Breakthrough performance is a quantum leap in results. It occurs when we do something different that produces a significant gain–of 50%, 100% or 200%. Breakthrough performance is about accomplishing far more in less time and multiplying your level of effectiveness.

To take your performance to a higher level requires personal leadership. And that means embracing change–in product offerings, prospecting, compensation, margins, compliance and disclosure. So, here’s the central leadership challenge: What do you change?

With all the noise about change, it’s easy to get diffused. Fact is, some things don’t change, like the fundamentals of high performance. These fundamentals are the same today as they were decades ago and will be the same for decades to come.

In a changing and competitive environment, the ability to execute is a competitive advantage. Top performers–whether athletes or business professionals–don’t necessarily have better ideas; they simply execute more effectively. What it takes to be great in our industry is no different.

Yet many advisors and firms constantly are searching for new ideas versus executing what they already know. Let’s face it: The best ideas and strategies are worthless unless they are implemented. The marketplace only rewards those ideas that get implemented.

Building the capacity to change and execute requires a process–an operating system that embraces the fundamentals of high performance and reduces the noise and distractions of the “latest, greatest idea.” This operating system must address not only planning and metrics but also critical aspects of high performance, such as accountability and commitment.

Periodization

The system that we apply with our clients is called Periodization. At Strategic Breakthroughs, we have adapted this concept–an athletic training technique developed in Eastern Europe–to fit a business environment. We’ve crafted a 12-week approach to planning and execution that moves beyond training to focus on the critical factors that drive production and life balance.

Periodization is a business process and a structured approach that changes the way you think and act, and how you view time. The process eliminates the trap of annualized thinking–the illusion that there is plenty of time in the year, re-defining a year as 12 weeks. There’s not four quarters in a year; there is just this period and the next. A 12-week period creates urgency to act this day. Ultimately, execution happens daily and weekly–not monthly and quarterly.

Periodization is a critical part of the context for success. It creates a focus and urgency to execute in the moment. And its power derives from five disciplines: vision, planning, process control, scorekeeping and accountability.

Vision

Greatness starts with vision–what you want to create. We begin with what you want your life to look like three years from now and then what your business needs to look like to align with and enable your personal vision. This creates an emotional connection to the daily actions that need to happen in the business.

Planning

Effective planning allows you to think through the best approach to achieving your goal. You make your mistakes on paper, which reduces miscues during implementation. In addition, studies have shown that planning saves time. Planning also keeps you focused and on purpose.

How the plan is structured and written profoundly impacts implementation. Most plans are not constructed with implementation in mind and, therefore, break down during execution.

An effective period plan has three levels. First, the plan should identify the goal for the period, something we call a “strategic thrust.” This defines how much you will produce this period and how many hours per week you will work on average.

Once the strategic thrust has been clarified, strategies need to be determined. Strategies are the initiatives that, when effectively implemented, will lead to the achievement of the thrust. Typically three and no more than five are recommended. The concept is to be “great at a few things versus mediocre at many.”

To be effective, each strategy must be specific and measurable. For each strategy, tactics need to be developed. The tactics are the daily “must-do’s” that drive the attainment of the strategy.

Tactics, too, must be specific and actionable with due dates and assigned responsibilities. The period plan is structured so that if the tactics are completed on a timely basis, the strategy is accomplished and the strategic thrust is achieved.

A 12-week period plan is powerful; it allows you to focus on what’s important now. Keep in mind the period plan is not part of an annual plan; that’s annualized thinking. Twelve weeks is enough time to get things done and yet short enough to create and maintain a sense of urgency. Period plans provide a step-by-step road map that eliminates diffusion and delays and demands immediate action.

Process Control

Process control is a set of proven tools and events that keep you on plan. Weekly plans allow us to structure our activity so that we are focused on both the long-term and short-term tasks that are important. The weekly plan includes the strategic items that are driven by the period plan.

Scorekeeping

Measurement drives the execution process. It is the anchor of reality. Effective measurement combines both lead and lag indicators that provide comprehensive feedback necessary for informed decision-making. Lead indicators inform you and your team as to what works and what doesn’t, which allows you to adjust your actions each week to better align with your vision and plan objective.

Everything happens in the context of time. Being more intentional with your time is a requirement for effective execution. Performance time, the most effective time system we’ve seen, uses “time blocking” to take back control your day. Two examples are strategic blocks and buffer blocks.

A strategic block is a three-hour block of uninterrupted time that is scheduled in advance. During these blocks, you accept no phone calls, no faxes, no e-mails, no visitors–nothing. You focus all your energies on the preplanned items, the strategic and money making activities.

Doing so concentrates your intellect and creativity and produces breakthrough results. You will be astounded by the quantity and quality of the work you produce.

Buffer blocks are created to deal with all the unplanned items that arise throughout the day. Nothing is more unproductive and frustrating than having to deal with constant interruptions.

A buffer block is a block of time set aside in advance to handle the unexpected. For some, 30 to 60 minutes once a day is sufficient. For others, two one-hour blocks may be necessary. By grouping together activities that tend to be unproductive, we can reduce the inefficiency and take control of our day.

Principles of Periodization

Let’s now turn our attention to the three principles of Periodization. These principles are fundamental to high performance in any endeavor. They are: accountability, commitment and greatness in the moment.

Accountability

Accountability is not about consequences but about ownership. It is a character trait, a life stance, a willingness to own one’s actions and results regardless of circumstances. The concept rests on the understanding that each has freedom of choice. When we hold ourselves accountable, we ask ourselves, “what more can I do to get the result?”

How you view, and to what degree you embrace, accountability affects everything you do, from your relationships to your ability to execute effectively. When you understand healthy accountability and learn to coach to ownership, everything changes.

You move from resistance to empowerment, from limits to possibilities, and from mediocrity to greatness.

Commitment

A commitment is a personal promise that you make with yourself. Keeping your promises with others builds strong relationships. Keeping self-promises builds character, esteem and success. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.

Commitment and accountability go hand-in-glove. In a sense, commitment is accountability projected into the future. It is ownership of a future action or result. Building commitment capacity through Periodization dramatically affects your personal and business results.

Greatness in the moment

Greatness is not achieved when the result is reached but rather when an individual chooses to do the things that he or she needs to do. The results are not the attainment of greatness; the results are simply the confirmation of it. You become a champion long before the results show it.

Each and every one of us has the ability to be great. What makes a champion is a discipline to do the things you know you need to do even when–especially when–you don’t feel like it.

Summing Up

These three principles and the five disciplines form the foundation of personal and professional success. With Periodization, you learn to leverage and apply these principles and disciplines in the context of a 12-week year.

When you do, the results are phenomenal. You will find yourself working with greater focus and energy on the things that matter most. You will see your production increase significantly and your personal life improve, as well. Most importantly, you will find yourself achieving the things you want in your business and in your life.

If you apply the principles and disciplines and execute daily, you will achieve your vision. So, I challenge you to go forth and be great; this day, this moment, live your vision!