How To Achieve Peak Performance At Work

peak performance

Want your performance at work to soar? You may be surprised by what it actually takes to achieve at the highest level.

Recent findings from Gallup showed that employees in the top 5% of performers at their firms have three things in common: innate talent for their roles, high engagement, and at least 10 years of experience at their current employer.

You can’t do much about the third factor—you either have a long tenure at your company or you don’t—but you do have a lot of power to change the first two. It starts with asking yourself the right questions. Here are some to consider.

Do you kick yourself about earlier career decisions? Many professionals made practical or safe career choices in the recession that have left them in jobs that don’t suit their innate talents. That can lead to underperformance. It’s hard to excel at your work if your position fits like a pair of shoes you wore in elementary school.

So how do you figure out what job will tap your natural gifts so you can go after it? Many career coaches offer tests, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Test, that can give you some hints.

But you may already know deep down what job suits you best. If you often find yourself wishing you hadn’t shut a particular career door a few years back because it was too “risky,” pay attention to those regrets. That could be an indicator of where you should be heading. Pursuing your passions doesn’t always mean you have to leave your company, by the way. Your ideal job may be down the hall, in another department.

Can you work the system? Gallup’s study found that long-tenured employees outperform newbies because they better understand who pulls the levers at their company and can navigate obstacles more easily.

By paying closer attention to the unwritten rules of how your firm operates, you can function like a veteran even if you’re not. For instance, in some companies there may be a formal channel for pitching new ideas. If you’ve been struggling to get the okay for a project you’re passionate about through the official route, why not ask a more senior employee how they would get it approved. It could be that you need to do something completely unexpected—like start showing up at the company softball games, organized by a particular gatekeeper—to build the support you need.

Are you a “lifer?” Long tenure at your company can help you excel, but it doesn’t always. Gallup found that employees who have been with their firm 10 years or more, are the least likely to be engaged.

If you find you are apathetic, demotivated, determined to do the minimum to get by or nursing grudges about things that have happened to you at the company, it may be time to push “re-set” on your career. You will never achieve your best performance if conditions at your company have led you to feel hostile to your company, your boss or your colleagues.

Rather than continue to stew over what’s wrong , why not shop around for a new company? With the unemployment rate at 5.5%, you’ve got a better shot at finding a great new gig where you can shine than you have in years. Why settle for a permanent state of disgruntlement when you have a chance to achieve your best somewhere else?

About the Author

Elaine Pofeldt is an independent journalist who specializes in writing about entrepreneurship and careers. She was a senior editor for Fortune Small Business magazine, and her work has appeared in Fortune, Money,, Inc. and Crain's New York Business, among others.