Embedding Confidence

If I was to ask you “What are the 3 greatest strengths that you bring to the workplace” what would your answer be? Go on, have a think…..


For me, it’s the ability to inspire people, a positive attitude, and the energy that I bring to all I do.  But if you had asked me that question a few years ago, I would have really struggled to know what to say.

Many of us find it hard to recognise and then articulate our strengths. Perhaps we don’t see them as strengths as they are just things that we find easy.  Or perhaps we haven’t sat down and distilled down what it is that sets us apart from others at work; what are the areas where we add real value.


In addition to the general training programmes that we run for our clients, we have a fairly strong female narrative running through our business. We have worked on female initiatives and programmes with clients ranging from international law firms, via large corporates such as BT, through to female sports coaches. And what is fascinating for us is how strong the link is between issues women might have in the corporate world, and issues they might have in the world of coaching. In both ‘worlds’ there is a huge focus at the moment on barriers to progression. 

For both sectors, entry barriers have been for the large part removed, and opportunities are there for all. So what is it that’s stopping women progressing through the ranks as they should be, and fulfilling their potential? Well, each sector, and within that each specific area (ie within the business world - commerce, professional services, entrepreneurs etc) has its own challenges and issues. But a common factor, which comes up time and again, not just in research but in our own experiences straddling the different industries, is confidence.  Of the women themselves.


So that’s the challenge. How do we then support people in solving it? We find that the most effective starting point to begin to grow and increase that confidence is our ‘know your strengths’ piece. You can’t build someone’s confidence by just telling them to be confident, or telling them that they are great.  They need to have a sufficient level of self-awareness and understanding to be able to appreciate what their strengths are, and how they can leverage those to become truly excellent at what they do.  Independent research carried out across a selection of corporates has shown that women tend to fall down in three areas: the ability to recognise their strengths; the ability to articulate their strengths; and building good, strong networks.  On this last point, women often think that an ability to do a job well is enough to get you recognised and promoted appropriately.  However, it is vital to build supportive networks, not just because it can enhance your chances of progression and promotion, but because it can have a significant impact on your development. 


The other area that we find is key for women across the sectors is in terms of mindset. Specifically how concepts such as growth mindset, stretch zone, and resilience, can help women to relish challenges and development opportunities, and learn from situations where things go wrong.  A better understanding of these, and tools and techniques to apply and embed them, can make a huge difference to how women drive and perceive their development.

There is a huge focus at the moment in sport on growing the numbers of female coaches, and helping them to develop and ‘stick at’ their coaching.  So we are delighted to be launching our Programme, designed specifically at female coaches, Embedding Confidence in Your Coaching.  As part of the roll-out of this course we will be running a 1-day Conference on 6th September at the National Badminton Centre in Milton Keynes, in conjunction with the Female Coaching Network.  Please do get in touch to find out more by emailing nicola@sportandbeyond.co.uk

For those in business who would like to find out more about our female specific programmes (where we also offer the chance to hear the inspirational thoughts on world class female athletes) please get in touch to find our more by emailing catherine@sportandbeyond.co.uk

Emotions in the Workplace - Why they matter

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Whilst there is compelling evidence that emotional intelligence (when understood properly) is very relevant to the workplace, many people struggle to understand this in practical terms. 

Two key challenges for many of our clients around emotional intelligence are: “what does it actually mean?” and “how can I understand the link between emotional intelligence as a concept, and how it might affect my performance at work?.”

In this blog we will use three scenarios to highlight the importance of emotional intelligence, and in so doing point out some key areas that make a difference. The scenarios relate to:

  • managing your staff;
  • sales; and
  • presentations.

With each of these scenarios, we will pick out some key facets of emotional intelligence that are relevant, in order to help you see, in a practical sense, the potential impact on the outcome.

Before diving in, it’s important to note that there is no set definition of what emotional intelligence is. At Sport and Beyond we tend to focus on two main concepts to help bring clarity. The first is an ‘anchor’: emotions drive thoughts, thoughts drive behaviour, and behaviour drives performance. This is why it matters. The second is a definition that seems to create most resonance with our clients: an ability to understand and control your emotions and those emotions of the people you are working with and manage your relationships accordingly.


Managing Your Staff – An Appraisal Meeting

You are a manager, and are about to sit down with one of your reports for their half-yearly appraisal meeting.  If you do your job well, you should have taken the time in advance of the session to prepare: looked at any relevant documentation; thought about your aims for the session; what questions you are going to ask etc.  But have you also taken the time in advance to think about the ‘emotional’ side of things? If you haven’t, all your carefully prepared plans could go out of the window, and the outcome could be very far from what you have hoped.

What do we mean by this? 

