High Performance Habits (part 1 of 22)

High Performance Habits

By: Brendon Burchard (2017)

[Pigeonhole] A Practical Rule Book

[Premise] Brendan Burchard has been a coach of ‘high achievers’ for over 10 years. He built his prominence through online learning and public speaking. This book is the result of hundreds of interviews with his top performers. These habits are the rules that each of them consistently followed in order to reach their levels of success.


Introduction (1-28)
Beyond Natural: The Quest for High Performance (29-50)

Section One: Personal Habits (51-52)
Habit 1: Seek Clarity (53-90)
Habit 2: Generate Energy (91-126)
Habit 3: Raise Necessity (127-170)

Section Two: Social Habits (171-172)
Habit 4: Increase Productivity (173-214)
Habit 5: Develop Influence (215-254)
Habit 6: Demonstrate Courage (255-288)

Section Three: Sustaining Success (289-290)
Beware Three Traps (291-324)
The #1 Thing (325-342)
Summary Guide (343-347)

Continuing Education Resources (348)
About the Author (349-350)
Acknowledgments (351-356)
Endnotes (357-368)
References (369)

[Key Points] The Summary Guide (part 2 of this series) provides the Key Points of the book.  Further details will be explored in the chapter logs.

Principles: Table of Work Principles 12 – 16 (part 14 of 14)

12. Diagnose Problems to Get at Their Root Causes

  1. To diagnose well, ask the the following questions: 1. Is the outcome good or bad? 2. Who is responsible for the outcome? 3. If the outcome is bad, is the Responsible Party incapable and/or is the design bad? 
    • Ask yourself: “Who should do what differently?”
    • Identify the principles that were violated.
    • Avoid Monday morning quarterbacking.
    • Don’t confuse the quality of someone’s circumstances with the quality of their approach to dealing with the circumstances.
    • Identifying the fact that someone else doesn’t know what to do doesn’t mean that you know what to do.
    • Remember that a root cause is not an action but a reason.
    • To distinguish between a capacity issue and a capability issue, imagine how the person would perform at that particular function if they had ample capacity.
    • Keep in mind that mangers usually fail or fall short of their goals for one (or more) of five reasons.
  2. Maintain an emerging synthesis by diagnosing continuously
  3. Keep in mind that diagnoses should produce outcomes.
    • Remember that if you have the same people doing the same things, you should expect the same results.
  4. Use the following “drill-down” technique to gain an 80/20 understanding of a department or sub-department that is having problems.
  5. Understand that diagnosis is foundational to both progress and quality relationships.

