Guest blogger Dr. Greg Wells (www.DrGregWells.com) is an authority on high performance and human physiology. Wells’ latest book, “The Ripple Effect: Eat, Sleep, Move and Think Better,” hit shelves earlier this year. Dr. Wells is an Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at the University of Toronto where he studies elite sport performance. He also serves as an Associate Scientist of Translational Medicine at The Hospital for Sick Children, where he leads the Exercise Medicine Research Program.
One of the biggest challenges corporate leaders face every day is balancing what’s good for the team with what works best for individual employees.
After all, not everyone thinks the same way – even top performers. Their motivations differ, as do their work processes. Some are collaborators; others work best alone. Some are procrastinators; others thrive on a deadline. Some love a bustling work environment; others pull on headphones to block out the buzz.
But leaders can make it a goal to help all those diverse personalities find the “highest-performing version” of themselves, says Dr. Greg Wells (www.drgregwells.com), author of “The Ripple Effect: Eat, Sleep, Move and Think Better.”
“There are general changes you can enact in the workplace that can speak to the very specific needs of every member of your team,” says Wells, a scientist who specializes in extreme human physiology and has spent 15 years working with Olympic athletes. He suggests:
- Encourage breaks. This isn’t about running out for a quick cigarette. Quite the opposite. Wells says office breaks can have a healthy bent – anything from providing an hour of tai chi instruction to offering a tranquil garden setting for quiet reflection. “Make sure you take some time to break the stress cycle and allow people to rest, recover and regenerate,” he says. “Doing this not only will help them perform better in the moment, but it also recharges the body and brain to stay healthy over the long-term.” Walking is especially powerful as it has been shown to improve creativity. Exercise in nature, such as going for a walk in the park has been shown to improve problem solving. Creativity and problem solving are essential for success in today’s work environment so moving breaks can be very helpful for you and your teams.
- Remove distractions. Being mindful is key to success in any discipline, be it music, sports, drama, or business. “Yet we live in the age of distraction,” Wells says. Emails, social media, text messages and YouTube compete for our attention, not to mention the job we’re supposed to be doing. “Athletes who are able to stay on task despite pressure and distractions perform to their potential,” he says. “Those who fail to ignore the distractions make mistakes or don’t perform to expectations.” Your team can start by turning off the electronic noise for an hour at a time. Or try “single-tasking”: Ask them to choose their most important task to work on first and to perform that task as exclusively as possible. Wells says he’s a huge fan of Robin Sharma’s 90 : 90: 1 principle – for 90 days, take the first 90 minutes of each day to work on your life’s most important work. Try that tactic out and you’ll be amazed and the exponential gains you make in your life and career, he says.
- Focus on “micro-improvements.” Wells says one of the best approaches he’s seen for turning good into great is focusing on “1 percent gains.” “What sets elite athletes apart from the pack is a commitment to being just a little bit better each day,” he says. “A 1 percent change might not seem like much, but small improvements in the way you live each day will amplify your life.” One percent of your day is 15 minutes, and 15 minutes of exercise can reduce your risk of breast and colon cancer from 24-40 percent. The micro changes add up over time and can have a powerful effect on your health and performance.
Of course, workers are notoriously averse to change – whether they’re in an office, a factory or behind the counter at a fast-food restaurant. But with positivity and patience, Wells’ believes his suggestions should be an easy sell.
“Each employee will benefit in his or her own way,” he says. “But the end result will be a more engaged and more productive group.”