Let’s start with you.  What are your levels of empathy like? This is your ability to see the world from someone else’s point of view. If low, you might struggle to see the situation from the other person’s shoes.  Perhaps you gave them a hard time in the last appraisal.  This might have knocked their confidence, and they might be coming to the session feeling pretty nervous. Good empathy levels would enable you to realise and appreciate this, and so set a better and more constructive ‘environment’ for the meeting. What about your levels of emotion expression? This is how fluent you are at communicating your emotions.  If you sit low down the scale on this facet, you might come across as aloof and cold. Equally, if you sit high up on the scale on this facet, your face might give away your emotions too easily, having an adverse effect on the meeting.

What about the person you are appraising?  If their levels of self-esteem are very high, they might come across as over-confident, and not be particularly interested in any suggestions you might have for self-development.  If their levels are very low, you may have to adapt your style to ensure you are doing all you can to give them the necessary confidence-build that they require.  If their impulse control isn’t that great, they might blurt something out that in retrospect they wish they hadn’t. If, as a manager, you can recognise that that was down to poor impulse control, that might be something you can help them with.

Sales – Meeting a Prospective new client/customer

So you’re fairly new into your sales role, and you are meeting with a prospective new client/customer. Your levels of stress management could be very relevant to how you perform in the meeting.  Equally, your levels of optimism could make a difference – if you are very optimistic, yes you might come across as confident, but you might not have prepared as well as you should have done.  If you tend to sit lower down on the optimism scale, you may well have taken a much more thorough approach to the meeting. Where you sit on the emotion regulation scale could also have a big impact: this is your ability to control your own internal feelings and emotional states.

Looking outward, your levels of emotion perception are key. How good are you at recognising emotions in others? Can you see that the person you are meeting with is particularly upset/anxious/happy/overjoyed today, and if so, how are you going to adapt your style accordingly. Let’s say that they are having a bad day, and feeling particularly anxious about something. If you go in all guns blazing, full of the joys etc, and don’t ‘dial down’ your approach, you might put them off completely. 

Presentations

How can emotional intelligence impact on your performance when giving a key presentation?  One of the key facets here will be emotion perception; how good are you at picking up on what you are feeling? Can you recognise that you are nervous? Can you recognise that you are feeling the pressure, and desperate to do a good job? Only by picking up on this can you start to deal with it (and there are some great tools that can help you to deal with these emotions).  Stress management might again be relevant, as might your levels of social awareness – how you are able to perceive and adapt to the ‘feeling’ and atmosphere in the room.  Knowing what your levels of self-motivation are could also be relevant – will it be better for you to have some kind of external motivation to get on with the preparation for the presentation, or are you someone who has good internal drive?


Conclusion

Hopefully these scenarios help to give some practical context to the importance and relevance of emotional intelligence in the work place, and highlight how it can be such a game changer.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help, please do get in touch at info@sportandbeyond.co.uk or on 01904 737007. 

Duty of Care – Why Should We Care?

Duty of Care – Why Should We Care?

Those who work within sport will be aware of the Duty of Care in Sport Report, led by Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, that was published last month. Those who do not work in sport probably less so. However, it is relevant for all of us.  In this blog I am going to outline why we should all care about the future of professional athletes (ie sportspeople) once they stop competing, and what the central tensions are around this duty of care. In doing so, I am writing with two ‘hats’ on; as an Independent Director on the Board of a National Governing Body (Parkour UK, the ‘newest’ sport to gain official recognition by the Sports Councils of the United Kingdom), and as someone whose day job partly involves working with athletes as they leave their sport and move on to pastures new.

A question for you all to set the context: my children and I were discussing Anthony Joshua’s amazing victory last Sunday morning.  We then moved on to the huge sacrifices he had made to achieve his win, and how long a boxing career he might have. We ended up trying to name as many sports as we could where age/physical condition were not a key determinant of longevity of career. Have a go yourself – we came up with only snooker, darts and less arguably, golf. 


Why it matters

You might remember that great speech that ‘Smithy’ (James Cordon) made at the 2010 Sports Personality of the Year Awards, on being presented with the spoof Coach of the Year Award.  He used his thank you speech to shoot down as many famous sportspeople as he could, basically claiming that they take public funds to just ‘run around’ or take part in ‘sitting down’ sports.  Great comedy, but near the bone?  

The duty of care towards professional athletes is a big issue in sport at the moment, not just due to some of the more high-profile issues around selection, bullying and sexism, but also around the issue of what happens to athletes when they stop competing.  What responsibility does ‘sport’ have to put time and resource into developing athletes as people as well as competitors, and supporting and preparing them for life after sport?

For me, there are three main reasons why we should care:

  • The financial contribution that so many of us make to athlete funding;
  • The current and enormous inactivity/public health challenge our country faces; and
  • The benefits that professional athletes can bring to society, post their careers.

