The First Rule of Exceptional Performance

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

Imagine this… you, showing up to work every day with patience, peace & a fierce energy to take on whatever the day throws at you. Everyone’s glad you’re there - your boss, your co-workers, your team.

They need you there because you bring the vibes, the energy, the motivation. You’re the one with the ideas & the answers - & they just love having you around. You’re the absolute expert in what you do, & you have time to share with others to help them on their journey to be their best & grow in their careers as well.

People respect you, they think of you in times of crisis, & they sing your praises. There’s no question, when promotion comes around, it’s yours.

So what’s that like & what does it take to get there?

Ask any elite performer - athlete, artist, motivational speaker, top business CEO - what they do before they hit the stage...they get a good night’s sleep.

This isn’t going to be your run of the mill self-care-is-important chat... If you’re looking to get promoted at work, you need to hear this.

Rest is so crucial to so many bodily functions, yet we try to cheat ourselves out of it all the time, thinking there aren’t enough hours in the day to sacrifice for something so indulgent (have you ever consciously caught yourself thinking of sleep as a luxury before? Sounds crazy to say it out loud doesn’t it - but that’s often how we treat it).

It makes us feel like we’re winning when we get by on just a few hours sleep a night - we’re being so productive working all these hours, & getting more done in our day than somebody else (whether we do it because we feel we have to or because it makes us feel more honourable).

But we’re only winning until we mess up. When you’re too tired to really listen in a meeting, so you go away feeling like it was a wasted hour (or worse, miss what you’re actually meant to do as an action & have to sheepishly ask again or lose more time guessing..), or you miss a typo in a pitch presentation because the words have gone all blurry & you’ve read them a thousand times, or you lose your temper at the end of your tether with the wrong person, at the wrong time…

All of these things happen because we eventually lose control - ironically the one thing we’re trying to cling on to in all of this.

There’s a tonne of research showing that consistent lack of sleep (getting less than the recommended 8 hours a night for a long period of time) can cause:

  • Lack of focus & motivation

  • Forgetfulness

  • Low mood

  • Heightened stress levels

As well as generally feeling tired & unwell (like when you feel hungover, even though you’ve had nothing to drink..?!)

Think about these side effects & compare them to what you look for in a colleague or when interviewing someone for a job.

If they told you they tended to be moody, they lacked concentration, found it hard to motivate themselves & were often forgetful...would you give them the job? Probably not.

So how can you expect to be performing at a level good enough to be recognised for promotion or more opportunities when you’re doing just that?

When we don’t get enough sleep, the best we can hope to achieve is adequate.

It’s kind of like the tortoise & the hare - one speeding off at a million miles an hour, so proud of his progress only to trip & fall - letting go of all the plates he was spinning. The tortoise is making steady waves, planting his feet in the ground one step at a time, enjoying the scenery along the way & overtakes the hare. Maybe they even cross the finish line at the same time, but one’s beat & hated the race (& made a bunch of mistakes along the way), while the other could go on forever, taking in the view & the experiences as he goes.

How often do you hear about people who celebrate their retirement & something happens to them the very next day? Or find that you book a 2 week summer holiday only to catch a cold that first morning you wake up? (think Alanis Morrissette's classic song "Ironic")

I’ve had this conversation with so many clients, colleagues & friends in the past - we recognise it, we say "oh of course, typical that now is when my body decides to give in & get ill" - but we already know that it's because when we’re running on fumes for so long without giving our bodies a chance to stop - when they do, it’s crash & burn.

If we abuse our bodies (including our brains!), we wear them out long before their time.

If we’re always running on reserves we’ve got nothing left in the tank when shit hits the fan - have you ever been in a situation where you’ve really been burning the candle, getting by on the belief that you’re almost there, to find that something goes wrong at the last second & you have to pull another source of reserves out to get through?

According to the NHS, sleep not only supports our immune system, protects us from things like heart disease, obesity & diabetes, it also improves fertility & our libido (*wink*).

