Secrets to Sustainable Performance
from the former Airbnb APAC MD

Striking the perfect balance between being challenged and feeling overwhelmed is a daunting task for many. How can we operate at a pace that sufficiently pushes us to grow, while maintaining a high level of motivation and productivity in the long run? How can we achieve and sustain a “flow state”, which arises when we are energized, focused and enjoying our work?

Balancing these aspects is deeply personal and varies from person to person. So in our recent webinar with Parin Mehta, former Airbnb APAC Managing Director, we discussed various approaches to finding the sweet spot for sustainable performance.

Pain + Reflection = Progress

We need to intentionally learn from our experiences. Being at the “top of your game” only comes when we extract from our past how to engage the future. At its core, sustainable performance is about reflection, giving ourselves and others permission to slow down in order to speed up.

Through reflecting on our experiences, we can identify the physiological signals indicating when we are at our best state or when we are not.

It’s important to trust our instincts and intuition when finding the perfect balance. Aside from checking in with ourselves, it is also essential to seek honest feedback from close friends or family members who can tell us how we seem to be doing.

And as leaders, it’s important to create that space for your team. Try pulling everyone together for 30 minutes, going around in a circle and asking “What’s one thing that’s going really well and one thing that’s not going really well?”

Setting a “Northstar”, Normalizing Trade Offs

Leaders have a responsibility to set the pace for their teams, ruthlessly prioritize and enable trade offs. They should clarify a “Northstar” to guide decision-making. This can be a combination of strategy, vision, and mission that grounds everyone to the bigger picture. Having a “Northstar” will enable individuals in the team to tie their actions to wider objectives, yielding deeper conviction in their work. Team members should say no to things that don't contribute to achieving the “Northstar”, and leaders should set a culture where trade offs are valued and recognized as a key part of maintaining sustained productivity and focus.

Investing Time in People Management

Investing significant time and effort into effective people management can be taxing. It can also temporarily decrease an individual leaders’ short-term output for parts of their scope beyond people management. But letting this deter leaders from constantly improving how they lead is short-sighted, because there are only really two levers for success in business: talent and capital. Capital is deployed by talent, and team productivity is one of the levers that leaders can influence the most. So investing in people is what ultimately enables the achievement of long-term business goals.

Leading with Curiosity

Asking questions is key to effective reflection and the most critical aspect of managing people is establishing an open, honest, and simple communication pattern. Asking the right questions in 1:1s can go a long way in helping leaders and teams understand, trust and support one another. Examples of simple and effective questions to ask are “what’s top of mind for you?” and “what’s stopping you from doing it?”.


At an individual level, performing sustainably begins with reflection. At the management level, leaders should be setting a clear “Northstar” for decision-making and trade-offs while investing time into people management. The key to optimal productivity and success is creating an environment where everyone is able to find their flow state while working towards wider business objectives.


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