Our pockets

How many of you pay taxes? How many of you buy national lottery tickets? In doing so, you are funding many of our athletes, in particular the elite Olympic and Paralympic athletes.   It has been estimated that each medal in Rio cost £5.5m of public funding (and figures show that our cost per medal is much more efficient than many of our competitor nations). Are you interested in knowing how your money is spent? Not just in terms of the athlete’s career, but also in terms of what benefits athletes can bring once they stop competing?

Inactivity

Which brings me on to public health and inactivity.  It is well recognised that one of the biggest challenges our country is currently facing relates to physical inactivity. 1 in 6 deaths results from inactivity.  In spite of the government spending millions on public health campaigns, overall Brits do less than 30 minutes exercise (including walking at a normal pace) in a week. Think of the burden this places on the NHS.

I can’t argue that there is a direct link between success at the elite sports level, and greater levels of physical activity.  In fact, there is much evidence pointing the other way.  However, I can contend that there could be. That, with a good system in place to leverage the success at the elite level, and the health benefits that good exercise levels bring, improvements could be made.  This is particularly the case for women and girls.  Whilst Sport England’s incredibly successful ‘This Girl Can’ campaign has focused on the ‘all shapes and sizes’ aspect of taking part, elite female athletes can drive the message that to be strong and athletic is good; a strong body is generally a healthy one, and not something to be ashamed of.  There are many female athletes promoting exercise and nutrition, such as Jess Ennis-Hill’s link with Vitality Move.  Imagine a system that supported many more ex-athletes to do ‘something good’ around activity, and helped them build the requisite skill-set. Central to the inactivity challenge is work in primary schools – did you know that every UK-Sport funded athlete in the last Olympic Cycle was tasked to give 6 days to school visits, to inspire schoolchildren?  Again, whilst an automatic link can’t be assumed between these visits, and uptake in activity, if these visits are monitored, evaluated, refined and improved accordingly, they should be able to have some impact. I have seen with my own eyes the impact these athletes can have on girls in particular who hadn’t previously thought that running around and being active was cool.

Benefits to Society

Which brings me on to my final point, the wider benefits to society that athletes can support and drive. For this argument, I will point you in the direction of a piece by Emma Atkins, Chief Executive of the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust. Emma discusses the potential of retiring athletes to be an asset to society beyond sport, both in terms of social value, but also in terms of impact on the economy from the attitudes and mindset that athletes bring to what they do.  Do take a quick look at this before reading on. https://www.damekellyholmestrust.org/news/trust-responds-to-duty-of-care-in-sport-report

We know from the programmes that we deliver in business, how much of a difference embedding these attitudes and mindsets can have to the performance of an organisation. 


The Challenges

So there are some compelling reasons why we should care about what happens to athletes when they retire from their sport, particularly those who benefit from public funding.

Let’s just take a quick look at it from the athletes’ perspective as well. A common misconception is that most athletes are ‘sorted’ when they leave their sport; that they have made enough money and don’t need to work again.  Well, the reality is that most athletes, when they retire, need to find another career.  Only a very small percentage, the high profile ones we read about and watch, can afford from a financial point of view to rest on their laurels. Most athletes, even those who have been successful, won medals and trophies, and retired after a full career, need to earn a crust like the rest of us.  That’s without even starting on the athletes who suffer career-ending injuries, often when they are just getting going; those who lose their funding as they don’t quite make the grade; those who don’t get picked or kept on by their sport/club. And yet, to get to the level they have been competing at, and achieve the glory not just for themselves and their teams but often for their huge number of fans, and sometimes even for their country, they have had to make huge sacrifices.  Sacrifices not just in their personal lives, but in terms of their education and all-round development. Not just that, but how many of you are in a career where you will no longer be able to ‘compete’ once you get to your mid-thirties – where that is the ceiling for you, and where you will need to start all over again, from the bottom, in a new career?

There are two key challenges, as I see it, to progress in this area; of a duty of care towards professional athletes to help set them up for their next stage of life.

Disparate group

The first issue is that we are not talking about a homogenous group.  You can’t lump all ‘athletes’ together in the same boat. Some sports require early specialisation (for example tennis, swimming); some sports have an even younger retirement age than others (think gymnasts); some athletes will maintain their education alongside their sport for longer than others (with for example rowers at the opposite end of the spectrum from many other sports).  Some sports are within the UK Sport system (Olympic and Paralympic sports); others have their own bodies that support them (for example the Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) and the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA)).  Within each sport, the range of issues and individuals that they are dealing with will be huge.  The range of stakeholders is also large and disparate, adding another layer of complexity.


Current Performance v Future Life

For me this is key. We hear it all the time from our work with athletes, and it is something which you can understand, from all perspectives.  Imagine you are the Performance Director of a sport. You have been tasked with delivering x number of medals at a big championships coming up, and your job is on the line.  If you have an athlete who comes to you and says I need to have the day off to [finish my dissertation/gain work experience/volunteer somewhere] what’s your first priority going to be as the Performance Director? The Championships. And if you feel that giving that particular athlete that day off could jeopardise the chances of success, what are you going to say, even if you know that that might not be in the long term interests of the athlete?