So the science is there to back up the half-joking conversations we have about “I’m going to get sick soon if I don’t catch a break” - so why do we never seem to take it seriously enough to do something about it?

You’re probably thinking "yeah, I KNOW rest & self-care is important BUT..."


There’s always a but, always a justification, always something so crucially important it can’t possibly be put off and only we can be the ones to do it.

I know from my own experience in the corporate world, that it's really hard to fight the perceived expectations we have of what it takes to be successful, or what it looks like to be an elite performer, because we’ve been conditioned to believe we have to be busy all the time or we’ll look like we’re slacking (and then someone else will pick up the promotion we’ve been doing all of this to be in with a shot of).

I know that uncomfortable anxiety when you leave your phone upstairs in the evening in case you miss a client email that can’t be left for 5 minutes unanswered.

I get that there’s always something going on, or going wrong, or a really tight deadline, or you ‘just need to check something’ or make sure something was sent out (god forbid there was a mistake in it).

And I fully relate to the sleepless nights working past dinner & then being unable to switch off, the drowsy drives to the office to get there before everyone else.

But I’ve also seen how that affects performance, then (physical & mental) health, which in turn affects performance… it's a vicious cycle.

So how can you break the cycle, & actually put your performance at the top of its game by listening to your body first?

This is where a strong & healthy mindset comes in to carry you through on the high road.

Your mindset is as important if not more important than your skill set when it comes to succeeding in your career & being a great leader.

To create the ultimate win-win situation - acing your performance at work, making your boss happy AND taking care of yourself so you feel at your best every day - you need a level of awareness of your self confidence & self esteem that allows you to make the best decisions for the best outcome.

If you knew with absolute certainty that leaving on time, so you could hit the gym on the way home, make a delicious home-cooked dinner, relax with a film & get a restful night’s sleep, would make the difference between you winning & losing a pitch, or writing a spell-binding piece of work vs one that would pass (so naturally your boss would be more than happy for you to do that)… would you do it?

And if you knew you were going to be going home on time every day & switching off, how would that influence how you spend your time at work during the day? I wonder how many meetings you might no longer be available for, or how long you’d spend writing & re-writing that email, or politely nodding along to a conversation that you didn't need to be involved in.

This is the fundamental focus of the work I do with the clients I partner with - helping them understand why they fear the outcome of doing what they know is best & how to overcome that, to create those win-win situations every day.

It’s not all about getting 8 hours a night every night - of course there are times when we do need to push a bit harder & it’s just not possible to leave on time for a while - but it’s about context. Really understanding where you draw your energy from, honouring your own body & working style (without comparison to others), then giving yourself what you need before you hit breaking point.

The strategy side of my coaching work is what helps clients really apply these principles to their working day - it’s all well & good doing the mindset work & understanding the theory of what a perfect world would look like, but implementation is what creates the results & actually enables you to have this balance of success & fulfilment.

Imagine being recognised as someone who’s:

  • Absolutely outstanding at their job

  • Delivers exceptional work

  • Has a team of loyal, motivated & talented proteges

  • Consistently goes above & beyond to contribute to the future success of the company

Yet you find it as easy as a stroll on the beach, because you put in the effort to take care of yourself first, so you’re consistently showing up like a fresh resource every day?

Your boss needs somebody who can take some of the pressure off their shoulders, who they can trust to get the job done to an exceptional standard so they can relax a bit - & who they know is reliable enough to not only take care of themselves but take care of the team around them too.

So if you’re working towards a promotion right now (or even just wishing it was on the radar), you need to nail this concept ASAP so you can not only perform at a much higher level consistently, but feel great doing it.

Be the tortoise, enjoy the journey & you’ll go on growing & succeeding much longer than you thought possible!

As a career performance coach, I specialise in helping the next generation of leaders to elevate themselves to this next level of delivery in their roles, create a sought-after reputation for themselves & make a real impact in their career, so they get the progression & fulfilment that makes them truly happy, now & in the long term!

Find out more about how you can work with me to stride stress-free into your next promotion here

13 views0 comments