13. Design Improvements to Your Machine to Get Around Your Problems

  1. Build your machine.
  2. Systemize your principles and how they will be implemented.
    • Create great decision-making machines by thinking through the criteria you are using to make decisions while you are making them.
  3. Remember that a good plan should resemble a movie script.
    • Put yourself in the position of pain for a while so that you gain a richer understanding of what you’re designing for.
    • Visualize alternative machines and their outcomes, and then choose.
    • Consider second- and third-order consequences, not just first-order ones.
    • Use standing meetings to help your organization run like a Swiss clock.
    • Remember that a good machine takes into account the fact that people are imperfect.
  4. Recognize that design is an iterative process. Between a bad “now” and good “then” is a “working through it” period.
    • Understand the power of the “cleansing storm.”
  5. Build the organization around goals rather than tasks.
    • Build your organization from the top down.
    • Remember that everyone must be overseen by a believable person who has high standards.
    • Make sure the people at the top of each pyramid have the skills and focus to manage their direct reports and a deep understanding of their jobs.
    • In designing your organization, remember that the 5-Step Process is the path to success and that different people are good at different steps.
    • Don’t build the organization to fit the people.
    • Keep scale in mind.
    • Organize departments and sub-departments around the most logical groupings based on “gravitational pull.”
    • Make departments as self-sufficient as possible so that they have control over the resources they need to achieve their goals.
    • Ensure that the rations of senior managers to junior managers and of junior managers to their reports are limited to preserve quality communication and mutual understanding.
    • Consider succession and training in your design.
    • Don’t just pay attention to your job; pay attention to how your job will be done if you are no longer around.
    • Use “double-do” rather than “double-check” to make sure mission-critical tasks are done correctly.
    • Use consultants wisely and watch out for consultant addiction.
  6. Create an organizational chart to look like a pyramid, with straight lines down that don’t cross.
    • Involve the person who is the point of the pyramid when encountering cross-departmental or cross-sub-departmental issues.
    • Don’t do work for people in another department or grab people from another department to do work for you unless you speak to the person responsible for overseeing the other department.
    • Watch out for “department slip.”
  7. Create guardrails when needed – and remember it’s better not to guardrail at all.
    • Don’t expect people to recognize and compensate for their own blind spots.
    • Consider the clover-leaf design.
  8. Keep your strategic vision the same while making appropriate tactical changes as circumstances dictate.
    • Don’t put the expedient ahead of the strategic.
    • Think about both the big picture and the granular details, and understand the connections between them.
  9. Have good controls so that you are not exposed to the dishonesty of others.
    • Investigate and let people know you are going to investigate.
    • Remember that there is no sense in having laws unless you have policemen (auditors).
    • Beware of rubber-stamping.
    • Recognize that people who make purchases on your behalf probably will not spend your money wisely.
    • Use “public hangings” to deter bad behavior.
  10. Have the clearest possible reporting lines and delineations of responsibilities.
    • Assign responsibilities based on workflow design and people’s abilities, not job titles.
    • Constantly think about how to produce leverage.
    • Recognize that it is far better to find a few smart people and give them the best technology than to have greater number of ordinary people who are less well equipped.
    • Use leveragers.
  11. Remember that almost everything will take more time and cost more money than you expect. 

14. Do What You Set Out to Do

  1. Work for goals that you and your organization are excited about and think about how your tasks connect to those goals. 
    • Be coordinated and consistent in motivating others.
    • Don’t act before thinking. Take the time to come up with a game plan.
    • Look for create, cut-through solutions.
  2. Recognize that everyone has too much to do.
    • Don’t get frustrated.
  3. Use checklists.
    • Don’t confuse checklists with personal responsibility
  4. Allow time for rest and renovation.
  5. Ring the bell.

15. Use Tools and Protocols to Show How Work Is Done

  1. Having systemized principles embedded in tools is especially valuable for an idea meritocracy.
    • To produce real behavioral change, understand that there must be internalized or habitualized learning.
    • Use tools to collect data and process it into conclusions and actions.
    • Foster an environment of confidence and fairness by having clearly-stated principles that are implemented in tools and protocols so that the conclusions reached can be assessed by tracking the logic and data behind them.

16. And for Heaven’s Sake, Don’t Overlook Governance!

  1. To be successful, all organizations must have checks and balances.
    • Even in an idea meritocracy, merit cannot be the only determining factor in assigning responsibility and authority.
    • Make sure that no one is more powerful than the system or so important that they are irreplaceable.
    • Beware of fiefdoms.
    • Make clear that the organizations’s structure and rules are designed to ensure that it’s checks-and-balances system functions well.
    • Make sure reporting lines are clear.
    • Make sure decision rights are clear.
    • Make sure that the people doing the assessing 1) have the time to be fully informed about how the person they are checking on is doing, 2) have the ability to make the assessments, and 3) are not in a conflict of interest that stands in the way of carrying out oversight effectively.
    • Recognize that decision makers must have access to the information necessary to make decisions and must be trustworthy enough to handle that information safely.
  2. Remember that in an idea meritocracy a single CEO is not as good as a great group of leaders.
  3. No governance system of principles, rules, and checks and balances can substitute for a great partnership.

