A Professor of Psychology recently told me that , having worked with Olympic athletes for many years, it is clear that the single most important factor in being in contention for a medal was the capacity of the individual to survive the specific disciplines of the training regime. Swimmers and rowers have to be able to train consistently at 5am; distance runners have to remain injury-free though punishing mileage and boxers must accept consistent, painful injury.
From there it is then possible for coaching to begin the process of structured micro adaptation to deliver exceptional performance.
How does this translate across to the executive workforce? In short, most recruitment, appraisal and development processes embed extensive IQ and EQ assessment - from professional qualifications, to 360 feedback, psychometric profiles and 1-1 interviews. There is no physiological dimension - yet.
As a consequence, Darwinian principles apply. Different roles demand different responses from an executive's body. Doctors must adapt to irregular sleep patterns - particularly before they specialise. Traders are required to perform from very early in the morning. And corporate lawyers will often meet deadlines by working for 48 hours with little or no sleep,
For the past 9 months we, at PQ, have been gathering research-grade physiological data from dozens of executives aged 25-65, mostly working for large corporations in areas of Finance, Investment, Government, Media, High Performance Coaching, HR. Every executive was categorised as high performing.
The perspective that PQ provided to the individuals was focused on the inputs and physiological investment required by each of these executives to deliver the required results. And here we discovered the true tariff imposed on the individual. There are 5 key aspects that PQ has identified.
Recovery defines the frontiers of Resilience. The quality of Sleep and the quantity of Daytime Recovery relative to Stress are the fundamental parameters of measurement here. To date only 3% of measured executives approached the level of consistent Recovery recorded by world champion athletes. Consequently, 97% of the executives that we measured are candidates for fatigue and stress-related illness.
Stress is unmanaged by most executives as a powerful performance enhancement tool. Language regarding Stress is almost wholly negative. This is the result of a lack of relevant education. Peak Performance is unobtainable without the focused, informed management of Stress. The key is to understand that each individual must manage their Stress responses with regard to their own profile. This is a learned skill.
Everyone's PQ Profile is as unique as our fingerprints or irises. Without a comprehensive baseline it is impossible to adapt behaviour to optimise performance and support wellbeing. Wrist-based wearables cannot provide a framework. Generic wellbeing programmes are built around average profiles - and not a single executive profiles as average.
Physical exercise is fundamental to effective PQ management. More than 90% of the measured executives are under-exercised relative to capacity. Some individuals, the minority, need more exercise to fire their metabolism in response to powerful Recovery profiles. Early morning grogginess, for them, is not a sign of fatigue. How confusing is that?
The boiled frog factor. Human beings are astonishingly adaptable. Most of the executives' PQ Profiles record the effects of years of adjustment to the professional culture they work in. Self-reporting daily physiological factors record that, on average, executives are 30-40% inaccurate. Most underestimate Stress and overestimate Recovery. In reality, just like the frog slowly being boiled by small increments in heat, many executives find a way to perform in spite of a headwind of negative physiological factors. Until they pass through an unmanaged threshold.
Put together these 5 factors tell us that there is a new frontier of executive performance that is emerging. PQ is simply too important to be managed unprofessionally or generically.
If the frog was shown the temperature of the water, would it stay in the pan?