Your performance as an entrepreneur directly impacts your company performance. When you feel over-stressed, inconsistent, or too short-term focused, business suffers. When you lack an innovative idea and the resources to implement it, business suffers.
To grow–or sustain–your company, you (and your team) must be able to get Real Work done. And you have to decide what the Real Work even is without getting hung up trying to make perfect decisions.
We can’t reach lasting success by reading a book, changing our mindset, or even hiring the A-Team.
We need to address under-performance at its root.
How Do We Measure Entrepreneurial Performance?
Unfortunately, there’s no consensus. Most guides, articles, and even academic journals only present part of the story.
Some discuss only business-related factors affecting performance: pricing, profit, customers, finance, marketing, etc.
And some discuss only the personal factors: mindset, intention, drive, intelligence, etc.
Some posts cover both, but on a very basic level.
Asst. Professor Rita Subedi of Tribhuvan University admits:
“…there is lack of consensus between scholars to choose performance measures. Due to this, [they] have been facing considerable difficulty to choose accurate and adequate measures.”
The truth is, humans run companies.
Are company “vitals,” like finances, production, and marketing, important?
But the health & performance of the humans in charge influences business performance as much, if not more.
So this guide takes an integrated view.
We look at the “health” of the business AND the entrepreneur as measures of performance.
The Root Cause of Performance Problems
Sometimes, we feel unstoppable and CRUSH our goals. Other times, we fall short. Whether we’re actually to blame, us high performers often label “falling short” as self-sabotage.
When talking about self-sabotage, we often oversimplify. We may tell ourselves we need to “be more consistent.” Or we need to “stop procrastinating,” or “manage our time better.”
But if high-performance habits were that easy to maintain, we would. Right?
So the first step to improving performance is letting yourself look deeper: Admitting there must be some root cause.
WHY are you not managing time well?
WHY aren’t you being consistent?
WHY are you procrastinating or avoiding The Real Work?
WHY aren’t you prioritizing your Big Goal
In psychology, there’s something called the Yerkes-Dodson Law. It correlates the amount of stress or pressure we feel with our performance.
Interestingly, we need the right mix of both to feel successful and perform well.
Too little pressure, and we’re bored, understimulated.
Too much pressure and we’re stressed, frazzled, unfocused.
You can see the correlation in Delphis’ (beautiful) graph here:
In today’s world, humans lean (or careen, as it were) toward the “burnout” end of the scale. Particularly as entrepreneurs, there’s far too much we could be doing to feel bored. Our modern-day challenge lies in reducing the pressure, not increasing it.
The 6 SAPPERs™ Affecting Entrepreneurial Performance, with Examples
There are six key areas of pressure that harm entrepreneurs’ ability to grow business without burnout. Major Force calls these SAPPERs™. To pinpoint them, we drew from behavioral psychology, neuroscience, stress/trauma biology, and business fundamentals.
Most writings on this subject only look at business fundamentals and entrepreneurial mindset.
But remember, we’re taking a 360 view.
The health of the human running the business dictates the “health” of the business.
SAPPERs function just as they sound:
When they’re in balance, they fuel faster, simpler business growth.
When they’re out of balance, they drain vitality from people and processes, causing growth slowdowns (or full-out roadblocks).
The six SAPPERs that erode work performance:
- Relational support
Let’s look at each one.
This SAPPER refers to pressure or stress stemming from your circumstances. Situational SAPPERs are often major life events. These events cause underlying distractions, or even despair.
Dealing with illness or passing of a loved one?
Going through separation or divorce?
Did you recently move, relocate, or get married?
Did you change careers?
Recently started a new company, or take it full-time?
Recently taken on significant debt?
Have limited access to healthy food/water?
Any major life event, positive or negative, adds new stress. On a biological level, it affects our ability to perform the same. It doesn’t matter where it comes from.
This SAPPER refers to how your body automatically deals with pressure and stress. These happen on an unconscious level, without your awareness or consent. What’s going on in your body affects your thoughts, emotions, and behavior.
