Hallowell (2011) explains, “What I mean by peak performance—and what most of us seek in our lives and what managers wish to help their people achieve—is consistent excellence with improvement over time at a specific task or set of tasks.” He further asserts, “Those three factors—excellence, consistency, and ongoing improvement—define peak performance for my purposes” (p. 32). Managers should always be on the lookout for employees who just don’t “fit in” with the organization’s culture. Hallowell (2011) explains, “you can tell a person is not in the right role if he feels no enthusiasm for what he’s doing, if his mind never lights up, if he never gets excited about his job, if he chronically complains” and further states, “This doesn’t mean he’s a dull person or that the line of work he has chosen is intrinsically dull, just that he’s not assigned to the right task” (p. 47). Being assigned the right tasks and then being responsible for those tasks relates to the “division of labor” concept coined by Adam Smith (1776). Hallowell (2011) explains, “The goal is for employees to spend as much time as possible at the intersection of three spheres: what they like to do, what they are most skilled at doing, and what adds value to the project or organization” (p. 49). For peak performance or enhancing productivity levels, many would argue that specific tasks should be assigned to specific individuals with specific skills. Strategic leaders are known for being able to quickly match skills to tasks.
HR managers need to understand the importance of employees having fun while at work. Many organizations are highly task oriented and forget the importance of being relationship oriented. Hallowell (2011) explains, “One way you can tell if your employees are in alignment with the Cycle of Excellence is to see if they are having fun” (p. 47). For example, some modern managers see the value of having fun at work or even taking time off from work to just relax and reflect. For example, Bill Gates is famous “for taking seven days off, twice a year, in a secluded cabin where he reads, drinks diet Orange Crush, and thinks” (p. 131).
Hallowell (2011) provides the following recommendation for managers, “Consider having a goofy day of some sort now and then. It must conform to the basic rules and values of your organization’s culture, of course. But make it fun” (p. 129). By having a goofy day at work or dressing up for certain holidays, employees are able to have some fun, which also relieves stress. Hallowell (2011) explains, “Effective management limits bad stress as much as possible, while promoting good stress in the form of surmountable challenges” (p. 143). Effective managers also understand the importance of recognizing employees for their daily contributions. Hallowell (2011) states, “Recognition is so powerful because it answers a fundamental human need, the need to feel valued for what we do. Managers are in a unique position to offer—or withhold—such recognition, and with it, the feeling of being valued” (p. 162). Hallowell (2011) provides a unique example from Harvard University that reinforces the importance and significance of recognizing all employees and not just the popular ones. Hallowell (2011) explains,
To celebrate those who worked in nonacademic jobs, an outside group helped create an event called “Harvard Heroes.” It was a phenomenal success until it was discontinued for budgetary reasons in 2009. Once a year, exactly one week after Harvard University’s commencement ceremonies, the university held a parallel ceremony to honor selected employees who had gone above and beyond everyday achievement in their work (pp. 168-169).
The “Harvard Heroes” example depicts the importance of recognizing the employees who are at times, behind the scenes. According to Hallowell (2011), the five steps to igniting peak performance in an organization is called the Cycle of Excellence (pp. 6-7):
Step 1—Select: Putting people into the right jobs so that their brains light up.
Step 2—Connect: Overcoming the potent forces that disconnect people in the workplace both from each other and from the mission of the organization, and restoring the force of positive connection, which is the most powerful fuel for peak performance.
Step 3—Play: Play, or imaginative engagement, catalyzes advanced work, and managers can help people tap into this phenomenally productive yet undervalued activity of the mind.
Step 4—Grapple and grow: Managers can create conditions where people want to work hard, and employees making progress at a task that is challenging and important turns ordinary performers into superstars and increases commitment.
Step 5—Shine: Doing well—shining—feels good, so giving recognition and noticing when a person shines is critical, and a culture that helps people shine inevitably becomes a culture of self-perpetuating excellence.
The five steps of the Cycle of Excellence provide a novel approach to maximizing peak performance.
Reference: Hallowell, E.M. (2011). Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best From Your People. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review. (This book is not required).
Drawing on the material in the background readings and doing additional research, please prepare a 3-5 page paper (not including the cover and reference pages) in which you:
- Analyze the five steps of the cycle of excellence and discuss the added value of using the cycle of excellence.
- Which step is the most important and which step is the least important?
- Critique Hallowell’s cycle of excellence and then create your own cycle of excellence. Discuss how your cycle of excellence is the optimum approach for managing human capital.