Managers sincerely want their people to achieve excellence at work. Leadership and management alike know they can’t achieve expected business results without the full engagement of individuals and teams. If leaders don’t motivate people for peak performance, companies won’t meet their projected goals, won’t innovate, won’t retain customers and most likely will go out of business.

I talk to many managers in my capacity as a coach, and many are baffled about how to truly engage their people for peak performance. What I see is that many managers and leaders are stuck in outmoded motivational incentives that don’t work.

Peak performance is the result of bringing out the best in people defined as a combination of excellence, consistency, creativity and ongoing improvement.

To achieve peak performance, one must ensure employees find the right job, tasks and conditions that match their strengths. Facilitating the right fit becomes one of management’s most crucial responsibilities. While every employee has the potential to deliver peak performance, it’s up to the manager to find ways to make it happen.

Disengaged Or Bored?

Disengaged employees often appear to lack commitment. In reality, many of them crave engagement. No one enjoys working without passion or joy.

While many factors cause disengagement, the most prevalent is feeling overwhelmed (or, conversely, underwhelmed). Disconnection and overload pose obstacles to performance, yet they often go undetected or ignored because neither qualifies as a disciplinary issue.

Meanwhile, managers try to work around such problems, hoping for a miraculous turnaround or a spark that reignites energy and drive. They try incentives, empowerment programs or the management “fad du jour.”

While it’s impossible to create “flow” moments all day long, any manager can greatly improve on the ability to help people achieve peak performance. Traditionally managers try various motivational methods, such as incentives and rewards, but with only temporary success.

Managing Knowledge Workers

You can’t force peak performance with knowledge workers, people who need to think to do their jobs. The brain needs careful management and rest. Brain science tells us that knowledge workers must manage their critical thinking skills with care.

In addition to variety and stimulation, all humans require food, rest, engagement, physical exercise and challenge. It is unrealistic to expect a human being to sit at a desk for hours and produce quality work without providing these essential elements, and more.

We often forget that thinking is hard work. When we work too many hours, the brain’s supply of neurotransmitters become depleted, and we are unable to sustain top performance. Without proper care, the brain will underperform—and brain fatigue mimics disengagement and lack of commitment.

Peak performance also depends on how we feel: hopeful, in control, optimistic and grateful. We need to know that we’re appreciated.

I’m curious: what do you do with your team to spark performance?  I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.