Maximizing Human Performance

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10 Steps to Achieving Maximized

There are ten main steps to maximizing human performance for any type of organization or team.  These steps are the responsibility of the entire organization or team and not just the responsibility of an isolated coach, instructor, or managers.  These individuals may have direct responsibility for specific segments as well as provide support through the entire process.  However, since some of these steps may be outside the direct control of the individual they may only be able to influence and not control those factors.  The individuals should still attempt to positively affect those factors that they may have some influence or control over.  

The following ten steps are designed to maximize human performance for any type of organization or team.

  • Determine Measurable Performance Outcomes (MPO)
  • Assess Ability and/or Aptitude
  • Set Performance Goals and Objectives
  • Create Proper Mind Set
    • Provide Motivation / Desire
    • Instill Belief
    • Create Relaxed Focus
  • Provide Knowledge (Training / Coaching) to Enhance Skills
  • Provide a Favorable Environment
  • Provide Proper Tools, Resources, and Equipment
  • Create Positive, Comfortable, and Encouraging Climate
  • Evaluate Performance and Provide Feedback
  • Provide Recognition and Rewards


Determine Measurable Performance Outcomes (MPO)

The first step to maximizing performance is to determine specific measurable performance outcomes (MPO).  This step involves determining what to measures, and not necessarily determining the actual desired level of performance.  For example, an MPO may be “number of units sold per month”, rather than “20 units sold per month.”  The former just sets the measureable outcome and not the desired level of the outcome.  We do not determine the desired performance level at this stage because each individual has his or her unique ability and aptitude, hence, he or she will have a different maximum performance level.  Keep in mind maximum human performance varies for each person depending on numerous individual factors (e.g. age, size, experience, or aptitude).

Examples of MPO include:

  • Time to complete race
  • Number of calls taken per hour for a customer service representative
  • Free throw percentage for a basketball player
  • Strikes to ball ratios for pitchers
  • Number of cars sold per month
  • Grade on test for student

Assess Ability and/or Aptitude

In order to determine the maximum potential for performance, the individual’s ability and aptitude has to be determined.  Therefore, assess the individual’s current ability and/or aptitude levels.  Assess as many attributes of the person in order to obtain a complete assessment of their ability.  For example, if you were to assess a baseball pitcher, you may assess size, arm strength, control, ball speed, durability, injury history, hand/eye coordination, types of pitches he or she can throw, etc…

The National Football League uses the “Scouting Combines” to assess college players to determine their potential to succeed at the professional level.  During the combines, the players perform physical and mental tests.  An athlete’s overall performance during the Combine can greatly affect their future draft status, salary, and overall career.  The athlete’s “draft stock” can be increased or decreased based on measurable qualities such as size, speed and strength.

The more key focal points you can assess, generally the better the analysis.  However, too much information may lead to “analysis paralysis” which refers to over-analyzing or over-thinking, so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome.  Therefore, when starting your initial assessment, try to determine the key assessment points.  You can always add more to “fine tune” a person’s performance.

It is important to assess ability separate from knowledge.  Ability may or may not be able be increased with knowledge.  If I do not have the ability to jump high enough to dunk a basketball, no matter how much know about dunking a ball will not allow me to dunk the ball.   On the contrary, if a baseball pitcher may not be able to throw a curveball because they simply lack the knowledge.

Set Performance Goals and Objectives

Performance goals and objectives should be set based on the individual’s or group’s ability and/or aptitude.  Each individual has their unique ability and aptitude, therefore, they will have a different maximum performance levels.  For example, a basketball player who is 6′ 11” would probably have a higher potential for rebounding then a player who is only 5′ 8”.  A person who has the ability to type 60 words per minute would be expected to type a letter quicker than a person who can only type 30 words per minute.  Keep in mind, however, that ability can possible be increased with education, training, and coaching.

The key to setting goals are to make them performance based and not outcome based.  Although the ultimate goal is top attain a favorable outcome, the individuals objectives should be performance based and not outcome based.  In other words, the focus of the performance should be what he or she has control over, and not the ultimate outcome.  A sprinter, for example, may run her personal best in a race, but still come in fourth place.  The sprinter can control how fast she runs, but she is unable to control who is in the race and how fast the others run.   Therefore, if an outcome goal was set for the sprinter to come in first place, she would not have reached the goal even though she ran her fastest time ever.  This can be very de-motivating to the individual.


Examples of Performance Goals:

  • A pitcher’s goal may be to throwing the ball in specific locations and not focus on giving up hits.
  • A salesperson’s goal may be to highlight all special features of an appliance when speaking to a customer.
  • A student goal may be to correctly list all of the states and their capitals.


Create Proper Mind Set

Possibly, the most important principal factor in achieving peak performance is a person’s mind set.  It was Henry Ford who phrased it best when he said; “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Many times when an underdog wins it comes down to desire and belief.  They want to win and believe they can win.

