How To Find Your High-Performance Pattern



“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” — Henry Stanley Haskins

How do you achieve truly outstanding results in every area of your life?

What if your greatness is already within you, and you are just in your own way?

It is.

It’s your personal High-Performance Pattern, and it’s the key to getting better than expected results in work and in life.

In the book Patterns of High Performance: Discovering the Ways People Work Best, Jerry L. Fletcher shares a process for finding your high-performance pattern.

Summary of the Process

You can find your personal High-Performance Pattern by exploring your past experiences where things went better than expected, and identifying the sequence of action steps that were common across those experiences.

Fletcher writes:

“Make a list of the times when you’ve had the experience of having something take off and go better than expected. 

Select three or more different stories, and write them out in detail.  Spend some time analyzing them. 

Note the actions that were common to every story and see if you can put them into a sequence that feels right to you. 

Then show the resulting pattern to people who know you, preferably people who ere part of the experiences that you have used as your examples. 

Ask them for feedback. 

Then try your pattern out and see if it works.”

1. Start with Better than Expected Experiences

To start the process, you need to recall better than expected experiences in your life.  The goal is to identify 10 to 15 situations in your life where you produced better than expected experiences.

  1. Think of categories of activities:  Job Assignments, Relationships, Volunteer Activities, Recreation, Family Events.   You can use these categories to help you recall past successes.  We usually remember problems and failures more readily than our successes, so you can use these categories to help you remember events that went better than expected.
  2. Note any example that pops into mind where an activity took off and succeeded beyond expectations.
    It doesn’t matter whether your involvement was a few hours or a few years.  Keep in mind  that you determine the event’s importance — it’s your own judgment and definition of success, and don’t pre-judge your examples as not good enough.
  3. Explore your experiences until you have 10 to 15 events.

Fletcher writes:

“We begin the search for High-Performance Patterns with a deceptively simple process.  We ask people to comb their personal history for experiences when, in their own judgment, they performed extraordinarily well. 

We define these as times when a  project, activity, or relationship took off and went much better than anyone, especially the person telling the story expected

Events from every arena of life are valid for this exploration. 

They need not reflect only the highest points, nor must they be limited to job experience.”

2.  Choose 3 Stories that are the Most Alive

Choose 3 stories that represent you at your best.  Make sure they are from very different circumstances and make sure that at least one of the stories is outside of work.

Fletcher writes:

“After people list their high-performance experiences, we ask them to choose the three that are most alive, most representative of their very best. 

The three selected must come from markedly different circumstances.  At least one must be a personal, nonbusiness example. 

When the person tells these three stories in detail, we analyze them closely, looking for what happens consistently across every time that the person achieves truly outstanding results.”

3. Identify the Common Action Steps in Each of the 3 Stories

Use the four basic phases in each of your 3 high-performance experiences to identify common action steps. The four basic phases are:

  1. Getting Drawn In – Understand the steps by which you get involved in an activity that ultimately becomes high-performing.
  2. Getting It Rolling – Understand the steps of the process by which you get the activity under way.
  3. Keeping It Rolling – Understand how you keep an activity rolling after it is under way.
  4. Ending It Well – Understand the steps you follow to bring something to closure.

For each phase, you can ask some guiding questions to help you identify the common action steps across your three high-performance stories:

Phase Guiding Questions
Getting Drawn In
  • How did you become aware of the activity?
  • What risk-reward trade-offs attracted you to it?
  • How did you come to commit to doing it?
Getting It Rolling
  • How did you gather information?
  • How did you decide what needed to be done?
  • How did you develop support from authorities and peers?
  • How did you handle the process of getting things organized for the main thrust of action?
Keeping It Rolling
  • How did you react to initial successes or failures?
  • Did you use outside experts?
  • How did you cope with the pressure and problems?
  • What mid-course corrections had to be made?
Ending It Well
  • How did you end your involvement responsibly?
  • How were you rewarded?
  • How have you used the learning subsequently?

4. Put the Actions into Sequence

This is where the magic happens.  More precisely, this is where your magic happens.  Put the common action steps in a sequence that feels right for you.

Cross-check across your three high-performance stories to see if you really nailed it.

Fletcher writes:

“In every case, our guiding questions are just the beginning.  Finding a High-Performance Pattern is not a mechanical process.  Merely answering a series of questions will not make your pattern emerge

It requires a mutual probing for increasingly deep insights into how a person works best and then a concerted effort to capture that process in a set of written steps. 

We never consider a pattern complete until the person really understands why the common elements in each high performance story work as well as they do

What does each step accomplish that moves the activity to the next stage until it ultimately concludes well?”

5. Write the Pattern Down

Write your pattern down as a set of action steps.  The steps should be in sequence and they should reflect your synthesis.

They should also be the common steps across your three high-performance stories. (That’s why it’s a *pattern*.)

Fletcher writes:

“In the final stage, we write out the step-by-step process in detail.  Each individual then has a unique, personal guide to the way in which he or she achieves success. 

Each step in the completed pattern holds an insight about the person

Each step accomplishes something in an activity and sets the stage for the next step.”

Example of a High-Performance Pattern

Here is an example High-Performance Pattern for Nick Rostov.

Fletcher writes:

  1. I get engaged with an activity I have not done before that gives me a chance to show how well I can do, and I want to do it well.
  2. I recognize that “tests” are an inherent part of the activity and that ultimately what I do will be put to a significant test that I’m not sure I can pull off.
  3. I start it, find that getting good at it intrigues me, and get completely drawn into it.
  4. I identify every aspect of the activity and work on mastering them one at a time until I understand how to exploit their possibilities fully.
  5. I weave all the strands together into the best model I can create for the requirements of the situation.
  6. I recognize there is an unknown or uncontrollable element that adds uncertainty to the outcome and heightens my concentration.
  7. I pilot test and refine the model until it is elegant and polished.
  8. I give the model the ultimate test, running it just as planned, and it works fabulously, building to an incredible crescendo.
  9. I receive clear, positive test results that show how well I’ve done.
  10. I feel satisfied that i have proved my ability and deserve to play at the new level of accomplishment.

Nick used three stories to draw from to extract the pattern: racquetball, management training, and Senate Club speech.

Here is how Nick’s step #1 in his pattern is reflected across his 3 high-performance stories:

Action Step Illustrated in Each of the 3 High-Performance Stories
Step #1:  I get engaged with an activity I have not done before that gives me a chance to show how well I can do, and I want to do it well.
  1. Racquetball: Nick wanted to become a good athlete but lacked natural talent.  He chose racquetball feeling that he had a chance to become pretty good at it.
  2. Management Training: Nice was new to management training but badly wanted to demonstrate what he could do.  Designing and delivering a European training program gave him an opportunity to prove his abilities.
  3. Senate Club Speech.  Nick had never given a speech before.  Applying for the Senate Club would give him a chance to show how well he could do.  A good speech would get him into the Senate Club.


Fletcher helped Nick to characterize the essence of his High-Performance Pattern:

“My High-Performance Pattern is about proving my ability to play at a new level of accomplishment by mastering each aspect of the activity, creating the best model I can, and receiving hard proof that my model works fabulously in the ultimate test situation.”

You might already know your own High-Performance pattern.

But having it written down and validated can give you more confidence to face new situations and make better choices to produce extraordinary results.

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