Asserting yourself at the workplace can a challenge, especially if you have colleagues who tend to be confident and domineering. Employees are under pressure to perform, to handle more, and to always be functioning at their best.
In this competitive, dog-eat-dog working world, it might sometimes feel like you’re running a never-ending race, hoping that one of your colleagues collapse first. As a result, fatigue and turnover are rising. While other companies are looking for ways to solve these issues with traditional professional development and leadership courses, the Human Performance Institute (HPI) found that managing energy, not time, is the key to sustained high performance.
By integrating the sciences of performance psychology, exercise physiology and nutrition, their course helps individuals effectively maximise their energy across four interconnected dimensions to create lasting behaviour change. In our exclusive interview with Bobby Sheikh, the Business Unit Head of Asia Pacific, he tells us a little more about how we can borrow key ideas from the exercise and nutrition world to apply to our professional lives:
Bobby Sheikh, the Business Unit Head of Asia Pacific
Q: What inspired the inception of HPI? What experiences have you drawn from your own life?
The Human Performance Institute (HPI) was founded in 1991 in the United States by a performance psychologist and a movement and nutrition specialist, who pioneered a new a new holistic approach in training elite athletes to perform at their peak. Uniquely, their programmes focused on mental and emotional aspects, not just physical – which was revolutionary at the time. HPI was acquired by Johnson & Johnson in 2008, after our former CEO took part in the training with the Executive Committee of Johnson & Johnson.
They were so impressed by the results that the acquisition decision was unanimous – urban legend in J&J says that it was the fastest acquisition J&J completed! J&J realised the benefits that the programs would bring to J&J employees as we strive to build the healthiest workforce in the world – a project our CEO Alex Gorsky calls “HealthForce 2020”.
We did not broadly offer HPI programs to external companies outside the US until now. In 2018, we strategically expanded, opening our first office outside the US in Singapore and so I call myself employee number 1! Health & wellness has always been a passion for me and I enjoy start-up environments where you can pave the way, so working at HPI is the perfect combination of the two.
When I took my first HPI in the programme, my main realisation was that I tend to rely on the physical dimension to manage my energy – the physical dimension relates to movement, exercise, sleep and nutrition. At HPI, we know the physical dimension determines the quantity of energy someone has, so I have endless reserves of energy but realised I could do a better job of managing the quality and focus of that energy via mental and emotional energy dimensions. In the programme pre-work, you get feedback from not only work colleagues but also close friends and family, this feedback was super powerful for me to face some “truths” and take action in a more holistic way beyond just my physical health.
Q: What’s your target audience? Who would qualify for these courses and how can they sign up?
Anyone can take part in HPI courses. Our goal at HPI is to unleash human potential and drive holistic health and wellness, so we want to have as much impact on people’s lives as possible. The simplest way we do this by working at an organisational level. We work with corporates, health systems and governments across the region to organize private courses for their leadership, different functions and teams, but we also encourage individuals to sign up for our public courses. You can find out more and register for our public courses via our website: https://ww2.humanperformanceinstitute.com/courses
Q: What are some risk factors and/or warning signs that you looking out for?
In today’s fast-paced 24/7 world, we are faced with new and powerful changes in the way we work and live. Technology and society have changed faster in the last 50 years than any other time in history. Many of these new elements of life interfere with our ability to meet life’s challenges by taxing our attention, strength, and stamina. The result is what we at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute call the “human energy crisis”, which leads to fatigue, disengagement, judgement errors, overstress, and burnout. Those are some of the warning signs that individuals and companies should keep a look out for.
Q: It’s interesting how your programmes appear to incorporate psychology, exercise physiology and nutrition. What can we expect from a course in HPI?
HPI programmes help drive engagement and reduce burnout so that individuals, teams and organisations can perform to their full potential. Our original flagship training course, “Performance”, focuses on managing different energy dimensions (and not time!) to help participants move close to their “best selves”. In addition, we have our own framework called “Purpose, Truth, Action” for driving sustained behaviour change. At the end of the programme, you should come out with a set of rituals that you and others hold you accountable for.
Before a course commences, there is pre-work. One task is that participants take a 360-degree energy profile which the participants, and the people that matter most to them, complete to give them a snapshot of how they are currently managing energy levels. I find it fascinating that we are so good about getting feedback at work in our annual performance but very rarely take a step back overall to get feedback from the people that matter most.
During the course, participants take part in a series of coaching, talks, 1-to-1 and group sessions led by expert trainers including performance coaches, nutritionists and exercise physiologists. These sessions cover the four dimensions of energy – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual – and how to maximise energy levels for higher performance. Participants also learn to identify their ultimate purpose, which guides them and acts as a powerful motivator for holding themselves accountable to stick to the actions and rituals they have committed to. The sessions are designed to be very practical, for example, the gym sessions (yes, you will be working out!) are principle-based so you learn about heart rate zone training, resistance training and exercising whilst on the go. In the nutrition sessions, you will learn about practical ways to keep your energy up.
