Do You Know What Drives High Performance?

I was fortunate enough to attend a masterclass with Gilbert Enoka recently. Gilbert is a legend in the world of elite sport, having worked with the New Zealand All Blacks for more than 20 years, initially as a mental skills coach and more recently as Manager. During his time with the team, it has won back-to-back Rugby World Cups, one Laureus Award for the best team in the world, 17 Bledisloe Cups, three Grand Slams, seven Tri Nations and five Rugby Championships.

Safe to say Gilbert knows a bit about what helps to create and sustain high-performing teams – in the good times and the slumps.

He shared several core principles and ideas that connected with Becoming AntiFragile and Resetting Accountability that made me ponder on where the value for high performance truly lies in teams.

Gilbert’s first principle was, there is no silver bullet and no magic wand to achieve high performance – it’s about working hard and smart. “There are two ways to do things” he said, “the right way… and again.”
So true.

And notice it’s the ‘right way’, and that doesn’t mean perfection. Doing something ‘right’ is as much about how you get the work done as it is about what you get done. A ‘perfect’ work outcome (if there is such a thing) doesn’t excuse a process that creates damage along the way – particularly when that damage is to other people’s confidence or motivation.

A second principle Gilbert shared with us from his experience with the All Blacks was that high performance comes from ‘radical traditionalism’. What does this mean? “Preserve the core and disrupt the edges” was Gilbert’s advice.

It’s true isn’t it? Often we look for (or wait for) the ‘next big thing’ to come along and shift performance, and yet as I wrote in my book Becoming AntiFragile, this simply isn’t the way innovation works. We need to value better, not bigger and look to tweak rather than transform. The Learning Loop and using a Tinkering mindset that I unpack in the book can help us do this day to day.

One of the final idea’s Gilbert shared with us was a challenge to how we define high performance.

How do you define it? What does high performance look like for you personally? How do you recognise it in the people you work with or lead? What about in your team?

Gilbert’s challenge was that we need to move away from thinking of high performance as based in outcomes to understanding it as ‘absolute engagement’. “When all of me and all of you is in every moment” he shared with us, “high performance becomes inevitable.”

And too often it’s when we’re not doing this, when we’re not showing up and being present in the moment that our stories take over and we undo ourselves before we’ve even taken a step on the field and had a chance at high performance. You can read more about how to cut through your stories in this blog I wrote a few months back.

Showing up, being present, doing the right work, the right way and being prepared to learn and adjust along the way. This is where the high-performance value lies in each of us individually and in our teams.

So if you’re looking to lead yourself or your team to high-performance, if you’re holding that central AntiFragile question “How can we be better coming out of this that we were coming in?” Gilbert’s wisdom gives you a powerful perspective on where the value lies in your team.

Want more?

You can read more about how leaders can take a more effective approach to accountability in the e-book I’ve written based on my research, The Accountability Reset. Just click here to download it.

Time to talk?

If you’d like to talk about how we can work together to help you, your leadership team or your organisation reduce fragility by resetting accountability. Simply click here and I’ll be in touch.

Dr Paige Williams

Dr Paige Williams

International Speaker, Author, Mentor


Determined to help leaders move beyond just the need for resilience, Paige provides practical, evidence-based strategies for leaders to become antifragile, lead themselves and their teams to thrive and succeed in the Decade of Disruption.

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