This SAPPER refers to pain, tension, stiffness, or other discomfort that saps your ability to perform. They usually drain your energy, motivation, or focus when you try to work. This SAPPER especially refers to physical discomfort that increases, the longer you work.
hip pain when you sit down to work
back pain and/or stiffness
neck pain and/or stiffness
frequent eye strain or blurriness
frequent headaches or migraines
frequent jaw pain or tension
dealing with a chronic illness
forcing yourself to work through hunger, fatigue, pain, or illness
ignoring sleep or bathroom cues to continue working
This SAPPER refers to the lack of SMART goals or concrete action steps. Choosing firm goals for your business is the first key to growth. Without a clear and strategic action plan that fits your unique company stage, resources are unnecessarily drained.
no weekly routine
no systems in place to generate leads
lack of clarity on which tasks to do first, and why
no tracking in place to discern what’s working (and what isn’t)
have long-term goals, but unsure how to get there
overwhelming amount of “today” tasks that don’t track to long-term goals
no idea what marketing strategy is best for your business
website doesn’t educate leads or (help) convert them to sales
This SAPPER refers to issues in your environment that make work challenging. Environment isn’t only your physical space. It includes your regular digital spaces, like phone, task manager, CRM, email, P.O. box, and voicemail.
physical environment too noisy or “busy”
physical environment too quiet
no private work area
many and ongoing interruptions
temperature too hot or cold
uncomfortable seating / workspace
cluttered, junky desk or office space
inbox full of emails requiring action
many uncleared cell phone notifications
many uncleared task notifications
calendar full of ignored recurring events
voicemail box full of unread messages
P.O. box / virtual mailbox full of unaddressed mail
6. Relational support
Since we often underestimate its severity, this SAPPER can be one of the most harmful. Many studies confirm the NEED for social interaction to support our physical, mental, and emotional health. Not getting it can have a profound effect on our happiness and performance.
no relationships that support or understand your career choice
isolating yourself from everyone except those you live with
avoiding social situations (mixers, Meetups, galas, birthday parties, etc.)
no regular, live voice communication with team, peers, or friends/family
no in-person interaction with team, peers, or friends/family
“People Before Profit” is About More than Best Practice
We understand the hazards of putting profits first when it comes to our team. If we run the company this way, our people feel undervalued. Role turnover is high. Growth is slow. Maybe we never even gain a foothold.
But have you considered the risks of putting profits before YOUR wellbeing?
Too often, we ignore basic necessities, like food, personal care, and sleep, to “finish this last task.” But in doing so, we drain our resources, inching closer and closer to burnout.
As company owners, we MUST take care of our needs to have anything to give. We can’t pour from empty cups. It’s only once we commit to doing our best for ourselves that we find the focus, clarity, motivation, and organization to do the Real Work.
High performance is about more than mindset.
High performance is about more than a great idea and solid implementation.
It IS about those, but our bodies can stand in the way of us taking those actions. For our protection.
The health of the entrepreneur(s) in charge dictates the health of the organization. So we must protect and fuel our performance by taking a 360 view.
A lack of balance in the above six areas knocks our personal and professional systems off kilter, fueling “self-sabotage.” The root cause is YOU and your team’s total wellness–or lack thereof.
The Bottom Line: “Lasting Change Requires Smart Strategy”
Remember, whether stress is positive or negative, your body processes it the same.
When the nervous system is under excess load, entrepreneur performance suffers.
And when entrepreneur performance suffers, business growth slows–or stops altogether.
If imbalances are severe for long enough, the company doesn’t just stop growing; it backslides.
So the keys to performing better are to:
Learn how stress and pressure affect your performance.
Determine which SAPPERs are most out of balance for you.
Address the biggest imbalance(s) strategically, one small step at a time.
Learn how to self-regulate to perform better under pressure. (And practice, practice, practice it!)
Learn how high performance coaching can help you grow faster without running yourself into the ground.