits.

We can sit here and say all day long, “I have come up with a million habits, and I’m going to execute them now.” Implementing them is one step and sticking to them is the hardest part. In the book, you talk a lot about New Year’s resolutions. They go out. There’s Quitter’s Day in January, which I thought was hilarious. You have a five-step process. I was wondering if you might be able to walk us through this. The first step is to clarify your desired habit.

The first thing you want to do is know what it is that you are trying to achieve. Too often, we say, “My New Year’s resolution is going to be that I’m going to be able to run a marathon, lose 5 kilos or be able to accomplish something certain goal at work, write a particular project or write a book.” The key is to ask yourself, “What is it that I’m going to do on a daily or a weekly basis that is going to make that thing happen?” For example, I am going to go running four times a week before work or I am going to write 2,000 words twice a week, whatever it is that I’m going to do, and try to get quite precise about what good looks like. That’s the first step. It’s what I am going to do, not what the outcome is as a result of doing that.

The second one is to hunt down sources of friction.

This is my most fun but this is exactly where your pizza comes in. Let’s say I have a habit goal of eating healthfully. We are going to hunt down all the things that might get in the way. A pizza from the night before in the fridge that you told me about is going to be a source of friction because you are going to open the fridge and see the pizza before you notice the salad sitting behind it.

I have rationalized it like a financial decision too, where I’m like, “I bought the pizza. If I throw it out, I wasted the money.”

You need to say to yourselves, “That’s a source of friction but I need to work even far back.” That’s what’s so powerful because some of these sources of friction might well be upstream. In your case, that example is, “Why did you order too much pizza in the first place? Did the family eat something else? Could you have ordered it differently?” You go right back and upstream. For me, something I work on a lot is how I get myself out the door to do my swimming 2 or 3 times a week.

A source of friction for me is when my swimming costume is still in the washing from the last time I did it because it didn’t get washed yet or I can’t find my flip-flops. One of my habits has been to learn to pack my bag completely beforehand. All those not having stuff ready, which frankly needed to be dealt with over the previous 24 hours is a real source of friction for me.

People can be sources of friction as well if you’ve got people around you that are conducive to helping you fulfill your habit, the ones that are going to fill the fridge with rocket salad rather than pizza or bring you a donut because they have popped out at lunchtime. They thought you would quite like a donut because you liked donuts but that’s not what you are trying to do.

Helping other people to support you and recognizing when they are hindering you, and asking them to help you are also a big part of the sources of friction. I had another thing as internal sources of friction. What are the things that you are thinking, saying to yourself or the mindsets that are sources of friction?  In my case, the swimming pool is too cold.

I either need to change pools or get used to that, or pay attention to the fact that the shower afterward is warm, and that’s exciting. Recognizing what gets in your way and laying it out in quite a detective, detailed, slightly pedantic way is the foundation for making it a habit. The habit isn’t the big picture thing. It’s the details, a series of micro habits, which we are going to come on to. They all come out of the friction.

TJP 57 The Performance Curve

“It’s recognizing what gets in your way…the habit isn’t really the big picture thing, it’s the details – the series of micro habits”

The third one is the development of micro habits.

The next step is to get quite mechanical about how you pull off your habits, all the micro habits or steps. When I order pizza, I ask myself, “Do I know exactly how much pizza are we going to eat?” I don’t order any more pizza than that. When I order pizza, I order small pizzas instead of big pizzas. When we finished our pizza, we didn’t put it back in the fridge. We give it to the dog. I don’t know if dogs can eat pizzas. We do something else with it.

[bctt tweet=”When the world around you changes, your life’s purpose can evolve. ” username=”talentwargroup”]

In my case with my swimming example, it might be packing my bag the night before, getting it out, and leaving it by the front door on mornings of days when I’m going swimming in the evening. You have laid out those habits, both the ones in the lead-up and the ones that need to happen in sequence at the right time. That’s what gets you to do it. In your case, it could be okay at 12:30. When I know I wouldn’t have lunch at 12:45, I go into the kitchen and don’t open the fridge. I opened this cupboard where I knew I had got my healthy food.

It might be making sure that I have scheduled my meetings to finish at 5:30. Turn off my phone and my computer, come what may at 6:00 and walk out the door. If I’ve got any unfinished business, I call my colleagues from the car on the way to the pool and finish off my day that way. That’s what gets me out of the door rather than being trapped by the friction of not having finished my work.

The 4th one is to reward yourself. The reward should not be to eat pizza two days later.

