Zest: high performance mindsets and cultures that deliver

Zest is the word I use to describe both high performance mindset in individuals, and also business cultures that deliver superior revenues, profits and growth.

Zest is always positive, highly motivated, and expects positive outcomes

Zest is positivity, hope, optimism, drive, energy, motivation and persistence.  Some zest is extroverted and some is quiet, some zest is excited and some is calm, some zest is resilient and some is fragile. However zest is always positive, highly motivated, and expects positive outcomes.

In order to have a zest culture an organisation needs a near universal zest mindset throughout the people that comprise it. Just a few key influencers who go beyond responsible enquiry into pessimistic dissidence can undermine the general zest.

Overtly opposed naysayers are easy to spot. Here are some of the arguably less obvious dissident archetypes I still encounter more regularly than you might expect. You may have come across them yourself:

  • Above it all. Often very senior people who only see the need for zest in those junior to themselves. They regard their elevated position as either proof that they are already perfect, or else as meaning they are exempt. Fortunately above-it-alls are dying out just like the other Do-dos.
  • Know it all. Individuals who fail to grasp that they are failing to implement the knowledge they claim to possess. Their noses are often out of joint because the knowledge that made them feel special is now everybody’s. They may even be feeling insecure about other people being better at it than them.
  • I’m alright jack. People who sacrifice long term results on the altar of short term self interest. This is OK for them because they intend being long gone before the chickens come home to roost. Nuff said.
  • Smiling cynic. Classic cases of talking without walking. They have learned to wear a zest mask and think they are fooling us about their deeper negativity & pessimism. They aren’t. Frequently also above-it-alls in a dangerously destructive combination.
  • Good enough. High achievers despite their rejection of positivity and optimism. Clearly highly talented they regard their personal success as proof that the benefits of zest are a fiction. They reject, or refuse to consider, the abundance of evidence to the contrary. Flat-earthers sadly ignorant that they could be even better. Often confused by their dissatisfaction with life – this is actually a direct result of their not reaching towards their full potential.

I’m an advocate of Tom Peters’ advice in relation to cultural dissidents (he uses a stronger word as many readers will recall). This isn’t a philosophical position, I’ve seen companies follow the advice, and others that have not done so. Without exception the former group have done better in achieving their own targets.

Focus on and invest in changing those with a negative mindset 

The advice is this. Focus on and invest in changing those with a negative mindset. Give them the opportunity to embrace zest, and give them an appropriate length of time to master it. My advice, as with all behavioural and thinking change, is to adopt a cognitive behavioural approach. Recognise and reward those that do so. Move the others on.

Why so apparently ruthless? This will be obvious to most readers so forgive my spelling it out. I have personally never come across a meaningful exception to the following.

  • Leadership’s primary responsibility is to the greater good of all employees and shareholders
  • Persistent or recalcitrant dissidents will be happier elsewhere
  • They are damaging your culture
    1. Detracting from financial results
    2. Harming staff engagement
    3. Impeding change
  • If you tolerate dissidence
    1. You legitimise it and it will spread
    2. People who know what should be done will question your leadership
    3. No-one will believe you are serious about zest.

Elsewhere in my blog I recite some of the research evidence that explains the link between personal and corporate performance and zest. In brief there are two major factors.

Firstly zest is found in people whose default emotional states are positive – happiness, enjoyment, interest, love and so on. Our brains function optimally when we are in such states. Conversely important parts of our brain are disengaged by negative states like apprehension, anger, frustration, sadness etc. The functional benefits of positive states include greater creativity, resilience building, eq, iq, and motivation. The cumulative impact over time manifests as better lifespan, health, success, relationships, and wellbeing.

Secondly zest cultures outperform the rest in terms of revenue, EBITDA, shareholder value growth, talent attraction, leadership effectiveness, employee engagement, staff churn, and nimbleness with change. These factors feed off and reinforce each other in a series of massively beneficial and interlinked virtuous circles.

Some inspiration for you:

In closing I thought the following might be fun. While seeking inspiration for this blog I was glancing at my bookshelves and it suddenly hit me how uplifting the titles of books related to zest can be. Here are some I noticed which taken together are very like a set of positive affirmations!

Feel the fear and do it anyway

The magic of thinking big


Don’t sweat the small stuff


Believe you can

Being the best

Think and grow rich

The master key to riches

Getting to yes

Wake up and dream

Making it happen

Learned optimism

Unlimited power

Thinking Big

Authentic happiness


The happiness advantage

Screw it let’s do it


Good to great

For further  information on Zest try:

Zest: High Performance Mindsets and Cultures that Deliver

Tips for Living with Zest – A fantastic High Performance Way of Being

Zest: What is Resilience?

Zest: Confidence

Podcast – Zest High Performance Mindsets and Cultures that Deliver

Podcast – Zest Part 2: Positivity Reslience and Confidence

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