The Peak Experience

Your Business Blogger was backstage with Sean Hannity of cable FOX fame. He was about to give a speech to a packed house of 1,800.

He looked great; sounded great. He was up. But he should have been down.

In the small talk before his introduction and as he stashed his luggage — yes he carried his own bags — we learned that he’d been giving speeches and doing his radio show across the country. He got only two hours sleep the night before.

We were witness to The Peak Experience.

The guy was working non-stop. And he didn’t need the money. But he wanted to give his speech for us, even if the scheduling fates had him sleepless in DC.

Yes, adrenaline kept him up. But it was more than a chemical dependence.

It is a cliche that doctors don’t get sick during epidemics; sailors don’t get seasick in a storm; electrical power-line repairmen are at their safest and most efficient when the lights and lines are out.

If there is a real emergency for your company or an extraordinary circumstance, your staff will know and will rise to meet the challenge. Especially if you, the small business owner, have so trained and motivated your team that they know that they are making a difference. Doing important work. Work that’s bigger than themselves.

The Peak Experience works only if real. Epidemics, tempests, blown power grids are difficult to fake. (Although some CEO’s I know would try to trick the staff. It never works.)

The crisis, the impending event, the project must be more than a ‘stretch goal.’ Your team won’t work Sundays for still another artificial and moving target.

The Peak Experience is an emergency; an extraordinary misalignment of the stars that doesn’t take a day off, doesn’t worry about overtime. And will have your team working through days at a time.

Alert Readers will recall that Your Business Blogger holds for working only 6 days each week.

Ancient Jewish tradition holds that there are exceptions where work can be done on the day of rest, the Sabbath. If your “ox falls into a ditch,” — if your livelihood is on the line or is a life or death situation — rules can be circumvented.

But The Peak Experience, where the company ox is in a ditch, is the exception to resting.

Remember, The Peak Experience is not normal. But sometimes can be anticipated. When working the Y2K rollover, my team worked the final month — that would be December, 1999, for our younger readers — straight through. And we knew it would be a success.

The Peak Experience is a rush that will enter your company lore and last for years. Get ready. It will happen. If something looks like The Peak Experience, don’t be afraid to work the staff to death.

These unusual events should be perceived and received as 100 year floods. Very rare, low probability, high impact. But if The Experience occures too often, then Peak begins to look like SOP. Something ordinary.

But not Hannity. Not that morning. Sean gives a soaring speech. And gets a standing O. He knew to work The Peak Experience.

And so will you.

Jack Yoest John Wesley (Jack) Yoest Jr., is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Management at The Catholic University of America. His expertise is in management training and development, operations, sales, and marketing. Professor Yoest is the president of Management Training of DC, LLC. A former Captain in the U.S. Army and with various stints as a corporate executive, he also served as Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Resources in the Administration of Governor James Gilmore of Virginia.