Interview with Bob Lesser, author of The Peak Performance
In this interview, we chat with Bob Lesser, the author of the new book “The Peak Performance Formula about how to practice sustainable peak performance in our lives. Lesser is an advisor to Cultiveit. You can find his book here. To learn more about Cultiveit, follow us on LinkedIn or check out or website cultiveit.io.
Cultiveit: Hi there I'm Taylor Spratt and I'm a content manager on the Cultiveit team. I'm here today with Bob Lesser. Bob is an executive coach, a licensed therapist, a former founder, and the author of a new book “The Peak Performance Formula.” We’ll jump right into it.
What is the Peak Performance Formula?
Bob: Thank you so much for having me and let me share my work and my perspectives, I really appreciate it. So, over my years of working with and studying high-performing people, I noticed a set of commonalities amongst them and these are folks that have reached extremely high levels, and were able to do that over time, able to sustain those levels over time. What I found was that they were grounded in a sense of purpose, that they had very explicit guiding values, and that they maintained a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve. I also found that they managed themselves in a very particular way- physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. So those tools and tactics, along with these pillars of purpose, values, and vision, comprise the Peak Performance Formula and that’s what I write about in my book.
Cultiveit: Amazing. Thanks for sharing. You’ve worn a lot of hats in your career. How did this impact your insights in developing and thinking about the Peak Performance Formula?
Bob: Thank you for highlighting that, I have a colorful reason. I started my career in government, I worked in criminal justice and education fields, I’ve lived and worked abroad, I’ve trained and practiced as a psychotherapist, I’ve founded and led a charter school in the Bronx, New York City, and now I work as an executive coach, mostly with technology start-ups. So, my training and my background has really allowed me to draw from interdisciplinary fields- psychology, neuroscience, management, Buddhism, and other areas to really inform my thinking about how we can get the most out of ourselves and out of our lives. I would say it has also given me a lot of perspectives- I’ve seen big organizations, I’ve seen small organizations, I’ve seen start-ups, I’ve seen for-profits, non-profits, so really to get a good view of how most of us are living our work lives and being able to see that from a variety of vantage points, which has really helped me. Lastly, I’d say I’ve been really fortunate in that I’ve gotten to reinvent myself a number of times professionally, and so I know that it’s possible. It takes some work, it is not easy, but it’s possible. I’m convinced we can really craft the work life that we want- that we have much more control over that than many of us think we do. We can really find work for ourselves that is purposeful, meaningful, values-based, and aligned to our vision of ourselves. So, I’ve been kind of able to live that first-hand, and that’s what has convinced me that it’s possible for other people to find that level of satisfaction and fulfillment in their work.
Cultiveit: Yeah, that dynamism is really inspiring. I think it resonates with so many of us- the idea of creating the work and career path that allows us to explore all those different avenues. What best practices in the pursuit of this do you recommend, especially for the moment that we are in- for returning to work, returning to the office, whether full time or in a hybrid modality?
Bob: The first thing I’d say is that I really encourage organizations I work with to consider what worked well during the past two years of the pandemic that is worth keeping. I think there were a number of practices that people put in place that were like, “Oh, this is actually better than the way we did it before.” So, I’d really encourage everyone to take stock of what worked, not only organizations, but even individual professionals to say: What new routines or ways of living and working that I developed habits that really worked for me and that I want to keep in place because they are good, whether its a pandemic or no pandemic. So that would be number one. But certainly the myth that people couldn’t be productive working remotely was finally and completely debunked, which I think is a good thing, because I think for a long time that was standing in the way of people getting the kind of freedom and flexibility that they were looking for- whether their employers weren’t quite sure that it was a good idea to give people that kind of flexibility and allow them to work from home, people were scared to ask for it, etc. Now it is totally on the table- we can work remotely and we can be productive, in some ways more productive than working in the office. While I think flexibility is a good practice, and I think that is something that we should all be striving to bring more of into the workplace, I think there is something more than flexibility. I think what people really want and value more is freedom, and this is the freedom to choose what is best for them individually. I’d love to see more focus on giving people the freedom to design what is optimal for them in their work life, and I’d like to see employers take a more active role in helping people optimize work for them individually. This could include experimenting with a four-day work week, instituting 45-minute meetings instead of one-hour meetings to ensure time for breaks and that they are adequate, managers being more conscientious of workload expectations that they put on their employees, coordinating “Do Not Disturb” work blocks and doing a better job of making sure that workplace interruptions are minimized. I just saw a survey of 2,000 workers where they reported an average of over 31 interruptions throughout the day, per day. This is so inefficient in terms of productivity, as well as just mentally exhausting when you consider the switching costs of getting distracted and trying to go back to the thing that you were trying to focus on. These are the types of things I would recommend, but it really comes down to giving people the freedom to optimize how they work best.
Cultiveit: Yeah, that really resonates the pieces about trust and freedom- the silver linings coming out of the pandemic. How do you think that High Quality Time Off fits into the Peak Performance model?
Bob: One of the things that we’ve seen in performance science and athletics over the last 10-15 years is an emphasis on recovery practices, so these are practices that have helped elite athletes perform better and longer, extending their careers way beyond what was previously normal or considered possible- Lebron James playing basketball at an elite level at 37 year old, tennis players Roger Federer and Serena Williams both at 40 still at top levels, football quarterback Tom Brady who retired and then unretired at 44 years old and still playing at the top of this game. So the Peak Performance model carries this concept over into any area of our life that we’re striving, we’re really going after it. We need to complement intense work periods with just as intense recovery periods. I think thats where High Quality Time Off fits in. Higher quality work will follow from higher quality time off.
Cultiveit: Yeah, and I think it also allows us to enter into this “flow” state that you were sort of talking about before, and really to activate our creativity and our best selves, if you will, when we’re able to have that High Quality Time Off. Thank you so much for your time, Bob.
Thanks for watching! We’ll be featuring experts and thought leaders on the topics of sustainable peak performance, burnout prevention, and future of work here, so make sure to follow us for more insights.
Want to learn more about burnout’s causes and best practice solutions? Cultiveit is available to support you. We’re launching a Slack App, Burnout Bot, that automates burnout prevention in your workspace. Waitlist sign-ups are now open here. If you have additional questions, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.