Hallowell’s Peak Performance and Employee Management

Talented, highly skilled, and well-educated employees are considered to be a prerequisite for the competitiveness of companies. However, even organizations with competent and knowledgeable professionals do not always achieve intended effects due to irrelevant personnel-oriented practices of HR professionals. In order to maximize the profitability of their organizations, HR practitioners should design and implement approaches to managing personnel that can ignite peak performance.

Hallowell’s Cycle of Excellence

Irrespective of industries and business areas, the application of the most advanced technological solutions and employment of highly qualified personnel can appear to be insufficient for performance enhancement due to current conditions of tough competition. In his book Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People, Edward M. Hallowell (2011) suggests implementing the Cycle of Excellence for boosting peak performance of organizations and employees’ hard work (p. 6). Hallowell’s five-step approach includes the following sequential phases:

  1. Select
  2. Connect
  3. Play
  4. Grapple and grow
  5. Shine (Hallowell, 2011, p. 6).

Hallowell (2011) insists that all of the steps are equally important and the implementation of each phase is obligatory, substantiating his statements by the latest neuroscience-related findings (p. 8). He states that the most common managerial mistake is the omission of Steps 1-3 (Hallowell, 2011, p. 7). Undoubtedly, Step 1 (“Select) is a necessary stage because it allows identifying individuals whose skills, abilities, knowledge, aspirations, and others characteristics can completely meet organizational needs (Hallowell, 2011, p. 44).

However, while reviewing his approach, it is possible to define it as some generalization of motivation theories. Specifically, Steps 3 and 4 are inextricably linked with the motivation of staffers aimed at ensuring their hard work. The conjunction of these stages would make the Cycle of Excellence more timesaving. Motivation is a complex set of interconnected internal and external driving forces that cause goal-oriented behavior in a person (Miranda, 2005; Svetlik & Stavrou-Costea, 2007). Although financial incentives do not always encourage individuals to work harder, it seems that Hallowell (2011) underestimates the importance of tangible rewards and incentives. Bonuses, perks, and other tangible rewards act as effective tools of employee retention and motivation, establishing interrelations between wages and hard work.

In addition, without any additional consideration or modification, Hallowell’s approach assumes the utilization of internal recruitment. Aside from unessential divergences in its definition, most researchers assert that internal recruitment is an HR strategy oriented towards the organizational workforce in the aggregate. Internal recruitment is aimed at promoting professionals in accordance with their talents, knowledge, skills, competencies, proficiency level, and contribution to the performance of an organization (Ashton, Haffenden, & Lambert, 2004; Svetlik & Stavrou-Costea, 2007; Prowse, & Prowse, 2010; Georgia, George, & Labros, 2013). Human resources needs and strategic objectives of organization are the most influential determinants of internal recruitment procedures that involve the evaluation of value added by employees to a company and consequent organizational realignment. Thus, organizations in general and HR professionals in particular should adjust Hallowell’s five-step strategy to their needs instead of its irreversible implementation.

The Cycle of Excellence Project

Given the importance of employee motivation for peak performance highlighted by Howell (2011), this project of the Cycle of Excellence is designed to increase the profitability through the enhancement of personnel motivation. The recognition of employees’ achievements and adequate rewards, both tangible and intangible, would promote their deeper involvement in and greater contribution to an organization. In accordance with Victor H. Vroom’s expectancy theory, an employee behaves in accordance with anticipated remunerations. Despite solid scholarly grounds of Vroom’s concept, methods of expectancy theory could appear irrelevant to an organization due to the depreciation or underestimation of individuals’ contribution to effective performance. Therefore, it is assumed that setting goals will be a viable motivational technique. Such an approach will make positive impacts on formulating and solving problems specific to the business environment. The following steps derived from the goal setting theory will increase personal motivation:

  1. Training employees to set goals via improved interpersonal communication and relationships within an organization;
  2. Emphasizing priorities and objectives so that they can be realized, recognized, and accepted by both supervisors and subordinates;
  3. Engaging personnel in the process of identifying issues, setting goals, making decisions, and solving problems;
  4. Expanding employees’ empowerment and autonomy;
  5. Conducting intermediate inspections in order to make necessary corrections in goals in correspondence with changing internal and external conditions.

These practices are able to improve job satisfaction in personnel and strengthen their motivation. Involving employees of all ranks in the identification of emerging issues, setting goals, and decision-making, an organization will obtain better flexibility and responsiveness (Law, & Jones, 2009; Georgia et al., 2013). However, the expansion of the staffers’ responsibilities and workloads requires a new HR management approach to freedom of actions and powers for their performance. Providing the staffers with more autonomy and involving them in decision-making, senior managers can achieve an increase in their organization’s overall profitability. Furthermore, workers’ motivation and input would appreciably increase.

In conclusion, despite the contemporary extremely complicated business environment, any organization can increase its effectiveness, reach peak performance, and avoid possible threats through transformations in its organizational behavior, relevant practices of motivation, and adequate reward policies.


Ashton, C., Haffenden, M., & Lambert, A. (2004). The “fit for purpose” HR function. Strategic HR Review, 4(1), 32-35.

Georgia, A., George, A., & Labros, S. (2013). Employee recruitment and selection in the insurance sector – the case of the Greek insurance group. European Journal of Management Sciences, 1(1), 1-20.

Hallowell, E. M. (2011). Shine: Using brain science to get the best from your people. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.

Law, S., & Jones, S. (2009). A guanxi model of human resource management. Chinese Management Studies, 3(4), 313-327.

Miranda, S. S. (2005). Creating the indispensable HR function. Strategic HR Review, 4(3), 32-35.

Prowse, P., & Prowse, J. (2010). Whatever happened to human resource management performance? International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, 59(2), 145-162.

Svetlik, I., & Stavrou-Costea, E. (2007). Connecting human resources management and knowledge management. International Journal of Manpower, 28(3/4), 197-206.

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