Many athletes already have access to really good support that can help them (the Performance Lifestyle teams at the English Institute of Sport (EIS) being a key example).  But are they encouraged to take it up? Do they understand the benefits of thinking about the future, whilst competing, or do they take a ‘leave it til it’s relevant’ approach (and we know from many athletes that that is exactly what happens).

So the challenge is to provide an environment where thinking about the future becomes the norm for athletes whilst still competing.  Where peers, and others within your performance environment, look at you askance if you are not doing so. Where others within the system, from the Board through to the performance director and coaches, not only encourage athletes to do so, but understand the benefits that this can bring.  And this is where it gets interesting…..

There is huge amounts of anecdotal evidence from athletes on how thinking about their futures, continuing their education, taking on some part time work (where possible) actually improves their performance as an athlete. Reasons given range from less stress and worry about the next step, a healthier perspective, improved thinking skills, and so on.  Not just in individual sports, but in team sports. Rugby Union is particularly good at this, driven by the great work the RPA does, built on even further by some of the clubs such as Saracens, who even hold weekly philosophy workshops for their players! Yes, Saracens feel a duty to help players think about their careers post sport, but they are also doing these things due to the link that they can see between these, and performance on the pitch. 

Compelling evidence, driven by rigorous research and insight, could help drive this change of mindset in a very significant way. 


To sum up this context, I am going to turn to an Article that Michael Atherton, ex England cricket captain and now a broadcaster and journalist, recently wrote in the Times.  He was discussing the retirement, aged 25, of Indian cricketer Zafar Ansari, after only five months of playing for his country. Ansari had said, shortly after he had been called up on an England tour for the first time: “Cricket is not the end for me. My life is not directed towards it. Cricket is a part of my life.” But as Atherton goes on to say, once upon a time it would have been easier to combine an interesting working life with sport, but the game is now more demanding of its players.  For cricket, read sport in general – the success our athletes achieve, and the level of professionalism that requires, occurs at the expense of broader welfare.

So that is why the Duty of Care piece is so important, and how significant the challenges are for the system as a whole.  But then sport does love a challenge……

What can Amazon teach us about a high performing culture and environment?

Why (no 1)

In their corporate governance review for 2016, Grant Thornton reported on the FRC’s publication: “Corporate Culture and the Role of Boards.” This report was the result of an 18-month collaborative project to engage companies, investors and a wide range of stakeholders in considering culture. The report urged companies not to wait for a crisis before reflecting on their culture, and to focus on culture as a driver of long-term value. Grant Thornton reported that 86% of companies mentioned culture in their 2016 annual reports. 

Culture is a big ‘thing’ in sporting organisations at the moment.  In the past, Sir Dave Brailsford has said this: “You can’t get performance on a continuous basis over a long period of time through fear.” Whatever the real story at British Cycling, recent events have cast an important spotlight on the high performance culture.


What

What exactly do we mean by the ‘culture’ in/of an organisation? This is the view of Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, as set out in Amazon’s 2017 SEC filing:

“This year, Amazon became the fastest company ever to reach $100 billion in annual sales. Also this year, Amazon Web Services is reaching $10 billion in annual sales … doing so at a pace even faster than Amazon achieved that milestone.

What’s going on here? Both were planted as tiny seeds and both have grown organically without significant acquisitions into meaningful and large businesses, quickly. Superficially, the two could hardly be more different….. Under the surface, the two are not so different after all. They share a distinctive organizational culture that cares deeply about and acts with conviction on a small number of principles…. A word about corporate cultures: for better or for worse, they are enduring, stable, hard to change. They can be a source of advantage or disadvantage. You can write down your corporate culture, but when you do so, you’re discovering it, uncovering it – not creating it. It is created slowly over time by the people and by events – by the stories of past success and failure that become a deep part of the company lore. If it’s a distinctive culture, it will fit certain people like a custom-made glove. The reason cultures are so stable in time is because people self-select. Someone energized by competitive zeal may select and be happy in one culture, while someone who loves to pioneer and invent may choose another. The world, thankfully, is full of many high-performing, highly distinctive corporate cultures. We never claim that our approach is the right one – just that it’s ours – and over the last two decades, we’ve collected a large group of like-minded people. Folks who find our approach energizing and meaningful.”