Q: How do the courses differ from existing workshops or programmes that aim to increase employee productivity levels by targeting stress and well-being?
Three things make HPI stand out from other productivity programs – the first being that HPI is science-based and scientifically proven. Our programmes are grounded in performance psychology, exercise physiology and nutrition. We know that our formula works as clinical trials and studies have proven that HPI programmes make a difference.
The second thing is that our courses are holistic, which a lot of leadership courses out there are not. Nothing else brings together physical, mental, emotional and spiritual elements with a proven framework and methodology to drive long-lasting and impactful behavioral changes like HPI.
Finally, HPI is viewed as an altruistic course by participants, and this is quite unique. By this, I mean that because the programmes focus on the individual as a person, not just as an employee, participants view this as an investment in them as human beings. They see and feel the benefits of HPI even in their home life too.
Q: Are the courses catered to an individual need or more general? For example, two people at work might be facing stress but for different reasons (work-life imbalance, pressurising work environment etc.), so would HPI cater to their different requirements?
Yes – HPI courses are designed in a way so everyone will benefit, but everyone has a personal journey to go through. As I mentioned, this journey begins before the face to face part of the course with participants completing the 360-degree energy profile that also includes feedback from family, friends and peers to better understand their habits, behaviours and what ultimately drives them in life. This is quite unique – as I mentioned, we are used to getting feedback from colleagues and bosses, but how often do you hear from the people who matter to you the most? Using this a starting point, we provide the guidance, perspective, and inspiration to help individuals develop positive habits for life and focus on their personal goals, whatever they may be.
For me personally, my areas of focus are the mental and emotional aspects of wellbeing, and I try to spend extra time being mindful and empathetic with rituals such as daily meditation and gratitude exercises.
Q: How can changes during the course be sustained thereafter? Do you provide follow-up or refresher courses?
Yes, we do. We consider the first 90 days upon finishing the programme to be a ‘high touch’ critical period when it comes to forming habits. In this period we physically mail impactful items to you, in addition, there are webinars, email content, access to coaches and some community initiatives like a “buddy” system. We also do provide refresher short form courses.
It is important to note that the courses have been designed to drive long-term behavioral change. We have multiple studies that collects data from participants at the time of the programme, 6 months later, 12 months later and 18 months after the programme, these studies show the sustained impact of HPI courses for participants in improving general health markers like vitality and general health (components of the widely accepted Rand “SF 36” measures). A study by Tufts University published in the American Journal of Health Promotion last year also found that participants who completed our 2.5-day Performance programme reported improved energy, quality of life, purpose in life, and sleep after six months and we are now monitoring the participants for data beyond 6 months.
Q: The Human Performance Institute has been said to believe that purpose is key to helping individuals connect with themselves, their values and in turn their company’s ambition. Could you elaborate on what you mean by that? How do you encourage individuals to find that?
Individual purpose has a big impact on performance. Understanding our personal ‘why’ is critical to becoming more resilient and maximising our strengths. Some people may think that purpose is a soft concept, but one of my “aha”s over the past few months has been to understand the power of purpose. There are many clinical studies showing how having a personal sense of purpose had a huge impact, including decreasing the risk of mortality, and improving health behaviours, physiology and leadership performance.
Our trainers refer to identifying your purpose in life as finding your “Ultimate Mission”. Once your mission has been identified, you’re able to understand what drives you, make decisions based upon deep values, and become more productive at home and at work.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you encounter in getting people to join these programmes?
We firmly believe that health and wellbeing drives peak performance, and that this holistic approach will be the future of strong leadership and business performance. But we understand that some companies are at different stages of adopting holistic strategies or understanding how this impacts leadership and productivity. Those at an early stage may find it harder to get on board, so we help them see the value. I feel fortunate to work for J&J where there is a strong conviction that holistic health, leadership and performance are closely correlated.
Q: Could you describe some of your work with athletes and other organisations like military Special Forces?
The roots of HPI go back to working with elite performers in the US, including Olympic gold medalists, military Special Forces and hostage rescue teams but our offering has since evolved to include businesses and office workers, and I think this is where we need to focus to elevate global health and performance. Unlike athletes and special forces who have very structured lifestyles, it’s up to us to decide how much to eat & sleep, how long to spend at work, how to be more take care of ourselves emotionally, so we find that we can have a big impact with our organisational and individual approach.
Q: What does the future hold for HPI? Any plans to take these programmes to others part of the region?
We already offer our programmes across Asia Pacific – we tailor them to the organisation. We recreate and HPI environment using in a pop-up store approach, so although we are regionally headquartered in Singapore our programs can be run from anywhere. We’re currently working with companies in China, India, and SEA countries and we hope to expand this list so that more people can benefit and unleash their potential!
Photo Credits: Spurwing Communications and Unsplash