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Be The Best: Habits and Mindsets for Top Performance

It’s game day. Beads of perspiration slide down your face as you clutch tightly onto your cricket bat. In a couple of seconds, you’ll hit the ball. This a make-it or break-it moment which you have painstakingly spent months training for. You know that the stakes have never been higher in your entire cricketing career — a home run will allow your team to make it to the international league after having languished in obscurity for the past five years. But if you miss the shot, you guys will have to pack your bags and head home crestfallen. It’s time to shine, you tell yourself.

Redefining “High Performance”

According to Simon Taufel, a former international cricket umpire and winner of the International Cricket Council’s Umpire of the Year Award for a record consecutive five times, the phrase “high performance” doesn’t quite sit well with him. In a recent Tigerhall podcast, he mentions that he’s reluctant to use the term because it possesses a connotation of elitism and creates unrealistic expectations about how high performance is supposed to be the final destination. Performance, in his opinion, should be about competing with oneself and getting better every day. By focusing on the process and not the outcome, you’ll find yourself reaching each pitstop more satisfied.

9 Character Traits to Propel You to the Top

There are no shortcuts to success. The first ingredient you need is hard work. This is because there's some truth to the adage, "The harder you work, the luckier you get." Secondly, you need to be passionate about what you are doing. A recent survey conducted by the Straits Times found out that only 41.8% of young Singaporeans felt that their job must hold some meaning for them. If you’re part of this group that chases after your passion, going the extra mile will not seem like a chore. An underrated trait is commitment. You can dream to be a high performer all you want, but if you’re not going to commit yourself to get there, you’re merely fooling yourself.

Next, accountability. Take responsibility for your own performance. It’s your own reputation on the line after all. Emotional intelligence is also crucial. You need to be able to be a team player to ensure that your team performs up to standard as well. Courage is another trait to embrace. Have the courage to step out of your comfort zone and the courage to say no when necessary.

Humility is also vital to becoming a high performer in the corporate world. For example, research published in Administrative Science Quarterly confirms that actions associated with humility, including soliciting feedback, generated higher levels of engagement and performance. Also, be hungry. Successful people tend to have this tremendous drive to keep going and achieving in spite of all the barriers in their way. Lastly, be respectful towards the opportunity at hand. Ask Kate Cross, and she will tell you that she relishes every opportunity to play in a test match. Regard every day as a gift and ask yourself what you can do today to take your career forward.

Rulebook for Leading a High Performing Team

Simon, who has personally witnessed many high-performing cricket captains leading equally distinguished teams, notes that the best leaders, such as Mike Taylor and Stephen Wall, tend to be very clear and focused about what their team is about. They seek to articulate a common purpose. As a result, players in the team naturally take ownership of their roles and deliver.

Successful teams also usually put in place a set of consistent norms that everyone has to abide by. In the game of cricket for example, this consistency could apply to anything from the uniform to punctuality. Imagine if you have a match at ten in the morning but you end up missing the bus! You have no choice but to make your own way there. In a team where the culture of consistency is strong, arriving late at the dressing room in a taxi is not something that will go down well with the team. Hence, the implementation of ground rules boosts team performance.

Thriving in Stressful Situations

How then, does one maintain peak performance on game day? Well, according to the Inverted U-Theory which has withstood the trial of time, peak performance is achieved when the level of pressure one experiences is appropriate for the work that one is doing. Simon, who has gone through his share of stressful situations on the playing field, concedes that the key to managing expectations is to forgive oneself for blunders made in the heat of the moment. Painfully recalling his worst test match in terms of decision making performance, he admitted that he had beat himself up for erring one time too many. He was so fixated on getting every decision right that he was not able to reset himself emotionally after making a mistake. A slip on Day 1 soon gave rise to seven gaffes over the next few days. As Simon walked off the Trent Bridge playing field for a break on Day 4, Clive Lloyd, who was the referee then, put his hand on Simon’s shoulder and said, “Hang in there, mate.” And that really is what it’s all about. It’s only human to bungle up under pressure. But diamonds are formed from one’s ability to recover from setbacks.

The ball comes whizzing your way. You close your eyes and swing your bat towards it, having etched that particular motion into muscle memory with months of training. You force your eyes open as the spectators boo loudly. You missed the shot. But you know that it’s not yet over. This is just the first out of the many games that your team will be playing. Game on!, you tell yourself.

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