This is a special interview we have done after many requests, from clients, on performance management.

  • How do I maintain a high level of performance in a sustainable way?
  • What can be done to enhance one’s cognitive performance?
  • What must I do to handle the tough consulting lifestyle for longer than 1 or 2 years?

Michael and Dr. Wendy Suzuki, a neuroscientist and a professor of Neural Science and Psychology in the Center for Neural Science at New York University, discuss Wendy’s recent book which addresses these questions. The book is entitled Healthy Brain, Happy Life: A Personal Program to Activate Your Brain and Do Everything Better.

wendy-suzuki-v5We discuss how to break the monstrous cycle of self-defeat: working long hours as a badge of honor. Common for management consultants and for many FC members outside of consulting. After all, you may be able to brag about that 1 a.m. email but if you could monitor your cognition you will see it is not good. You will see what it does to your brain.

If you are are not taking care of yourself your brain is not functioning well. It affects your productivity, your decision making, and your energy. And that is not a good level to be in, especially when you are trying to compete with incredibly intelligent, driven people, and even more so if you are working for a firm that has an up or out mentality.

You have got to distinguish between health and performance, in the same way we teach you to do so when serving a corporate client on a consulting engagement. You can be performing well – share price could be high, your profits could be high – but you could be doing some very dangerous things to push those numbers up so your company is unhealthy.

Maybe you are front-loading sales in this quarter to get a bonus but you actually killing yourself in the next quarter because you will not have enough sales. Maybe you are saving money on maintenance, which is not visible in the short-term but will seriously hurt your company in the long-term. That is good performance but poor health.

And the same logic applies to your performance. Just because you are performing well does not mean you are doing it in a sustainable way. And if you think that succession planning is so important, which it is in business, if your health is unstable and unpredictable you are basically killing succession planning because the company has to respond and replace you without any warning. And who wants to put a company in that position? Certainly, you don’t want to do it. More important, do you want to put yourself and your family in this position?

There is a cultural pressure to not talk about these things. There is a perception that it is a sign of weakness. Yet you are the one who will be paying the price if something will not change.

Many people believe they have to sacrifice enormous amounts, including their health, before they deserve the right to enjoy life. It is a horrible way to live your life. So many people joke about this. Saying, “I am a little rat on a running wheel!” Change it!

They think that the alternative is becoming a hippy on the beach. And the point is, you don’t have to be that rat, sacrificing everything on the running wheel, to be the best that you can be at work. In fact, you are going to be better at work if you change that rat on the running wheel attitude. And instead, you start paying attention to how much exercise you get, your food intake, your energy level, in addition to what is your productivity.

We believe the work Wendy Suzuki is doing – sleep, healthy living, exercise and its impact on the functioning of a brain – is the future of leadership. Leadership is not just whether or not you can manage the team, set goals for them and make sure they achieve those goals. That is such a one-dimensional definition of leadership.

Leadership is whether or not you can be fulfilled by what you are doing and get up in the morning not wanting to kill yourself in the process of meeting a goal that some shareholder wants you to meet.

Work of Wendy Suzuki:

Visit Wendy Suzuki’s website.

Read Wendy Suzuki’s book: Healthy Brain, Happy Life.

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2 responses to Wendy Suzuki on improving cognitive performance

  1. You are welcome Marta.

  2. This was a great podcast! Her ideas make so much sense. I am happy that someone finally puts some science behind it and brings it to general population.

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