Peak Performance

I just saw an interview with Olympic gold medal snowboarder Shaun White, whose snowboarding stunts are almost mind-boggling. When interviewed, he explained, “I can see what I want to do before I do it.”

That clarity of focus reminds me of a comment made years ago by Wayne Gretzky on the secret to his hockey prowess. Gretzky’s response was, “I skate to where the puck is going to be.” Both comments imply that skill is important, but focus on the vision is what fuels truly Olympic-level performance.

I recently gave a speech on personal branding, and the bottom line in personal branding is also picturing what you aspire to and then focusing on the elements that will help you get there. In other words, vision. Envision what you want to be so that you can be it. In truth, picturing it first is the secret behind getting what you want in almost any area.

The last time I spoke on personal branding at Glenn Schmitt’s Marketeam Beverage Symposium last fall, I shared a story from an old Bob Newhart episode at dinner that evening. The episode featured psychologist Newhart in a restaurant ordering a steak. When asked how he wanted his steak done, he pulled a laminated picture out of his wallet and asked, “What would you call this?” When his server said she’d call it medium rare, he said, “Well that’s what I want-medium rare.” The waitress loved the laminated photo so much she took it back to the chef. Unfortunately, the chef wasn’t amused and proceeded to intentionally burn his steak. But the point is, he had a clear picture of what he wanted.

After I finished telling the story, the guy sitting next to me turned to his colleague and said, “Show her your steak.” And his colleague promptly pulled out his I-phone and showed me a picture of a steak cooked really, really, really rare, as he called it, “Rare plus.” Obviously, he too understood that the way to get what you want is to picture it first.

In almost everything, the secret to flawless execution is a strong vision…and maybe more importantly, a strong shared vision. Restaurateurs seldom think of themselves as strategic, but the best of the best are clearly driven by a strong vision, the rock-solid foundation of great strategy. And the brands that continue to succeed year after year are the ones that never lose sight of their vision.

♦ It is perhaps no surprise that fine-dining restaurants like Charlie Trotter’s or Wolfgang Puck’s Spago or the venerable Commander’s Palace have maintained their vision over the years. The visionary is involved hands-on in the execution.

♦ But when it comes to chains, growth is often synonymous with loss of focus. Of course, there are many examples of companies that have never lost the vision, but it is often the entrepreneurial founders that help a growing chain maintain their clarity of focus.

♦ Cheesecake Factory’s David Overton exemplifies the ability of a powerful vision to forge a resilient path of growth, and California Pizza Kitchen’s founders Larry Flax and Rick Rosenfield have driven success for 25 years with their clarity of vision.

Strong vision and flawless execution produce Olympic-level performance for winning athletes, for winning individuals and for winning companies. Enjoy the games.

Until next time, I’d love to hear your thoughts.