Peak Performance: How to nurture your team’s energy levels to create high-performance

After working through a busy period at work, how do you feel?   

Immediately after, you might feel elated and accomplished, especially if you’ve achieved a personal goal or exceeded an important target. But how would you feel if you had to work at this level all the time?  

As part of Kultralab’s recent global study, ‘The Secret DNA of High-Performing Teams’, we conducted 200+ interviews across 50+ top performing retail teams, with the goal of uncovering the daily actions and behaviours that create high performance. One crucial finding was that great teams regularly alternate between four different ‘types’ of performance to ensure long-term results and sustained energy levels. 

In this blog series, we’ll explore each of the four individually to understand their benefits, as well as some of their potential ‘red flags’ to outline the importance of striking a careful balance between them. 

Peak Performance  

As its name suggests, ‘peak performance’ is usually triggered in high-demand moments, like peak trading periods. In this state, teams are pushed to their limits to meet customer needs, giving intense bursts of energy. Imagine it like an Olympic sprint: runners like Usain Bolt use intense bursts of energy to get to the finish line, often creating exceptional results. But whilst it can feel energising, athletes can’t remain in a state of exertion forever, and neither can teams. That’s because human performance fluctuates regularly in patterns of activity and intensity, and our energy levels are ever changing depending on our environment.  

In Stevan E. Hobfoll’s Conversation of Resources theory (1989) he asserts that maintaining and boosting individuals’ mental ‘resources’ is crucial for preserving well-being and sustained high performance. However, he also states that these resources are finite, and since peak trading periods require significant energy, they can lead to quicker resource depletion, increasing the risk of stress and burnout if not managed properly. Therefore, the best managers empower their teams to ‘shine’ in busy periods, whilst finding plenty of opportunities to help them recover their energy. 

Peak Performance Stories 

It’s undeniable that for many of the teams we interviewed, ‘peak’ states of performance can be both empowering and rewarding. For example, one manager from a clothing retailer we interviewed said,

“I’ve got one lad; he smashes it. He loves busy periods. He’s always setting new targets so he can exceed them.” 

A grocery retail manager we interviewed also spoke of the self-gratification this state provides, saying

“I think people thrive when they feel like they’ve worked hard or achieved something.”

However, when not managed carefully, the pressure of peak performance can quickly become unsustainable, having a negative impact on teams’ resilience and wellbeing. For example, another manager from a clothing retailer we interviewed said,

“It’s always fast-paced – sometimes too fast-paced. It can get a bit stressful when targets need to be reached, like a weight on your shoulders.”

Speaking of their Boxing Day ‘rush’, another manager said,

“It was really overwhelming. Staff members were overwhelmed quickly. Attitudes changed when we got a surge of customers and performance dropped.”

Managing Peak Performance 

To create long-term high-performance, it’s essential that leaders and managers not only conserve their own resources to be able to recover quickly from challenging periods at work, but also recognise ways to sustain their team’s energy.   

Some ways to do this can include providing teams with the appropriate training and resources to help them feel more equipped in their jobs, providing a supportive environment where teams feel valued and appreciated, and where possible, providing both flexible working arrangements and manageable workloads. 

What ideas can you put into practice to help your teams recover from intense, high-demand and energy-draining periods at work today?  

If you would like to learn moreabout how you can nurture your team’s energy levels and create scalable high-performance results, contact us  

To download your full copy of our recent global study, click  here.