If you are a sports enthusiast of any kind, you know what I’m talking about when I refer to being in the “zone”. It’s when the golf ball rolls into the cup on a 25 ft. putt; a series of three pointers in a basketball game; a backhand by an underdog tennis player that consistently hits just inside the line; a skier who, despite icy conditions, runs the slalom course in record time.

The great thing about sports is that it gives us an easy way to see peak performance executed in a seemingly effortless way. That’s what it means to be in the “zone.” Despite all the practice, physical training and care and feeding of the body, it can even feel magical to the athlete.

Those of us on the sidelines admiring the performances we watch, wishfully think that we will never have the opportunity to experience finding the zone that we’ve just witnessed. Well I’m here to tell you that you can; it just may not be on the golf course, basketball court, in a tennis match or on that icy slope. Instead, as leaders of teams, we have the chance to create a peak performance zone for our teams, and there is nothing more powerful or exciting than that.

Imagine this…..each of the members on your team has a “zone” around whatever their area of competency is. They may be good writers, great at organizing, a convincing sales person or a caring customer service representative. We all have skills that we have spent time learning, practicing and getting good at. However, it’s not just getting good at something that creates a zone. Those athletes that we admire have their ups and downs and we’ve seen many times when they are just off their game.

Peak performance comes from three things:

  1. Doing what you love to do……
  2. In an environment that meets your needs……
  3. And uses your strengths.

Often we start with the third and forget the first two. For you to unlock peak performance on your team, it does require each person being skilled and capable with the tasks they are responsible for. However, the other two ingredients that must be added are related to motivation, and that’s where the zone can be found.

There are two layers of motivation; the first is passion. What ignites a fire in a person’s belly so that they don’t feel like they are at work? When what you do is what you love to do, it’s not work, it is fun. As a team leader, make sure that the assignments you give out are directed to someone who will love the task, not a person who will dread it. Easy work will get done and what we love to do is easy to do.

The second layer of motivation is the support that we need. This can often be a tough one for team leader to figure out because it can be hidden and not surface until it’s a crisis. It’s the person who ends up in your office totally frustrated because something isn’t working for them, and you can certainly see it in their performance. Someone was rude, there was a change in direction that surprised them, they weren’t clear on who was in charge and what they should do, or sometimes it’s just boredom.

I’m sure you’ve had these crisis conversations. All of these are signals that the second layer of motivation is not being met. What they are looking for is support for their unique set of needs from you and their teammates.

When you see the behavior move from in control to an out of control reaction, you know something motivational on the inside of that person is not being met. Figure out what this is and you have a person who can find his or her personal zone.

Get your whole team understanding how to ignite their passion and receive the support they need and suddenly your entire team will be in the zone. Your business will start humming with peak performance indicators popping up all around you as you make the sales, support your customers and impact your bottom line. The only difference between you and that athlete is there are not cameras to record it. But, it will feel magical.

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