Recovery: the Forgotten Aspect of High Performance

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Home > Articles > Recovery: the Forgotten Aspect of High Performance

 Recovery: the Forgotten Aspect of High Performance

by Susan Goldsworthy OLY | Today's Manager
June 1, 2021
Given the pandemic, everyone feels exhausted and stressed. Recovery is vital.​

​​In today’s uncertain world, with an ongoing pan­demic as well as restrictive measures on move­ment, employees are reporting increasing feelings of stress and exhaustion. 

Surveys run with 700 executives from mid-large size companies across the globe in the past year show that as many as 60 per cent of people feel that they are spending most of their time in either survival or burn-out modes.

Building from Tony Schwartz’ Energy Quadrants, 2 in performance zone the energy is high and positive and people feel confident, hopeful, challenged, enthusiastic, and engaged.

n recovery zone, the energy is low and positive where people feel chilled, relaxed, relieved, rested, and calm.

In survival zone, energy is high and negative so people feel stressed, irritable, frustrated, anxious, and impatient.

Finally, in burn-out zone there is low, negative energy and people feel exhausted, depressed, depleted, dis­couraged, and hopeless.

Critically, it is difficult to go directly from burn-out or survival to performance. Recovery is vital.

Think about sportspeople. In order to perform at their best they need to train, compete, as well as rest and recover. Without ‘downtime’, they risk physical in­jury and mental exhaustion. Yet, when it comes to business, and with the increasing use of virtual tech­nology in working from home, there is far less sepa­ration between our professional and personal lives.

Ironically, back in the 1980’s when the technological revolution was nascent, people predicted that we would all have much more spare time. Instead, work hours extended and, with the widespread arrival of personal computers and mobile phones, the boundaries between work and home became increasingly blurred.

There are some benefits to this new way of working. Colleagues are much more accepting of children, dogs, and cats interrupting work meetings. We are more un­derstanding of the challenges we all face in turning parts of our homes into working spaces. We save time previously spent commuting to and from the office.

The drawbacks include longer working hours, the ab­sence of physical proximity and the loss of informal, un­planned meeting opportunities by the coffee machines.

With increasing numbers of executives feeling stressed or exhausted, what practical steps can be taken?

Three simple actions are as follows:

  1. ​​​Make time during the day to switch off from all technology and, if possible, connect with nature. Even if only for 10 to 15 minutes, this time is cru­cial for the brain to reset and renew;
  2. Take time at the start of meetings to connect with colleagues beyond the business. Allow a space for people to share how they are feeling without at­tempting to offer solutions; and
  3. Reach out to colleagues and share a short mes­sage, a video clip, or a gif to let them know you are thinking of them and to nurture trust.

Another way to support wellbeing is through a practice of hope.

As the changes to the way we work continues and peo­ple’s emotional bandwidth is increasingly stretched, we see a difference in how hope presents itself. When in the performance zone, there is a pervasive feeling of hope whilst when in the burn-out zone, the feeling is one of hopelessness. Qualitative and quantitative re­search indicates that, whist not important for eve­ryone, between 87.5 and 90 per cent of executives view hope as a positive and necessary emotion. Research also indicates that hope can be learned.

Rather than being its opposite, hope can exist along­side despair. Defined as an embodied energetic intent that fuels a sense of flourishing,
3 hope is contagious and provides the energy for people to act. In acting, people then feel an increased sense of hope and so it becomes a self-reinforcing cycle.

y recalling times from our past when hope was im­portant and sharing those stories with each other, we can support and positively impact each other’s wellbeing.

In the words of Polish philosopher Henryk Skoli­mowski: “Hope is a mode of our very being. To be alive is to live in a state of hope. Hope is a precondi­tion of our mental health. Hope is the scaffolding of our existence. Hope is a reassertion of our belief in the meaning of human life, and in the sense of the uni­verse. Hope is the precondition of all meaning, of all strivings, of all actions. To embrace hope is a form of wisdom; to abandon it is a form of foolishness.”

Recovery is vital to productivity and it is an illusion that long hours equate to quality work. As we con­tinue to work with a hybrid approach and live with restrictions, taking care of our physical and mental health has never been more necessary. By looking after the wellbeing of ourselves and our friends and colleagues, we can nurture a powerful sense of com­munity that sparks hope amidst the uncertainty.



1 Research at IMD by Professor S. Goldsworthy.

2 The Energy Project. Accessed via, https://theener­​

3 Doctoral research by S. Goldsworthy.

Affiliate Professor of Leadership & Organisational Change at IMD and a former Olympic finalist, Su­san is passionate about working with people to turn knowledge into behaviour.

She is co-author of three award-win­ning leadership books, Care to Dare, Choosing Change, and the recently released Where the Wild Things Were, for people of all ages to raise awareness of biodiversity loss and the need to protect what we still can in our magical, more-than-human world.


Copyright © 2021 Singapore Institute of Management

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Today's Manager Issue 2, 2021

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