Why durability is more important than resilience to performance

Wednesday, 20 July, 2016 - 10:00
Industry news

While resilience is a buzzword for many organisations at present, a more sustainable approach to performance is through durability, according to an expert in the area.

Everyone wants their people, their leaders or their organisation to be able to bounce back after falling over, breaking or failing, said performance coach and leadership facilitator Derrick McManus, a former Australian police sniper, diver and counter-terrorist operative.

“Or as some people say we want them to bounce forward,” he said.

“However, to be resilient you have to have failed first. Only after failure can you bounce back,” said McManus, who in his previous role was shot 14 times in less than 5 seconds, and laid on the ground for three hours before he could be rescued.

“Durability is about sustaining optimum performance under pressure – any pressure,” he said. “Optimum performance is the very best you can possibly do in the given circumstances.”

This epitomises the philosophy of the OHS leader, according to McManus, who said they do not want their people to have to bounce back after failure, after falling over or after near misses.

OHS leaders want their people to sustain optimum performance for the betterment of the individual as well as the organisation, he said.

Once workers get the idea that sustaining optimum performance is good for them as well as for the business (and it’s not just about saving money) McManus said this makes it easier for OHS leaders to implement strategies that help workers avoid accidents, injuries and near misses that cause people and businesses to stop working.

The focus of durability is sustaining optimum performance, said McManus, who pointed out that it’s important to understand exactly what’s meant by the term ‘optimum performance’.

“A very clear focus for HR and executives at the moment is ‘peak performance’ – which is nice when you can attain it, but peak performance is not sustainable,” he said.

“Peak performance is driven by adrenalin. When anything is run on adrenalin there has to be an adrenalin burnout at some stage.

“With adrenalin burnout is often called a stress burnout. There is a very sudden drop in performance that can be devastating for the individual, their family, their team or for the company.”

Optimum performance is about doing the very best you possibly can in the given circumstances, said McManus who explained that sometimes it is peak and occasionally it’s perfection.

“But neither of those is sustainable,” he said.

“Optimum understands there can be temporary interruptions to that performance but you have a plan to manage the interruption to get yourself back on track as quickly as possible.”

Another issue with peak performance is that when it is not achieved, individuals can be hard on themselves and managers can be hard on their staff.

“If individuals and leaders understand the philosophy of optimum performance, that fluctuation in performance are normal and can be anticipated, knowing that the aim is to sustain the very best they possibly can, we are less judgemental of ourselves and our staff,” he said.

“As a result there is less stress and yet the outcome is still the same if not better.

“Less stress means that there is less burnout, less stress-related decisions (that sometimes lead to mistakes) and the people and business are again more sustainable.”

McManus, who is currently working with the University of South Australia’s school of psychology to research the durability of human performance, said the philosophy of durability combines and simplifies appreciations, risk management and contingency planning into a 5-phase model.

The underlying principle of the philosophy is to start having ‘open, honest and confronting conversations’ said McManus, who explained that the greatest challenge to the success of the durability process is when people say “yes I’ve considered all the risks and I have plans for them’ but they don’t have the confronting conversations.

“Our OHS leaders and our executives need to start having the uncomfortable conversations about the real risks,” he said.

“Unexpectedly to most, there comes powerful comfort from the uncomfortable conversations. “You gain comfort when you realise, ‘Yes, we can actually manage this’ and we go comfortably and confidently forward.

“Or you gain comfort from realising ‘No, we can’t manage this and it could destroy us (or the business). We need to make a different decision or take a different path to achieve that goal.’

“Either way you are more comfortable that you have truly addressed the potential situation and you’ll either manage the outcome or take action to avoid it altogether,” said McManus.