Whilst Bezos refers to a culture that’s created over time, a study by Jim Collins, the well-known business consultant, places the leader of an organisation at the centre. Collins set out to discover what made some companies move from being good to being great. What enabled them to make that leap, and stay there? Collins and his team embarked on a 5 year study, selecting 11 companies whose stock returns had skyrocketed relative to other companies in their industry, and who had maintained this edge for at least 15 years.  They matched each company to another one in the same industry that had similar resources but did not make the leap. They also studied a third group of companies that had made the leap but could not sustain it. What distinguished the thriving companies from the others? Several important factors, as Collins reports in his book Good to Great, but one that was absolutely key in every case was the type of leader who led the company into greatness.  They were not larger than life, charismatic types who oozed ego and self-proclaimed talent. They were self-effacing people who constantly asked questions and had the ability to confront the most brutal answers- in other words those who were able to look failure in the face, even their own, while maintaining faith that they would succeed in the end.  They believe in human development. They are not constantly trying to prove they’re better than others, but they are constantly trying to improve.


Conversely, looking at the famous failure of Enron in 2001, many commentators put this down to a failure of mindset.  Enron was talent-obsessed, creating a culture that worshipped talent, and so forcing employees to look and act extraordinarily talented. It basically forced them into a mindset unable to admit mistakes, and so unable to learn from them.  

Interestingly, Bezos added this to the end of his statement above: One area where I think we are especially distinctive is failure. I believe we are the best place in the world to fail (we have plenty of practice!), and failure and invention are inseparable twins. To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment. Most large organizations embrace the idea of invention, but are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there.


Why (no. 2)

We see it working as follows: organisations generally have a goal; an ambition. A destination that they are aiming for. This requires getting it right at three levels: strategy and structure; environment and culture; and people.  Sticking with Collins’ work, let’s use his analogy of a bus.  So to get to the destination, (i) you have to get the right people on the bus.  For us, more important than existing skillset is people with the right attitude and mindset, and a good diversity of thought and perspective. (ii) The right culture and environment is then key, to make sure you get the best out your people, and help them to help you as on organisation achieve your aims.  So what will the look and feel of your bus be, and what behaviours will you facilitate and encourage? Will your bus be steamlined, all sharp edges and cutting edge materials? Or will it be a green and environmentally friendly bus? (iii) Finally, your strategy and structure.  What road is your bus going to take? The fast motorway, or the slower country road? And what do you need to have in place to take that road?


Back to Sport

It’s important to remember that the piece around culture and environment isn’t soft and fluffy.  On the contrary, it is a key factor in driving success.  All UK Sport funded sports are looking at this now, and none of them will be doing so at the expense of winning medals.

What about rugby union, a sport where we have had an incredibly successful time post the World Cup. These, apparently, are Eddie Jones’ Standards for Building a Sustainable Performance of Excellence:

  • High work ethic always;
  • Passion for detail;
  • Get the right staff;
  • Create a learning environment;
  • Rules – make them very clear and understood;
  • Meetings – no longer than 15 minutes;
  • Communication – clear and concise;
  • Evaluation – clear criteria, no grey areas.

Imagine what his bus would look like?!

Conclusion

Getting this right can drive your organisation to achieve its goals.  And research is increasingly showing how key it is, across sectors. 

We’d love to hear from you if you’d like to find out how we can help. Please do get in touch on info@sportandbeyond.co.uk

What does a mobile phone advert have to do with women’s sport?

Some of you may have heard the latest government radio advert, aimed at stopping us all using our mobile phones in the car. It is a great example of behaviour change theory.


Why?

Theory alert……A quick recap on the behaviour change model that we apply. Based on the work by Dan and Chip Heath, in order to successfully bring about change, three different elements need to be in place.  You need to:

direct the rider;

motivate the elephant; and

shape the path.

In simple terms, the rider equates to the rational side of human beings and the elephant equates to our emotional side. No matter how much the rider might be aware of what the outcome needs to be, and what their behaviour should be, if their elephant is not motivated to get there, it’s not going to happen. Similarly, no matter how motivated the elephant is to get to the destination, and ‘behave well’, if the rider doesn’t know how to get there, it will simply be churning up the ground in the same spot.  Even where both rider and elephant are ready to get going, if the terrain is obstructive, getting to the destination will be extremely hard, meaning the rider and elephant are more likely to give up.

The advert…..So how does this apply to the radio advert.  This is where it gets clever. The advert starts by appealing to our elephant. The first thing mentioned is that the penalty for mobile phone use has gone up to 6 points. And a maximum fine of £2000.  Almost as an afterthought, the real danger, the fact that we might kill someone, is mentioned.  Why this approach? Because the advert is focusing on the emotional ‘hook’ that is immediately relevant to us, the one that we can relate to.  Losing £2000 and getting 6 points is tangible, and immediately disadvantageous. The prospect of killing someone is more remote, harder to relate to, and less tangible, despite the fact that that is the exact and tragic outcome the advert is seeking to avoid. 


The next step of the advert is genius.  It is a clear example of directing the rider. We all know we shouldn’t be using our phones in the car, but are we clear on methods to avoid doing so? What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.  So the advert gives us a clear direction – put your phone in your glove compartment.  It even goes as far as to rename the glove compartment your phone compartment.  Simples. 

