Great Performances Don’t Happen by Accident

On a recent business trip, I had the great joy to have breakfast with my friend Mark. Mark is one of my favorite people on the planet and always leaves me pondering the deeper questions of life and feeling grateful for being alive. We all need a friend like Mark.

During our last visit, Mark said to me, “You know what I call you? I call you ‘Kimberly-the-conqueror!'” “What?! I responded, thinking that my friend very well may have lost his mind. “Why?!” “Because you’re always conquering some big objective. You write a book. You move to Costa Rica. You launch your online courses. I’m always wondering what’s next!”

As I thought about it, I guess he’s right. I don’t know if I would have used the word “conqueror,” but everything I’ve done has been a whirlwind of effort on the front-end to launch some kind of big event. One baby step at a time.

In the theatre, we’d rehearse tirelessly, one scene at a time, breaking down every small movement. We’d be completely immersed in the world-of-the-play, until we brought it to life in front of a sold-out crowd on opening night. When I ran my events business, it was the same thing – a tremendous amount of planning, one detail at a time, to create an unforgettable experience. Before I started writing my book, I started by simply writing one blog post a day, 5 days a week, for a year. During that time I grew my voice and my confidence and discovered what resonated with my audience. That daily writing built the stamina to tackle paragraphs and then chapters, until I had a fully formed manuscript. The launch of Brave Leadership was conquered one word at a time, but I lived in anticipation for almost five years before it was fully realized.

For me, anticipation has not only been a great excitement-and-motivation-generator, but it’s also served as an incredibly useful focus tool. For when we’re anticipating something, we can almost see it and feel it. It comes to life in our minds. When I visualize something, it takes me out of overwhelm and forces me to break my massive dreams into small manageable actions so I can see them culminate in my mind.

Now the power of visualization has been discussed by thousands of writers and subject matter experts, and while many may cringe and think, “Oh, that stuff is too woo-woo for me.” In Harvard Business Review’s High-Performance Management, they laud neuroscientists who have proven that, “… visualization can literally reprogram the neural circuitry of the brain, directly improving performance.” And then they go on to give numerous examples of visualization paving the way to success. If HBR is advocating for it, perhaps it’s time to try on some of that ‘woo-woo’ stuff, eh?

What I’ve noticed works for me is to marry anticipation with visualization. I walk through the upcoming experience in my mind, in the shoes of the people involved. I think about the IMPACT I want each moment to bring. I anticipate how they might be feeling. What might they do? What questions or concerns might they have? What elements might be missing from creating the experience I want them to have? One. Action. At. A. Time.

You don’t need to be throwing a big splashy event, or writing the next great novel to benefit. If you can anticipate your conversations, how might that make a difference?

Simply put yourself in someone’s shoes. How do you want them to feel? What do you want them to do? What can you do during your conversation to ensure they experience you, and your exchange, the way you want them to?

Try it. It works.

With your direct reports.

With your clients.

With your kids.

With that big dream that you’ve been putting off.

Conquer the small moments in your life and they lead to the better, bigger outcomes.

Because you see, great performance doesn’t happen by accident. 


Kimberly Davis
Kimberly Davis
An expert on authentic leadership, Kimberly Davis shares her inspirational message of personal power, responsibility, and impact with organizations across the country and teaches leadership programs world-wide; most notably, her program “OnStage Leadership” which runs in NYC and Dallas, TX. Additionally, Kimberly teaches for Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) Cox School of Business’s Executive Education Program's Transformational Leadership Program and their Latino Leadership Initiative. She is also privileged to teach for the Bush Institute’s WE Lead Program (empowering female leaders from the Middle East). Kimberly is a TEDx speaker and her book, Brave Leadership: Unleash Your Most Confident, Authentic, and Powerful Self to Get the Results You Need, is the 2019 winner of the Benjamin Franklin Silver Award for Business and Career; an Amazon Bestseller in Business Leadership, Business Motivation, and Self-Improvement, and Motivational Business Management; and was named as the number one book to read in Inc. Magazine’s “The 12 Most Impactful Books to Read in 2018,” with a cover-endorsement by best-selling author Daniel Pink.

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  1. Loved this piece, Kimberly. Not just the lesson but also how you demonstrate how skills learned in one profession may be transferable to something quite different.
    I think we are missing more of that: an awareness about our thinking methodologies. Pilot’s checklists have been applied with great success in hospitals and I have applied the method in finance for closing books.
    Perhaps the most important methodology of all is to know how to learn.