How To Achieve AAA Performance Every Time

By Heather Baldwin

Think of a day when everything clicked. You felt completely in control of all your responsibilities as a sales manager. You coached a sales rep to close his biggest sale. Perhaps you gave a great, articulate presentation. Chances are, your energy that day was fully engaged and your attitude was proactive and confident. Wouldn’t it be great if you could replicate it? You can, says Pam Brill, president of In The Zone, Inc. ( and author of The Winner’s Way: A Proven Method for Achieving Your Personal Best in Any Situation (McGraw-Hill, 2004). Brill says she has identified three core elements that, when aligned at optimal levels, hold the power to boost you into that zone where everything clicks. She calls the elements the three As of The Winner’s Way.

Activation. Activation is your physical and physiological experience at any moment. It ranges from restful recuperation to heightened levels for circumstances requiring high physical or mental energy. When your activation level isn’t optimized for the challenge at hand, you won’t perform at your best. For example, extremely high activation levels are great in times of extreme danger but in typical business situations they can be disastrous when we try to release some of our energy. Similarly, a low level of activation facilitates total immersion in low-key activities such as one-on-one coaching, but it doesn’t work for getting your team pumped up for the new quarter. Start recognizing your activation levels during the day and seek the right balance of tension for each situation.

Attention. Optimized attention is the ability to focus only on the essentials and tune everything else to a dull background roar. When you are in the zone, your attention is matched to the demands of the task. “My clients who engaged willfully with the actual situation learned how to turn away from imagined or overblown dangers – the hairy eyeball from a boss, the tone of a partner’s voice, the mere thought of a competitor, even preoccupation with the physical sensations of a racing heart,” says Brill. “When we get sidetracked from the zone by such distractions, including our own thoughts which can distort reality or disconnect us from it, we land in a different zone – but not the one for doing our best in the moment.” Actively choose the correct elements for your focus and you’ll engage with the situation to solve the problem at hand.

Attitude. Attitude is your mental stance, the mindset with which you approach life. It is extremely complex and goes way beyond simply thinking that you can do something. Attitude involves accepting a situation as is versus wishing if only. It requires replacing judgment with enjoyment, and includes framing people as opportunities rather than oppressions. Attitude also involves creating delightful moments that you can relish, even from the most mundane chores like filling out paperwork and driving to work, says Brill. Developing a great attitude takes an enormous amount of work. Brill suggests you start by giving up your notions about how people and situations should be and replacing them with an acceptance of things as they are. So instead of cursing the traffic, sit back and relish the chance to listen to a tape about improving your selling skills. Instead of beating yourself over the head that you didn’t make any cold calls yesterday, set aside time to make extra calls today or remind yourself that by skipping those calls, you put together the best PowerPoint slides you’ve ever created. You’ll be surprised how great you feel!