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When you hear the term “high performance,” what images pop into your head?  When I asked what “high performance” means for innovation leaders in my Innovation eXcelerator program, I got a mixed reaction and confused looks. I understand why combining high performance and innovation leadership creates confusion and anxiety. Unfortunately, concepts like innovation and design thinking are still considered hit-or-miss. Sometimes you get good results and sometimes you don’t…sort of like my golf game.

Combining “high performance” with “innovation” seems to set up an elusive aspiration: Delivering innovation in a consistent way, and getting consistent results. However, if you want to be a successful innovation leader, you’ll need to build high performance habits that help you gain buy-in from stakeholders and push new ideas forward. You can master facilitating design sprints and leading digital transformations without these habits, but you’ll see inconsistent results. These three habits are the bedrock you need to deliver high performance innovation: 

  • Clarity. It’s critical to be crystal clear about your mission as an innovation leader. In fact, that’s the #1 thing we talk about during the high performance module of the Innovation eXcelerator program. This is so important to me that I set my phone to send me reminders about it five times a day. Five times a day, it shows me the three key words that represent my mission as an innovation leader. I encourage you to do the same. Write out your mission and what you are trying to accomplish. What’s your purpose as an innovation leader? What are three words you will use to guide you each day in living that purpose and being clear? Clarity is essential.
  • Courage. Courage is a critical practice for innovation leaders. Sometimes it can be helpful to roleplay difficult situations with a colleague or friend. These roleplays help you beef up your courage muscles before you need to flex them in real scenarios. For example, a coaching program I recently went through paired up attendees to practice bringing courage to difficult situations. During my roleplay, it was fascinating to see where I backed off from being courageous and where I leaned in. As innovation leaders, we should be finding every opportunity to practice courage.
  • Influence. So many leaders struggle to get traction for their ideas because they haven’t adopted a true influence mindset. They’re still thinking of influence as manipulation. Are you trying to manipulate and convince? Or are you trying to influence, be of service, and have a positive impact? If innovators don’t master influence, it’s impossible for them to get support and buy-in. If you haven’t yet, read my post about influence. To improve your mindset around influence, try our innovation influence worksheet.

The skills of clarity, courage, and influence are the foundation you need to be successful. Mastering high performance is the most important investment you can make as an innovation leader. I encourage you to download our high-performance innovation worksheet. Use it to reflect, assess your performance in the areas most critical to leadership, and figure out where you want to improve.

If you’re looking to go deeper on high performance innovation, I recommend checking out these two books:

  • High Performance Habits is by Brendon Burchard, who developed the high-performance coaching program. The book forms the foundation of how to become a coach and help people live a high-performance life.
  • Creative Confidence is about how to build just that: creative confidence. It’s for innovation leaders and anyone committed to driving innovation and launching new products, services, and ideas.

These are my two favorite books. You’ll find them on my shelf, on my desk, marked up. These are the books I live by as an innovation leader.