Thursday, 01 August 2013 20:29

Achieving PEAK Performance

Written by Lou Heckler, CSP, CPAE

The elderly woman was in the grocery store checkout line at Publix next to me, and I heard her say, “I am so disappointed.”

That’s not a familiar phrase at Publix, where I have shopped for the 34 years we have lived in Florida. I wondered what happened. So, curious guy that I am, I snooped. (Just call me a very small version of what our federal government apparently does!)

Here’s what had happened: It was the week of Thanksgiving, and she had ordered a complete meal to be delivered that day, one she could reheat for guests that evening. It had not come in.

The checker called over the manager, and he listened to her frustration. I felt like I was going to customer service school as I heard his response.

“Ma’am,” he began, “I am so sorry. I know this is disappointing to you, and it is to me as well. Do you live here in this neighborhood?” She replied that she did.

“Here’s what we’ll do,” he continued. “I can get this here by 2:00 this afternoon. Would you permit me to bring this by your home? And, since we made this error and caused you this momentary difficulty, we will absorb the cost. There will be no charge to you.”

It occurred to me that this is exactly what peak performers do: They assess a situation, they immediately take corrective action, and they do all of this with a sense of grace, style, and concern for the people around them.

When I come to speak at your conference in September, I’m going to help you look at some key traits that I constantly admire in top achievers. As a former human resource professional for a multi-state broadcasting company, I was always searching for examples of terrific performance, so I could design training programs for our staff and, frankly, so I had something to emulate myself.

Now, as a professional speaker, trainer and coach, my radar dish is always up. I love watching people not only perform at a high level, but in some magical cases, make me feel like they almost reinvented the standards for their position.

Here are some of those traits that I will explore more fully in my presentation:

A powerful, personal vision: This is why Disney places trash receptacles no more than 27 paces from one another…why Lands’ End takes back returns with no questions asked…why Southwest Airlines doesn’t charge for your bags. It seems to me that people in organizations I love to deal with are always asking, “How can I see our goods or services from the perspective of my customers? What can we do to make that happen?”

A constant seeking of performance feedback: Oh, I get those electronic surveys that you get—the ones that supposedly seek your thoughts on services rendered. But, those are just number ratings most of the time. I like it when someone—yes, an actual human—calls me and says, “We know you were just here, and we really want to keep getting better at what we do. Do you have time to talk with me a little about this area?” Question: how do YOU really know if the job you are doing is the best it can be? Are you asking the right people?

A belief that success comes in small increments: I read a wonderful story some years ago about a man with one leg who had climbed to the summit of Mount Rainier, 14,410 feet. When he returned to the base, reporters asked him how he did it. With a knowing smile, he replied, “One hop at a time!” Big successes are great, but the peak performers I am inspired by build their success with everyday encounters. I subscribe to the philosophy of the former head of Scandinavian Air Systems who urged his people to be “one percent better at a thousand different things.”

The Louisville conference will be a fantastic affair, and I am honored to be part of the program. See you there!

Lou Heckler has been studying high achievers for more than 40 years. He has traveled more than four million miles over the last 33 years to speak at universities, professional association meetings, and company get-togethers. Readers of “Meetings and Conventions” magazine recently rated him one of their top keynote speakers. His session will be packed with practical ideas, easy-to-do action steps, and big doses of his trademark whimsical humor.

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