High performance teams in organisations by Neil Crofts

In the world of elite professional sport athletes and teams look for every opportunity to improve physical and psychological performance. Not just for the athletes themselves but for management and operations support as well. Top Formula One teams and Pro Cycling teams expect back office staff and management to pay attention to: Sleep rest and recovery, nutrition, hydration, exercise and mindfulness. These teams provide psychological and physiological coaching and training to team members so that everyone can be at their most effective most of the time.

In business by contrast we often expect our most senior executives to be able to perform on a solid diet of long haul flights, disrupted sleep, late nights, alcohol, complexity and stress. Quite apart from exhaustion, low energy, forgetfulness and burnout, one of the daily consequences of this is psychological triggering. The more physiologically and psychologically stressed we are the more vulnerable we are to being triggered. When we are triggered we go from being the best version of ourselves to a lesser version. Usually this means going from being interdependent and collaborative, willing to trust and be vulnerable to Independent, siloed and mistrusting or even dependent, waiting to be told what to do and unable to take the initiative.

Following on from the fascinating work on triggering and emotional regulation we have been doing with some clients, we have been keen to explore ways in which we could measure stress and it's impact on behaviour through triggering. We were fortunate to connect with https://www.adeki.me who do this work in a sporting context and use sophisticated tools to measure micro changes in heart rate which gives an accurate picture of the bio reaction to psychological (and other) stress. Using this we can get a window into the biology of stress, moment by moment, in a challenging meeting for example and therefore the qualities and demands of the emotional regulation required to stay calm and avoid triggering under such circumstances. The measurements give us a route into deeper mental health and habits that impact psychological fitness such as nutrition, hydration, sleep/rest, mindfulness and exercise. This is deep stuff and will be most suitable for coaching or executive team situations where managing stress, emotional regulation or achieving really high performance are key issues.

Kieran Blay the founder of Adeki Performance….

At Adeki we believe in performance-through-wellness, that your true potential can only be unlocked by first building a solid foundation of wellness. Athletes, executives and everyone in between, are human - made up of the same internal systems - we just shape our lives differently. Everyone deals with stress and has to recover from it. These two elements are managed internally by the autonomic nervous system, which is split into the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches.

The sympathetic branch deals with our ‘fight or flight’ reactions, our stress response, which evolved our as an alarm system when animals or our ancestors were under attack. Triggering this response readies the body to take action and inhibits many internal processes, to channel energy into immediate survival. After the threat passed, they revert to ‘normal’ and recover before the next threat comes along. Essentially, this response helps keep all animals, including humans, alive in order to increase the chances to pass on their genes.

The parasympathetic nervous system mediates our ‘rest and digest’ response. It is the yang to the fight and flight yin. Connected to many of the same organs and processes as the sympathetic nervous system it promotes the opposite effect: recovery, rest, digestion and procreation. We need both systems to function but modern, fast paced lives have a tendency to become sympathetic dominant. We struggle to release and resolve threats from our minds. This shifts balance and prevents us fully recovering before the next threat or stressful situation presents itself. Unfortunately for us our systems do not distinguish between physical and psychological stress and the long term effects of an overload of either can have negative and, in some cases, life-limiting effects.

A good balance between stress and recovery is needed to live optimally and, thankfully, recent advancements in technology now allow us monitor this balance around the clock. Using clever wearable tech and the science of heart rate variability we can add an objective measure to help assess our lifestyle (it's a long story... but effectively the gaps between each of our heart beats are influenced second-by-second by the balance of our nervous systems and we can now measure this).

At Adeki we take a holistic approach and our lifestyle assessment focuses on stress, recovery, sleep and exercise. Many people say they sleep enough but it is not the hours you spend with your eyes shut that count but how well you have recovered in that time. Our own studies have shown that in athletes, training and competition were often not the biggest factors of fatigue. Travel, work stress, domestic stress, nutrition and sleep were often bigger contributors. All of us can picture one or more of these affecting our daily performance over the years, but do you know which is the biggest influencer or threat to your performance?

If not, it's time to find out.

Holos and Adeki are looking for individuals or teams in stressful jobs and challenging situations who are interested in maximising their individual and collective performance and in working at both a psychological and physiological level. Participants will need to be interested to review their lifestyles and potentially to make changes to habits in the areas of rest and recovery, nutrition, hydration, exercise and leadership in ways that improve both performance and wellbeing.

If you are leading or part of a team that might be interested in treating your working performance like that of an elite professional sports team, let’s have a chat and explore how we might collaborate.


The Business Transformation Network has posted this article in partnership with Holos Change.


Neil Crofts is a business consultant who has inspired and motivated hundreds of organisations and thousands of individuals to their highest potential. Neil has written four published books and numerous e-books. Neil is a facilitator, coach and consultant who inspires and motivates organisations to create and curate the kind of leadership and culture that lead to sustained success. Through global consultancy Holos, Neil helps some of the largest corporations in the world to optimise leadership and culture.

In previous lives Neil has raced cars, been self-employed, run a company and sold it, been employed by large companies, experienced growth and contraction at the heart of the dotcom boom, tried changing companies from the inside and from the outside as European Head of Strategy at internet consultancy/rock band Razorfish.

Specialities: Cultural Innovation and Authentic Leadership, especially familiar with finance, IT, transport, health and energy sectors