The final area, shaping the path, is provided by the constant repeating of this advert.  This strand of the model is aimed at making the good behaviour easier to carry out, and the ‘bad’ behaviour harder to carry out. Think back to the days of early cashpoints – did you ever take your money and leave your card in the cashpoint? Well done if you didn’t, but enough people did to make the banks frustrated. So they took a simple step to shape the path – you can no longer take your cash out, until you have removed your card! Part of shaping the path is helping people to build habits, and constantly repeating this advert, on a radio channel, that many drivers listen to, will help shape that path.


And the link to women’s sport…..There are so many wonderful initiatives going on in women’s sport at the moment.  A few of them are highlighted below, with an explanation as to how behaviour change theory is relevant:

  • England Netball’s Back to Netball campaign – Shaping the Path for women wanting to return to netball. This also works to Motivate the Elephant, as it creates a ‘herd’ of women taking part, encouraging others to want to join – behaviour is contagious, and an elephant likes to follow a herd.

 

  • #SheRallies – the new LTA female coaching campaign, backed by Judy Murray, to help ‘activate’ many more women into tennis.  The campaign’s focus is to train up a series of ‘activators’ across the country, who can work to activate more women and girls into tennis.  Part of this will be looking at what works already (we call this ‘finding the bright spots, and it is a key element of Directing the Rider) and part of it will be giving the activators clear instructions and guidance on what they need to be doing (scripting some critical moves for the Rider).

 

  • SportsCoachUK’s Reach campaign – again, a campaign that has been created to raise awareness and inspire more women to get into coaching as well as encourage current women coaches to develop their skills. These campaigns serve to Motivate the Elephant, both of the coaches and activators (they want to join this herd) but also of the end recipients – women and girls.  Their elephant is more likely to be motivated if they are being encouraged into sport and physical activity by someone in their community, who is like them, and understands their lives and needs.

 

  • Women’s Sport Trust #BeAGameChangerAwards – a great example of finding and rewarding the Bright Spots (Directing the Rider) and Motivating the Elephant (an annual get together and celebration of all those working hard in this space – who wouldn’t want to join this herd?)

 

  • Viewing figures – do you know one of the main reasons why the GB Women’s hockey final at Rio was watched by so many people? Because it came on the tv directly after a big football match, which many people were watching in the pub.  Lots of pubs flicked their coverage over to the hockey, and bingo – a captive audience. A great example of Shaping the Path – tweaking the environment to encourage the behaviour that you want.  This concept is being repeated in so many sports, from cricket through to rugby, with initiatives aimed at two key areas: (i) making it more appealing for women and families to attend sporting events; and (ii) encouraging more attendance in general at women’s sport events. 

There is much that still needs to be done to continue the momentum behind the upswing in all areas of women’s sport in general, but these examples show how careful planning, and a strategic approach, can reap rewards.  If anyone would like to find out more about our behaviour change model, and how it can drive the success of your initiatives, please do get in touch catherine@sportandbeyond.co.uk.

We have also had strong confirmation of a Shaping the Path effect in our training delivery, through the overwhelmingly positive responses to our female only courses, both in the coaching sphere, and in our female leadership programmes.  Again, to find out more, and see how these courses (aimed specifically at building confidence and impact) can drive the performance of women who work in sport, please do get in touch catherine@sportandbeyond.co.uk

Building your confidence to drive your performance

This piece was originally produced for CYBG as part of their International Women’s Week focus.


In 2015, the England Women’s Football team, known as the Lionesses, came home with a bronze medal from the World Cup in Canada. A huge achievement for the team, surpassing all expectations. Marianne Spacey was (and still is) the Assistant Coach of the team, a successful woman in what has been very much a male-dominated world. She has given this advice: “Believe in yourself, have an aptitude to learn and go knocking on doors to keep putting yourself into positions where you can get better.”

But how good are we as women at doing this? These are some of the statements that we have heard from women we have worked with, across both business and sport.

“I know I can do a good job, I just wish I had more confidence in myself.”

“The men I work with just seem to have this belief that they can do things.  And they are stronger at communicating this. I don’t have that and it’s frustrating as I feel like it’s holding me back.”

“I need to build up my confidence so that I can do a better job for my team – they need to have belief and confidence in me, so I need to have it in myself.” 

As a training and consulting company, the main benefit we aim to bring for the client organisations we work with is to drive high performance.  For many of the women we work with, this means helping them to build, and communicate, their confidence.  Let’s unpick some of the key areas that go into this.


Know yourself

“Before you can be someone, you need to know who you are.”