Mind set can be divided into several different segments.  We chose the following three main segments:

1.      Motivation

2.      Belief / Self-Confidence

3.      Relaxed focus



Motivation:  Motivation is what initiates, controls, and maintains an individual’s behavior.  It can be influenced by internal and external factors.

The biggest challenges with motivation are that there are many different forces affecting it, and people are motivated for different reasons.  Motivation can involve many forces including biological, emotional, social, and cognitive.   Some of these forces affecting motivation may not be easily controlled or influenced.  Also, the individual may be motivated for different reasons.  What motivates one individual will not necessarily motivate another.

Types of motivation include:

  • Self motivated
  • Peer / socially motivated
  • Fear motivated
  • Reward motivated (materialism)
  • Recognition motivated (social status)


The key is to find out what motivates the individual or group and put in place the correct incentives.


Belief / self-confidence:  Self belief/self confidence is essential for a successful performance.  Self-confidence is an attitude or belief which allows individuals to have positive views of themselves and their abilities.  When people feel confident about themselves and their abilities, they are more likely to turn potential into peak performance.  Conversely, when they feel unsure of themselves, the slightest setback or hurdle can have an adverse effect on their performance.

Self confidence may be boosted by techniques of visualization and positive self-talk, or by learning how to adopt a ‘can-do’ attitude.


Relaxed Focus:  People can perform very well, but if they want to reach peak performance they need to balance relaxation and focus.  When a person is achieving peak performance it seems almost effortless.  Some people refer to it as “the zone.”   The zone is the mental state where a person has the perfect balance between relaxation and focus.


Provide Knowledge to Enhance Skills

Provide the individual or group with the required knowledge and/or training to enhance his or her skills.  Knowledge enhancement or training can be performed in many different ways including the following:

  • Formal classroom setting
  • Group or team coaching (i.e. basketball or baseball team)
  • Independent reading
  • One the job training
  • On-line computer based training
  • One-on-one coaching

Provide a Favorable Environment

The environment refers to the physical environment in which the performance is taking place (e.g. stadium, store, office, or classroom).  Environment is different from climate (listed below), which refers to emotional atmosphere surrounding the performance (e.g. hostile work environment, cheering crowd, etc…).

Examples of an adverse environment include:

  • raining during a race
  • very hot classroom while taking a test
  • noisy construction in an adjacent building while taking customer calls


Although not always in our control, we want to create the best possible environment for the performance.  This may be down by moving the physical environment to a different location or influencing the current factors which are adversely affecting the environment.


Provide Proper Tools, Resources, and Equipment

Potentially significant factors in performance are the tools and/or equipment utilized to perform the actions.  For example, an administrative assistant using a ten year old computer will not be as productive as one who has the same ability but is using a brand new computer.  A carpenter using a nail gun will be more productive than if he was using a hammer.

Create Positive, Comfortable, and Encouraging Climate

Climate is different from environment (listed above).  Environment refers to the physical surroundings while climate refers to emotional atmosphere surrounding the performance (e.g. hostile work environment, home crowd cheering, high pressure stressful office, etc…).

Creating the ideal climate can be very tricky, because the climate can greatly impact an individual’s or a group’s mind set.  Some people feel more pressure playing a home game and are more relaxed on the road, while some other people prefer to play in front of their home crowd with the crowd cheering the team on.  Likewise, a sales person or student may be more comfortable doing a presentation in front of total strangers versus their colleagues or classmates.  However, that is more an affect on a person mind set then on the climate.  Generally, most people prefer a positive, encouraging and supportive climate.

Simply said, happy content people are more productive.  On the contrary, negativity can immensely slow down productivity.  For example, if people feel their company does not treat their employees well, they may bring a negative energy into the work place and slow down production not just for themselves but for others around them.  Professional sports are full of stories where an individual or group of individuals can make or break the climate in the locker room.

Evaluate Performance and Provide Positive Feedback

To determine if the person or group is achieving the desired results, their performance has to be monitored and measured.  However, it is not enough to just monitor a person’s performance, it must be analyzed and the individual or group must be given feedback on their performance.  This feedback should be positive and constructive.

Provide Recognition and Rewards

The final step to ensuring continuous peak performance is to recognize and reward individuals and groups for their performance.  Even people who are self-motivated hard workers will begin to decrease his or her performance levels if they are not recognized or rewarded for his or her achievements.  People want to feel appreciated, and if they are not appreciated his or her performance levels will often decrease.

People often look at performance as “what’s in it for me.”  They want to know how they will personally benefit by performing at a high level.  Will they receive a raise or get promoted?  Will they be on the starting team? As part of motivation, inform people what the rewards are for performing well.

It is important not only to provide rewards and recognition, but also present them when justified.  For example, if you say, “whoever works the hardest will be on the starting team”; make sure you follow through.

The Peak Performance Center


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