Rewards are a tricky and interesting subject. That’s a bit counter-intuitive, and you have to be a bit careful not to create weird incentives with rewards. The idea is that you want rewards to be soon and sometimes surprisingly large. If it’s a very conventional reward after every time I don’t have a pizza, I don’t know what will be a reward for you. How often is doing a workout rewarded with ice cream or a chocolate bar? Maybe a bit of that is good but it’s when it’s the whole ice cream or the whole chocolate.

Over time, our brain starts to take that for granted and doesn’t get its little dopamine hit from the surprise or the surprisingly large. You are better off having a mini piece of chocolate and enjoying it or saying, “I’m going to try something different every time or letting somebody else give me a reward. Who knows what they are going to give me? It might be a pat on the back.” That unexpectedness will be enjoyable.

The final thing about the reward is to try and, over time, move it away from having it be about other people telling us we were great and more about our intrinsic sense of satisfaction or actual enjoyment of eating the healthy salad, trying out the heritage tomatoes, enjoying the shower afterward or the feeling of the cold water when you are swimming. There are ways of creating a reward to work for you.

The fifth step is making your sequence watertight. You have a number of different ways to do this, substitution hooks, combining upstream intervention, contingency, micro habits, feedback loops, and buddies.

We have alluded to some of those things already. The key thing to say is that we are never going to get our habits 100% right. We are always going to make mistakes. From 5:00 to 6:00, when I need to be out of the door, I am going to get calls from a client or a colleague that needs something. Things are going to happen. If we can have habits that get us back on track at the moment or help us recover afterward, that’s key.

I remember when we were doing the interviews for the book, a couple of our interviewees talked about this, saying, “I am going to fall off the wagon. I am going to go out late, stay up, drink too much and not do my sport in the following morning.” What counts is what I do the next day and how I then recover or set myself up to adjust my habits and do things the next day. That’s what that watertight is all about.TJP E57 The Performance Curve Dr. Laura Watkins

It’s the bounce-back aspect of it. You can throw in the towel, “I had one piece of pizza.” Forget it. You’ve got to get back on there. There’s a concept of paradoxical thinking that you brought up. I enjoyed reading about this because it put a term around something that so many of us leaders face. I don’t think we ever take the time to truly dissect and understand, “This is now a paradox.” We look at it and say, “It’s either a war.” That gets to the heart of what I’m about to ask you here. I will let you certainly explain it. We have to leverage paradoxical thinking as part of the performance curve. Can you define what paradoxical thinking is? How does that compare to binary thinking?

This is another topic that’s dear to my heart because I have seen so much of how this can unlock innovation, doing more with less, more effective problem solving, and better collaboration in our client work. It’s the idea that we are very often faced with these binary choices or see things in binary ways, as you described like, “Should I invest in R&D or marketing? Shall I promote this person or that person? Shall I eat rocket salad or pizza?” We see these false choices. When we step back and reframe our way of seeing that problem, we can ask ourselves a more powerful question, which is, “How can I unlock the paradox of choosing between these two things?”

In the beginning, we talked about how the performance curve is about unlocking the paradox between having effectiveness and well-being. How can we have those two things, which might sound contradictory for many of us, be complementary and mutually reinforcing? We have managed to find the unlock. That’s what we mean by paradoxical thinking. We have unlocked the tradeoff or the forced choice that we are feeling. The key here is to notice when we are stuck in binary thinking and get good at asking those questions that lift us up the levels of thinking.

We have described different levels in the book but the highest level is when we have managed to create this sense of both ends. Instead of choosing between having to invest in the research and development or marketing budget, we can say, “How could I do my marketing in a way that would get me some R&D insight? How could I do my R&D insight in a way that would also get me publicity? Perhaps I can have a competition where people brought their R&D ideas, and that would be great publicity.” It also might bring us great thinking. It’s those unlocks that bring us a greater quality of thinking and a better ability to do more with less.

It ties back to that big picture thinking, the evolution of the different stages you go through in your level of maturation.

It’s a fast-track way to bring more of the higher levels of vertical development. It’s a technique for getting us to think in a more expensive way.

The third catalyst is the connection catalyst or the ability to form developmental relationships. You have cited the generation of emotional bonds and providing stretch. Can you talk about the connection catalyst and define emotional bond and stretch?

The connection catalyst is the 3rd of our 3 catalysts. It’s the way in which we form relationships with people that help both of us to be on the performance curve. How can we get into relationships with others one-to-one or in group cultures that stretch and develop us? We’ve got to have a foundation to be able to do that. That’s what we call emotional bonds.

