September 5 2019

A Day In The Life Of A High-Performance Manager

For every blockbuster campaign or corporate giant, we know that ‘something must have happened’: birthing a new creation means working against the tide – and this means dialling up the high-performance habits needed to get this ‘impossible’ over the line.

Photo credit :  US-Women-GettyImages-1160858454

Ultimately, the most genius and creative ideas are only as real as their own manifestations; and the habits that fuel the average day of a high-performance manager may be the final ingredient for bringing plans, products and dreams into reality.

But although there is no ‘magic bullet’ that can guarantee the results we hope from high performance, imitating the conditions that create high-performance is something any manager can control: this is great news for aspiring managers seeking to switch into ‘high-performance mode’, and there are two traits among real-life titans that might hold the clue for the hacks that last.

Angela Ahrendts: 'The last five years have been the most stimulating, challenging and fulfilling of my career' © Bloomberg


Tales of 4 am rises and some ‘forced recital’ of feel-good affirmations may appear more suited to YouTube castle seminars than real managers in an established company. However, not only does this cliché in-fact play a key role at the critical stages of start-up grind; but is even continued to this day among the industry giants that hit the headline.

For high-performance executives in the business domain, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos may be best positioned to highlight where this ‘real’ balance lies: when your time is worth $200,000 per minute, even one day of sub-standard management can mean a domino effect of disaster – this means that those morning routines really do need to work.

When your time is worth $200,000/minute – Morning routines need to work

On the one hand, affirmation recitals and bulletproof coffees are nowhere to be seen: breakfast for Jeff is not even planned at a set time, ranging from the usual bowl of cereal; and even to the occasional roast iguana! But even with routine flexibility that could undermine even the most high-performance middle manager, one habit sticks out like a sore thumb – and that is rising at 4 am every day, whatever the circumstances.

And according to one recent study on Japanese workers, this may be the right balance to strike. Ultimately, pre-planning every morning and day in advance can only last for so long: this means that embracing a flexible morning routine – but then fixed within a strict time block starting with the early morning rise – may in-fact be the smarter way for managers to start their day (Ohashi, K. 2013).



This more ‘realistic’ paradigm that embraces flexibility within a set boundary of behaviour not only means a power-up morning routine; but may also be lurking in how high-performance managers coordinate busy meetings throughout their workday.

In the military domain, General Steve Mattis may be the best candidate to illustrate ‘system-tuned’ behaviour in plain sight: with briefings and projects oriented towards a moving target (literally), overly-micromanaged meetings become inefficient – this requires military managers switch to behavioural intuition instead.


Cited from the Four-Part Leadership Framework, Bolman & Deal (1991)


This mode of ‘system-tuned’ behaviour is re-enforced by close observations on how managers naturally interact with team members: when conscious bandwidth leaves us behind, the human brain switches to templates built and tested through previous experience – and enables managers to intervene quickly with the correct solution 95% of the time.

Hours of conscious pre-planning can be swapped for instant intuition

In the field of management psychology, this ‘four-part framework’ dictates how managers behaviourally direct, support and delegate activities (Bolman & Deal, 1991): with the correct behavioural tuning and exposure to leadership methodologies, hours of conscious pre-planning can be swapped for a behaviour trained to lock on to the same result.


In today’s article, we discussed two high-performance behaviours and paradigms of thinking from both the business and military domain. If you are a manager seeking to enhance your interactions with team members and your leadership footprint within the organisation, consider applying the following tasks:

  1. A mastered morning means mastered meetings: It may seem simple, but the consistency of the early morning rise may mean more than added time in the day. The early morning rhythm of ironing shirts, washing dishes and pouring a steaming cup of coffee feels good for a reason: monotonous tasks are ‘neurological downtime’ for managers that depend on the pre-frontal cortex for most decisions in the working day (Tuominen, R. 2015). Ultimately, consistency in the morning will beget consistency for the rest of the day.

  2. Set domains that allow meeting flexibility by design: Setting accurate key performance indicators in your current projects should also translate to how you pre-plan meetings for your team: a close look at your last 10 meetings will reveal that ‘pivoting off topic’ is a source competitive advantage – not something that should be micromanaged. Instead, set of a domain of strict time-frames; and then introduce a template of discussion topics that are updated and fluid by design in response to the organic patterns noticed across meetings over time.

  3. Tune your management instinct with exposure to systems and cases: Shifting from manual ‘pre-planning’ of meeting outcomes to instant intuition may seem attractive from a time-saving standpoint; but this intuition needs exposure to the correct experiences and cases – and a ‘gut feeling’ move made from the wrong experience can damage your project just as quickly. At CONQA, we have been fortunate to distil thousands of cases and cross-domain leadership methodologies into a single one-time event format: this maximises the domain of exposure needed for this high-performance intuition to truly kick in, but most importantly automates the ‘behaviour exposure’ process.