The Corporate Athlete

A few weeks ago during a discussion with a pioneer in the fields of change and performance shift, the term “corporate athlete” came up. Intrigued by this concept, I did a bit of research and came across a 2001 HBR article by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz (

This article raises many great discussion points and topics for exploration within the context of sustained organisational peak performance.

For years management theorists have been trying to figure out exactly what the difference that makes the difference is in peak-performing individuals, teams and organisations. One of the greatest questions that we must ask ourselves now is why haven’t we found this elixir? At Quintessential Performance, we believe that the silver bullet hasn’t been found because it cannot exist.

One of the issues we believe is that for too long, organisations have been trying to find the key ‘component’ that can be replaced to ‘fix’ the ‘problem’ surrounding performance. A root cause behind this issue is the thinking that organisations in the modern era are mechanistic or industrial.

This is not the case.

We must observe and interact with our organisations exactly as they are; a collection of human beings brought together to perform a function. Organisations are complex organisms, just like human beings.

Another area of concern is that performance improvement for a long time has been too engrossed with only looking at people from the neck up. We are a whole and therefore need to be developed as a whole; psychologically, physiologically and emotionally.

How many organisations or consultants brought in to enhance performance consider the physical, emotional and spiritual development of the people whom they are trying to develop?

Our final two thoughts are regarding stress and habits.

Stress has gained a bad reputation recently which is undeserved in our opinion. We tend to learn better when in stressful simulations where risk can be managed. This is why the military has used adventurous training for many years. Not only does it provide new adventures, develop team relationships and communication skills but it forces us to stretch our personal capabilities far beyond what we often deem possible. Stress is good, without it we cannot grow.

Peak performance is not a singular act, but a habit. It is a process, not an outcome. You have to work at developing peak performing habits every single day.

How much longer can companies continue to ignore physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing in their pursuit of peak performance development? An athlete, especially someone performing professionally understands the importance to develop themselves in a balanced way. They know that to compete at the highest levels for prolonged periods of time requires dedication to improving all aspects of themselves in and out of their chosen profession. It is only those that master this, truly become great and have long, successful careers.

Individuals, teams and organisations who want to do just this in their chosen corporate arena should ensure that they adopt a similar methodology. We don’t mean copy what successful people do, that will not necessarily work for you as we are all different.

Take what you can from their approach, use a framework of success to imitate success. Compare the approaches, not the results. By doing this, you may be able to see how successful people develop themselves in mind, body and spirit and where you perhaps do not.

At Quintessential Performance, we use our holistic approach to help build peak performing individuals, teams and organisations. Developing people as a whole; psychologically, physiologically and emotionally so that they can perform at their peak within their chosen context.

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