It’s a real ability to bring empathy and vulnerability into their relationships. If I want to be able to work on my inner operating system, I’ve got to be vulnerable and put it out there. We don’t often talk about our mindsets and assumptions. That’s partly why I have shared quite a few of mine because it’s important that we learn as a society that it’s so helpful to be able to do more of that.

It’s being vulnerable to share what we are worried about, what’s in our thinking, and so on. It’s having that received with empathy so that the other person is able to meet us where we are at, not judge us, empathize and understand what we are thinking. We see that those are the core of a developmental relationship. If you are going to do something with that, it’s where the stretch comes in. The stretch is all about how we challenge people.

I bet you can run that marathon half that time or give that difficult presentation to that challenging audience but it’s to say stretch. What is it in the assumptions that are holding you back? Why are you fearful of that? What would it take for you to get confident enough to be able to stand up on that podium and give that challenging speech? It’s being comfortable to hold up the mirror and stretch people to think in different ways.

What happens if we lack an emotional bond or stretch?

There are two answers to that. One is if you want to do the longer-term work and be in a relationship with somebody who is developmental and supports both of you to grow, you’ve got to invest in that emotional bond over time. You’ve got to work to try and build that up. You can extend a hand by bringing your vulnerability and hoping that they will handle that well. You can bring your empathy and try and gradually coax them to share and be supported. You can invest in that over a longer time.

[bctt tweet=”Get into relationships with others that stretch and develop you. ” username=”talentwargroup”]

You can also take the attitude that any relationship is an opportunity to grow and develop together. You can, in a safe way, do whatever feels safe to you. You can test that out. You can create the conditions. You can say, “I’m a bit uncomfortable sharing this.” I’m making an assumption about this. You can do a little bit of sharing and asking for their empathy and see what comes back. Very often, you will learn and grow. There’s a way to accelerate developmental relationships without making an assumption that we have to have a high level of trust and bond that we have built up over time.

This connection is so important because we don’t go do it alone. I have had conversations with Olympic and professional athletes who play in single sports essentially. Even the greatest of those will tell you, “I didn’t get here on my own.” Their training staff, coaches, friends, and family were all integral parts of their success and the careers that they built as we lead and build organizations. No leader sits at the top of an organization and says, “I’m here by myself. This has happened because of me.” The best leaders are the ones who come into organizations and show this vulnerability and empathy, and people can identify with them.

There’s an authenticity to it. They look at them and say, “I get what that person is trying to do,” and vice versa. The leaders of great organizations can look around the organization and say, “I can identify and empathize with what all of the various departments and people within the organization are feeling and doing because it creates that bond, connection, and that community.” That community becomes something that is greater than the sum of the parts. This third catalyst is a critical part of completing the entire unity of the organization.

This is another topic we could spend a whole day on it. It’s a big topic. It’s so important. What you are describing there to me is what we would call a performance curve culture. My clients might often call it a development culture or even sometimes a learning culture. The point here is being good at learning facts from our mistakes and about new fields or elements of what we do as an organization.

We are also good at growing our inner operating system together. We can challenge our collective and individual mindsets and can learn from those. We make a mistake. We can talk about what we did or didn’t do and what we were thinking or not thinking that contributed to that mistake because that’s what’s going to drive the fastest learning.

Our ability to build performance curve cultures or developmental cultures of that kind is a source of competitive advantages as an organization. The role of the leader is key. It’s interesting when we work with clients on how they can strengthen their developmental cultures and organization, and we look at the different leaders. We offer them a series of leaders and say, “There’s one leader you have to work on, which is self.” You need to become a stronger role model of being a learner yourself, who’s working at a deeper level of growth, and that can be about doing more of it.

It can also be about making more evident to other people your vulnerabilities, the way in which you are seeking to grow, opening yourself up for feedback, and so on. That is the single most powerful signal. By the way, that’s not there. It’s unlikely. It’s not a black or white thing but it’s going to significantly reduce the chances that you are going to be able to build a strong developmental culture overall.

Where do you start? Somebody who read this whole episode has taken copious notes, and now the question becomes, “What’s the first thing that I do?” What’s your advice?TJP E57 The Performance Curve Dr. Laura Watkins

If I were to pick a couple of things that I would do, I would do something for myself and something around the connection element of this. The “for myself” thing would probably be to pay attention when I am in protect and explore state. Notice what triggers those, and, “What’s my thinking pattern when I get channeled in one of those different directions?” That is a great place to get started on the wisdom catalyst and a good habit to build.

From the point of view of a collective approach, I would say to myself, “Let’s do a little audit.” Fran, how many people do you think you have a developmental relationship with at work or home? Ask yourself, “How many have I got any of those are outside of work? Have I got any of them inside work?” Ask yourself that and do a little audit.

