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Developing the Whole Person

So why does management development focus, almost solely, on the neck up, when the demands placed on you as a manager, as an executive, touch every facet of your life? My work is focused on whole person development where health and well-being are linked to executive performance. Since 2007, I have delivered an executive training program in which I aim to remind busy professionals that they have a body. As we advance through a career, we tend to increasingly live our lives on a purely mental level, with all of our emails and strategies and meetings and metrics, forgetting we have a body until something goes wrong with it! Sustaining Executive Performance—the pursuit of longevity at the highest level in an ever-demanding society—may be achieved through paying a little more attention to long-held wisdom and simple practices.

For the Ancient Greek philosopher and citizen, self-governance was achieved through a harmonious balance between body and mind. For the twenty-first century business leader, a new conception of Peter Drucker’s self-management, as we develop in this book, offers refuge from an increasingly complex, connected, and out-of-balance life. Whether the focus is on personal productivity, work-life integration, the quantified self, or executive health, a myriad of pop-tech gurus offer endless management sound bites that pique the interest of the busy professional but fail to satisfy the deeper questions that accompany their daily craft and graft.

Sustaining Executive Performance will take a bottom-up approach, deconstructing the essence of basic human needs within the enterprise and society to show that such needs are universal at the individual, enterprise, and societal level, and also timeless in their fit with established philosophy—a powerful reminder in an age where only the “new” is held up as being of consumable value. What results is a reflection on leading a sustainable, happy, and productive life that starts with the individual but can apply to organizational and societal innovation, leadership, and resilience.

If such a claim sounds ambitious (it is, but I hope not overly so!), it is merely attempted through a work of synthesis. I attempt to join the dots of the patterns I have observed during my experiences and the teaching, coaching, and academic and field research that has characterized the past 15 years of my life, from around the time I started my PhD in Glasgow after rediscovering my own athletic journey. I therefore aim to make this text personal and human. Reading dull academic texts during my PhD studies actually put me off the reading process for several years! So I will present studies and experiences from real people, both from today and through history—those who have something to say and those who have had interesting experiences. It is also personal in that I recount many of my own experiences, including some of the major milestones through university, professional career, and sport. Key topics include design, innovation management, and corporate social responsibility, developed as I lived and worked in Scotland, Spain, and the United States, traveling worldwide and teaching thousands of amazing people.

I draw content from a broad range of fields, including management science, neurology, medicine, elite sport, and business ethics, and my overriding aim is to appeal to a broad audience and make the link between previously disparate issues. I attempt to join science to popular management to philosophy for a highly pragmatic resource and guide that nevertheless legitimizes action for the most skeptical minds and provides the base for continual action and lasting change. I will switch frequently between sources, such as the Journal of Psychological Science and the Bulletproof Executive, from Harvard Business Review to Fast Company, and from Brain Pickings to the Proceedings of the National Association of Science. All are leaders in the themes I cover in this text, and those with less academic heritage are especially able to disrupt conventional wisdom and lead us to deeper insight.

The book aims to be a reference for life reengineering for the experienced manager, and a reflection on practice for management students. By life reengineering, I mean the adoption of new habits and practices that drive health and performance, and for the management student, a reflection on the practices that will drive their career as they begin to “design their life.” This, I hope, will satisfy the increasing need of the executive education market at a time when enterprises worldwide recognize the key need for lifelong learning and development of their most precious resource, and at the MBA level where the new generation of leaders are under increasing pressure to perform and mend a broken system, yet where opportunities abound. The book may also serve as an introductory text or accompaniment for classes on leadership, design and innovation, and corporate social responsibility.

There are three main parts of the book. The first five chapters establish the foundations of the text, developing the driving rationale of the Sustaining Executive Performance as well as the levers that make it work. Baron de Coubertin’s reconceptualization of the Ancient Greek virtue of body and mind, presented here, is followed in Chapter 2, “The New Lanark Mills,” by a first examination of the Triple Lens of Sustainability, looking at several historical and contemporary business cases to link the individual, organizational, and societal levels. In Chapter 3, “Design Your Life,” and Chapter 4, “Day-to-Day Reengineering,” the field of design is then shown as the lever by which we may bring a more human-based approach to workplace performance, and make that actionable on the individual routine level. The Sustaining Executive Performance (SEP) model, a design-based framework, is presented in Chapter 5, “The New Self-Management,” as a guide for the twenty-first century professional to better manage themselves (see Figure 1.1).

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1 The SEP model

Parts 2 and 3 of the book are interlinked and attempt to show the Triple Lens of Sustainability in action. Each of the five elements of the SEP framework—MOVE, RECOVER, FOCUS, FUEL, and TRAIN—has a dedicated chapter showing how individuals may improve their own awareness of the key factors necessary for health, well-being, and performance—and think about change. These five chapters make up Part 2. Each is followed by a broader treatment of the concepts on an organizational and/or societal level—a further five chapters which make up Part 3. We therefore switch among the individual, organizational, and societal, each of the three levels of the Triple Lens of Sustainability—a concept that we develop throughout the book.

Pierre de Coubertin was an incredible visionary, and like many with vision, he perhaps suffered for being ahead of his time. The arts competitions were not sustainable without his drive and doggedness. They would continue until Zatopek’s Helsinki Games of 1952 before disappearing altogether.16 Having poured so much energy, not to mention financial resources, into the Olympic movement over the greater part of his life, he would suffer from financial difficulties, ill health, and to some extent, disenfranchisement with the IOC before his death in 1938. One may only imagine his despair in observing his final Games. In 1936, Berlin was used as a political pawn, contrary to his founding aim as a vehicle of peace between nations. Then again, perhaps a flicker of optimism would have burned bright after watching how sporting performance, and in particular that of a certain Mr. Owens, would show the way—the simplicity of a sporting event showing the complexity of sport, and also the value for a better governance of oneself, to become, just like the Ancient Greeks, stronger, faster, and smarter.

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