Principles: Table of Work Principles 10 and 11 (Part 13 of 14)


10. Manage as Someone Operating a Machine to Achieve a Goal

  1. Look down on your machine and yourself within it from the higher level
    • Constantly compare your outcomes to your goals.
    • Understand that a great manager is essentially an organizational engineer.
    • Build great metrics.
    • Beware of paying too much attention to what is coming at you and not enough attention to your machine.
    • Don’t get distracted by shiny objects.
  2. Remember that for every case you deal with, your approach should have two purposes: 1) to move you closer to your goal, and 2) to train and test your machine (i.e. your people and your design)
    • Everything is a case study.
    • When a problem occurs, conduct the discussion at two levels: 1) the machine level (why that outcome was produced) and 2) the case-at-hand level (what to do about it)
    • When making rules, explain the principles behind them.
    • Your policies should be natural extensions of your principles.
    • While good principles and policies almost always provide good guidance, remember that there are exceptions to every rule.
  3. Understand the differences between managing, micromanaging, and not managing. 
    • Managers must make sure that what they are responsible for works well.
    • Managing the people who report to you should feel like skiing together.
    • An excellent skier is probably going to be a better ski coach than a novice skier.
    • You should be able to delegate the details.
  4. Know what your people are like and what makes them tick, because your people are your most important resource.
    • Regularly take the temperature of each person who is important to you and to the organization.
    • Learn how much confidence to have in your people – don’t assume it.
    • Vary your involvement based on your confidence.
  5. Clearly assign responsibilities. 
    • Remember who has what responsibilities.
    • Watch out for “job slip.”
  6. Probe deep and hard to learn what you can expect from your machine.
    • Get a threshold level of understanding.
    • Avoid staying too distant.
    • Use daily updates as a tool for staying on top of what your people are doing and thinking.
    • Probe so you know whether problems are likely to occur before they actually do.
    • Probe to the level below the people who report to you.
    • Have the people who report to the people who report to you feel free to escalate their problems to you.
    • Don’t assume that people’s answers are correct.
    • Train your ear.
    • Make your probing transparent rather than private.
    • Welcome probing.
    • Remember that people who see things and think one way often have difficulty communicating with and relating to people who see things and think another way.
    • Pull all suspicious threads.
    • Recognize that there are many ways to skin a cat.
  7. Think like an owner, and expect the people you work with to do the same.
    • Going on vacation doesn’t mean one can neglect one’s responsibilities.
    • Force yourself and the people who work for you to do difficult things.
  8. Recognize and deal with key-man risk.
  9. Don’t treat everyone the same – treat them appropriately.
    • Don’t let yourself get squeezed.
    • Care about the people who work for you.
  10. Know that great leadership is generally not what it’s made out to be.
    • Be weak and strong at the same time.
    • Don’t worry about whether or not your people like you and don’t look to them to tell you what you should do.
    • Don’t give orders and try to be followed; try to be understood and to understand others by getting in sync.
  11. Hold yourself and your people accountable and appreciate them for holding your accountable.
    • If you’ve agreed with someone that something is supposed to go a certain way, make sure it goes that way – unless you get in sync about doing it differently.
    • Distinguish between a failure in which someone broke their “contract” and a failure in which there was no contract to begin with.
    • Avoid getting sucked down.
    • Watch out for people who confuse goals and tasks, because if they can’t make that distinction, you can’t trust them with responsibilities.
    • Watch out for the unfocused and unproductive “theoretical should.”
  12. Communicate the plan clearly and have clear metrics conveying whether you are progressing according to it.
    • Put things in perspective by going back before going forward.

11. Perceive and Don’t Tolerate Problems

  1. If you’re not worried, you need to worry – and if you’re worried, you don’t need to worry.
  2. Design and oversee a machine to perceive whether things are good enough or not good enough, or do it yourself.
    • Assign people the job of perceiving problems, give them time to investigate, and make sure they have independent reporting lines so that they can convey problems without any fear of recrimination.
    • Watch out for the “Frog in the Boiling Water Syndrome.”
    • Beware of group-think: The fact that no one seems concerned doesn’t mean nothing is wrong.
    • To perceive problems, compare how the outcomes are lining p with your goals.
    • “Taste the soup.”
    • Have as many eyes looking for problems as possible.
    • “Pop the cork.”
    • Realize that the best people closest to certain jobs probably know them best.
  3. Be very specific about problems; don’t start with generalizations.
    • Avoid the anonymous “we” and “they,” because they mask personal responsibility.
  4. Don’t be afraid to fix the difficult things.
    • Understand that problems with good, planned solutions in place are completely different from those without such solutions.
    • Think of the problems you perceive in a machinelike way.