Let’s say I were to pick 1 or 2 people to whom I want to extend a hand to try and strengthen the quality of the developmental relationship that I have with them. “How could I do that? Could I share a little bit more of what’s going on for me and ask for their support? Could I ask a question that gets into their assumptions and challenges, holds up the mirror for them, and be there with my empathy to back up a richer conversation?” Those will be two things that could get a start.

Laura, as we close out, the Jedburghs had to do three things as core foundational tasks. They had to be able to shoot, move, and communicate. If they did these three things with the utmost precision, their energy and focus could be applied to solving bigger picture problems. We talked a lot about the big picture perspective and the micro habits. These would be certain habits if we were to put them in those terms. What are the three things you do every day to be successful in your world?

I spent a couple of jogs in my local park thinking about, “What I’m going to share here?” Here it goes. The first one is a bit building on what we talked about. I believe in monitoring where I am on the protect and explore state. A couple of things, the first one for me would be where am I on the protect explore spectrum. I pay quite close attention to that daily.

If I’m more in that protect state, I’ve got a few tips and tricks to get me out of it. It could be going for a run, having a little nap, a quick bit of breathing exercise or whatever, or questioning myself what is triggering me to be in that state and how I can think or work differently to get myself more exposed to it. That has been tremendously helpful for me. That’s one.

The second one is around practicing developmental relationships with my colleagues, team, and family. Make sure that I challenge, and I am challenged. I’ve got that handful of people around me that keep me honest. A few times a week, if not pretty much every day, I would have a conversation with a colleague where I will open myself up to get challenged or I will challenge them on their mindsets and assumptions so that we are constantly growing and doing our best as individuals building the capacity of the team and role modeling to our clients that we practice what we preach.

The final thing is more of a personal thing, which is that I try every day to make sure that the people that I love, care about, and are close to me and counsel me to know that I’m there for them and I love them. That might be with my partner that we have a little thing where we are too busy even to send a proper text message. We send a few little kisses in the text message. That’s a way of saying, “I’m a bit busy right now, can’t call but I’m thinking of you.”

When he calls, unless it’s difficult, I will always pick up the phone, likewise with my daughter, making sure that the quality of the hug that I gave her when I dropped her off at school or the way that I say goodnight to her has her feel like, “I love you, and I’ve got your back. I’m there for you.” Even when I’m busy, that’s so important for them and me. It comes back to what this is all about. It’s about having a fulfilling and making the most of our one precious life rather than being a robot that goes after professional goal after professional goal.TJP E57 The Performance Curve Dr. Laura Watkin

It’s with intention.

It’s very deliberate.

Monitor where you are on the protect versus explore state, practice developmental relationships to continuously challenge yourself and others to move forward, and make sure that those close to you know that you care with deliberate intention. It’s very well thought out and planned on your own. I liked those three. Thank you.

We talk about the nine characteristics of elite performance on this show. We have referenced many of them in this conversation. We have talked about a lot of those through your lens and didn’t directly bring some of them up because there was no need. You have it through the performance curve elaborated so well on many of the core concepts of drive resiliency, adaptability, humility, integrity, curiosity, team ability, effective intelligence, and emotional strength.

High performers, those who have to sit either on the boom and bust curve or on the performance curve, certainly need to move to the performance curve but they exhibit these all in various degrees all the time. I take one at the end of these conversations. I think about our conversation about what I learned from reading your book, speaking with you, and getting to understand your perspective. I think about emotional strength because emotional strength is the ability to bring calm to chaos, see things through a wider lens, gain clarity and perspective, and not become myopic or binary in our thinking when we are threatened.

It’s not to go into that protect stage where it becomes fight or flight but to be able to back out, move into this explore stage, a mindset of being able to grow and see the big picture. It’s to look across ourselves and our organizations and say, “Here’s the clarity and vision we are operating under. Let’s define the path, take a step forward, and move this forward.” I think about emotional strength. That is the one that is so exhibited by you and The Performance Curve.

I have learned so much learning about the performance curve, reading the book, and speaking with you. I appreciate you spending the time with us sharing your perspective, forcing us to think big picture, and now it’s on us to drive action, put the pizza away, develop the habits, and get on the performance curve. Thank you so much for joining me.

Thank you, Fran, for that gift. It felt lovely to receive that. It wasn’t what I would have assumed you had given me particularly but it felt like a real gift. It was a very heartwarming moment. Thank you for that and for taking the time to read the book and ask questions that make me think, help me keep reflecting, growing, and making my life well lived. I’m grateful to have had this chance. Thank you.

We will see you next time. Thank you.


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