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Your Weekly Leadership HVA (High Value Activity)

Hello Lifelong Learner ...

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions) to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites #8: A common misconception is that there's less oxygen at higher altitudes — but this isn't true. Air contains 20.9% oxygen at all altitudes, however, lower air pressure at high altitude makes it feel like there's a lower percentage of oxygen. So, what does this have to do with you? If you're reading this, I'm certain you're the type of leader who's interested in continual growth; the type of leader who continually stretches yourself. When you stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone and into the 'thin air' where your learning curve is almost exponential, it might seem hard to 'breathe' at times — it may even feel overwhelming. But that's all the more reason why you need to do it.

Let me use this analogy: There's a reason why altitude training is a component of virtually all elite running programs (over 95% of all Olympic medalists have used altitude training). The basic theory of altitude training is simple: Your body responds to the shortage of oxygen availability at high altitudes by enhancing its ability to transport oxygen from the lungs to muscles. Back at sea level, this adaptation boosts your endurance. The message here for you? When you stretch yourself intellectually it may be uncomfortable, but your brain will respond to this discomfort by expanding its capability to synthesize data and connect-dots, and provide you better acuity and perceptiveness. This means when you're back at "sea level" you'll have a greater capacity to perform. When you stretch, you grow. It's as simple as that!

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Step: This week (starting today), seek out a 'high-altitude' stretch assignment that will take you into some 'thin air' (outside of your comfort zone). To get the most out of this stretch, follow these TIPS:

  • Adopt a 'Shoshin' Approach (a Beginner’s Mindset): My favorite advice to anyone starting a stretch assignment is to give yourself permission to be 'new' at it. Don't try to be the expert; instead, embrace the stretch and ask all the questions you need to ask to learn the most from the opportunity (see the next bullet-point).
  • Be Insatiably Curious/Inquisitive: Ask people in more senior positions how to get the most out of the stretch assignment and what a successful outcome for this assignment looks like to them. Speak with other stakeholders to identify shared goals and uncover challenges (proactively) you may encounter.
  • Over-Deliver: Don't overlook the fact that you've been entrusted with an opportunity and that someone likely went out on a limb for you to get this stretch assignment. When someone gives you an opportunity to stretch, don't just deliver status quo ... give it your very best (remember, people are watching!).

I'd love to hear how this HVA works for you!

Have a brilliant day ... and enjoy the journey!


Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA

RESULTant and Behavioral Engineer


"If there isn't a struggle, there's no stretch, and therefore no growth. Easy doesn't change you and comfort won't challenge you. Coasting isn't a strategy." — Farshad Asl 


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