I can’t stress how important this is.  Whilst my first qualification was as a tennis coach, I then went on to work as a corporate lawyer for 13 years. The legal fraternity is not perhaps renowned for being the most self-aware set of people. However, doing a work-focused behavioural profile, which then prompted me to spend some proper time to understand my strengths and the way I operate at work, was a revelation.  My areas of best contribution are working with and through people, and achieving results. I am not particularly motivated by rules and procedures, or the need to feel secure.  Understanding this gave me a much better picture of ‘who I am’ at work, what my strengths are, and where I should be focusing my energies.  Whilst still in law, this meant a focus on client relationships and then training. It then led me to set up Sport and Beyond, where our entire focus is on developing people into high performers. 

This is why the first step of so much that we do at Sport and Beyond is a behavioural profile (we use the Thomas International suite of profiles as they are robust, accessible and extremely reliable).  It drives the first of our three key outcomes for clients: UNDERSTAND.


Build confidence

So how does this then drive an increase in confidence, and what other follow on steps can help?

Leveraging your strengths

Once you understand your strengths, leveraging them and building on them will enable you to perform at a higher level, and so build your confidence.  The belief in spending learning and development time on building on your strengths, rather than focusing too much on your weaknesses, is gaining greater currency within business. Of course it has been a central tenet within sport for a long time.  At Sport and Beyond we particularly love this quote from newly appointed England cricket captain, Joe Root: talking about the 12 month period where his performance really moved up a gear, he said: “Peter [ex-England coach] definitely got the best out of me, along with the rest of the coaching team.  When I came back from Australia I realised that a lot of the time I was trying to work on things I was not good at, putting all my energy into that rather than spending more time strengthening the stuff I am good at.”

Peter Drucker, renowned management consultant and author, applies this to business in the following way.  He has said that we should waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence. It takes far more energy and work to improve from competence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence – and yet most people in most organisations concentrate on making incompetent performers into mediocre ones.

Don’t use this as an excuse to ignore your key ‘limiters’ of course. Yes, it’s important to concentrate on any areas of weakness that are holding us back. But don’t try and fix all of them, and try and shift the balance from too much focus on these to more focus on building up your areas of strength. This drives the second of our key outcomes for clients: FOCUS

What and Why

Often we lack confidence and are nervous about something but we are not sure why.  It might be a presentation we have to give. Or it might be nerves before a big meeting. Sure it’s a big meeting, but have you analysed why you are actually nervous?

The What and Why process helps many of our clients.  What is it that you are nervous about, and why.  So yes, it might be nerves before the big meeting, but what in particular are you worried about? Is it that you might not present your points well? Or is it that they won’t listen? Or won’t agree with you? Or something else? Once you’ve drilled down, then we can work on dealing with the concern, and building confidence around it.

Preparation

“Just because it’s common sense doesn’t mean that it’s common practice.” 

Sometimes the simple things are worth repeating, over and over again.  Whatever you are doing in life, the more prepared you are, the more confident you can feel going into it.  This doesn’t mean that you have to have all the answers (which is impossible) but it does mean that you have planned and prepared for the task in hand.

Experience

“You draw from your experiences. You draw from your failures. And every day is a learning day.” 

Those of you reading this with many years of working life under your belt can smile at this point. One of the great things about getting older is the experience that you have gained. However, there is a proviso to this. You have to use that experience wisely, and make sure that you continually learn from it.  Don’t rest on your laurels. The quote above is from Victoria Pendleton, the Olympic gold-medal winning cyclist who gave herself a year to convert to being a jump jockey, speaking the week before her (successful) big race.

Challenge yourself

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Having that growth mindset, a willingness to challenge yourself and accept that you might fail, is a whole topic in itself, but is key to building up confidence.

Try and view challenging tasks as an opportunity to learn and grow. Aim to succeed at the task, and in any event you will learn from it and grow stronger as a result.  Think of the ever growing chasm between those who have this attitude, and those who don’t.  Others don’t try new challenges, so they do not learn and they don’t grow.  That makes them even more fearful of new challenges, because they lack the experience or success in taking on new challenges.  Meanwhile, the others are growing stronger all the time.  Even if they have a setback on a challenge, they still learn and grow.

Mia Hamm, one of the greatest female soccer players, has said: “All my life I’ve been playing up, meaning I’ve challenged myself with players older, bigger, more skilful, more experienced. In short, better than me….Each day I attempted to play up to their level….and I was improving faster than I ever dreamed possible. “

This mindset, and approach, feeds into our final outcome for clients: EXCEL.


Threats to confidence

So what can knock our confidence? What can challenge our ability to feel confident in who we are and what we do?  It’s important to consider what these areas might be, so that you can deal with them and drive forward.  For each and every person it differs but common themes include:

  • levels of self-esteem;
  • others around you;
  • lack of experience;
  • too high expectations;
  • lack of a strategy; and
  • focusing too much on what has gone wrong.
  • Acknowledging what it is that’s holding back your confidence, gives you the power to then address it.

I will give the final word to Eleanor Roosevelt as this sums up something that we also see time and again with women – when under pressure, the goods are produced.

