The Higher Level Approach

Many people want to keep improving in their personal or professional lives. They may aim to be better at encouraging other people, managing challenges, doing superb work, leading teams or doing another activity.

Imagine that you want to follow elements of this approach. Let’s explore several ways it may be possible to deliver to a higher level.

You can work by yourself
and deliver to a higher level

Some people take this route when aiming to develop. They do things that give them positive energy, gather practical information and start putting into practice.

Some do this when aiming to improve in their personal lives. One person expressed this in the following way.

“I have had a rewarding career which has helped to create a good lifestyle for myself and my family. Looking back, I probably have only one regret.

“I could probably have been kinder in several situations. So I spent a lot of time studying people who were kind. This opened my eyes to several of the principles followed by people who took this route.

“First, I then followed the path taken by many people – which is to focus on being grateful. Counting my blessings helped me to see things in perspective and be more patient in certain situations.

“Second, I tried to be kinder in my actions. These could involve encouraging a person, spending time with staff members to explore their career aspirations or doing other things to lift people’s days.

“Third, I learned to buy time before responding to triggers that sometimes made me angry. This involved recognising the warning signs, staying calm and then following my chosen response. This helped a lot.”

Some people take the individual route in their professional work. They may follow the passion, focus on the principles they want to follow and aim to do their personal best.

A person may do this when working as an artist, writer, gardener, therapist, crafts person or in another role. They follow their drive, maintain a daily discipline and deliver high quality work.

Whilst learning from the masters of their craft, they take home these lessons and apply them as an individual. They focus on becoming the best kind of professional they can be.

Imagine that you have aimed to develop by yourself – albeit by also being eclectic in what you learn from others. At a certain point, however, you may want to explore the following stage.

You can work with other people who have
high standards and deliver to a higher level

Some people develop by working with people who consistently operate at a higher level. This is a step taken many athletes, artistic performers and people in other professions.

People sometimes take this step in an organic way as part of their natural physical, psychological or professional development. They then aim to perform well at the next level.

Some individuals stretch themselves to take a bigger step than would be expected at a particular stage. Such a person may take time to adjust but then begin to deliver the required higher professional standards.

Some individuals take this step because, whilst they are still doing good work, their career may have plateaued. A professional footballer described this in the following way.

“Two seasons ago the club I played for was relegated to the second tier. I stayed with them for their first season in the new division. I enjoyed playing but the standard was different.

“I also play for my national team and the coach said it would be better for me to play in the top division. He made the point that I would soon become regarded as a second tier player.

“My club understood this and we found a solution. The club got a good fee and I moved back to the top division. This has helped me to develop and perform at a high level.”

Looking at my own work, I have been stimulated by working with people who embody high standards. During my early career I was invited to work with a team of superb therapists. They acted as positive models and expected us to deliver great work.

Many years later I learned a lot when running a creativity workshop for entrepreneurs. Much of my previous work had been with motivated educators and leaders in business.

Suddenly I was working with high energy people who wanted something extra. Many of the people in the room were more creative than I would ever be – but it was possible to find a solution.

During the sessions I offered them several practical frameworks they could use to help themselves and their staff to channel their creativity. This taught me something about my work.

The previous groups I worked with liked the creative inputs I provided, but my work was actually quite structured. The entrepreneurs preferred the structures I provided to help them channel their creativity.

This led to creating more frameworks that could be offered to creative people, knowledge workers and decision makers. These enabled them channel their talents to continue doing top class work.

Imagine that you have developed by working with people who embody high standards. You may also want to consider the following stage.

You can work by yourself and with other
people and deliver to an even higher level

Some people reach a stage their career where they follow this path. They may do so for the following reasons.

They want to return to focusing on
their individual area of expertise

A person may want to do this for certain reasons. They may have a strong desire to build on their strengths, focus on a specific niche and do superb work.

They want to devote the majority of their time to pursuing their particular interest. They may find it is difficult to do this if, for example, much of their working day is taken up by organisational or administrative matters.

They may behave in a professional way within an organisation but feel driven to focus on a specific activity. They may then move on to pursue their individual route but, at the same time, take the following step.

They may collaborate with some people
and deliver on an even higher level

Some individual workers like to spend some of their time working with stimulating people. This provides the inspiration to deliver work at an even high level. Different people follow this path in different ways.

Such a person may continue to do individual work but also do stimulating work with a small group, team or organisation. They may do this as an associate, consultant, contractor or in another role.

They may then aim: a) to use their strengths to make a positive contribution; b) to enable themselves and the people they work with to deliver great work.

Such a person may also continue to collaborate with kindred spirits. One person expressed this in the following way.

“I enjoy working alone but occasionally it is good to talk or work with people who share similar values. Sometimes we just share ideas but there are times when we work together.

“During the past two years, for example, we have collaborated on several stimulating projects. These have helped both our customers and ourselves to develop and deliver success.”

Let’s return to your own life. Can you think of a specific activity where you would like to follow elements of the higher level approach? If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to complete the following sentences.

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