“A woman is like a tea bag: you never know how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”

 

Emotional Intelligence Podcasts

Listed below are the ConnectedCoaches Emotional Intelligence podcasts with contributions from Sport and Beyond.

As with our blogs, we hope you enjoy listening to the podcasts and welcome your comments and thoughts. 


1. Emotional Intelligence is integral to becoming a great coach

Understanding the concept of emotional intelligence (EI) can help coaches boost performance levels and grow and sustain participation in sport. So get your brain in gear as we explore what it is and how developing your EI will help you get the best out of your athletes.


2. The inside story: The value of Self awareness as a tool for improvement

A little introspection can go a long way. By exploring your emotions and understanding your inner self, you WILL improve your coaching. The benefits of practising self-awareness and getting some valuable ‘insider knowledge’ are such that you really cannot afford to ignore this advice from ConnectedCoaches content champion Catherine Baker.


3. Dealing with feelings: The importance of getting your heard around emotion perception

Emotion perception is a key component of emotional intelligence. In the third chapter of the series with behavioural expert and ConnectedCoaches content champion Catherine Baker, we explore the inner world of emotions, and discover how recognising and managing them in yourself and others can significantly improve your coaching.


4. How to develop behavioural agility in your coaching to get the best out of yourself and your coaches

In part four of the series on emotional intelligence, we look at recognising when to dial up and dial down your emotions because this can be key to getting the best out of your performers.


5. Smells like Team spirit: How to create a winning culture through the use of Emotional Intelligence

Developing a positive team environment, with tight social bonds between players and coaching staff, is instrumental to sustained success. In part five of the emotional intelligence series with ConnectedCoaches content champion Catherine Baker we explore the important role empathy, relationships and social awareness play in establishing the perfect club climate.

Competent to Mediocre, or First Rate to Excellent?

I wonder how many of you reading this can answer yes to the following? “In our organisation we take the time to understand our people as individuals, what their strengths are, and how we can get the best out of them?” And what about this statement: “In our organisation we don’t just spend our L&D budget on generic training, but on training that is specifically tailored to each individual.”

This is what happens in a high performing environment. Is it what happens in yours? 

Focus on Strengths, not Weaknesses

Some readers may have heard of Martina Navratilova, one of the greatest female tennis players of all time.  She wasn’t always that great. When she defected to the West towards the start of her career, she certainly hadn’t distinguished herself by that stage.  So what caused the change? What transformed her career? Well, Martina worked out what her strengths were, and worked hard to enhance and leverage them.  She realised she was naturally athletic and strong, and so she focused on building up her strength and fitness. No woman had ever trained on those areas to the extent that Navratilova did, and it brought her incredible success; and at the same time she changed the face of women’s tennis.

We know from our knowledge of working across sport and business that this is an area where sport trumps business hands down.  Athletes are generally much better at recognising where their strengths are, and leveraging them.  Partly this is helped by the data that is available, pretty much immediately, on performance.  However, it’s also helped by a mindset that knows the benefit of doing this.  Another story from the 80’s era illustrates this well.  Daley Thompson, GB decathlete, was determined to win a second gold medal in the 1984 LA Olympics. Chased hard by Jurgen Hingsen, he knew that there was only one event, the 1500, that he was vulnerable in. So he went to see a world-renowned coach, and asked him about improving his performance in this weak event. The coach thought about this offer and told him that he wasn’t prepared to help him improve at the 1500m. What he would do was help Thompson become so strong in the other 9 events that the 1500 would become irrelevant. The strategy paid off. In LA Thompson entered the final event, the 1500, knowing that as long as he finished, he had already won gold.

Peter Drucker, the renowned management consultant, educator and author, has said that we should waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence. It takes far more energy and work to improve from competence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence – and yet most people in most organisations concentrate on making incompetent performers into mediocre ones.

Understanding what you are good at, and placing more emphasis on this than on any weaknesses is also of course a central tenet of positive psychology.  It leads to elevated vitality and motivation, a greater sense of direction and higher probability of goal attainment, not to mention increased self-confidence and productivity.  (Clifton & Anderson, 2001-2, Hodges & Clifton 2004, Peterson & Seligman 2004).


How can this work for you?

So how can you take this concept and apply it to your organisation?  We use a simple but hugely effective process:

  • Identify your people’s strengths by using a robust and easy to take behavioural profile which is British Psychological Society-registered. The profile focuses on behaviours at work and provides a fantastic insight into how people operate and what strengths and value they bring to their roles. 
  • Design a training programme, focusing on individual needs, with an emphasis on leveraging strengths.  So we might provide some of your team with training on listening skills, others on effective delegation or presentation skills, and so on. 

To finish with a more recent example from sport, how about this from Joe Root, arguably England’s best batsmen at this moment in time. Talking about the 12 month period where his performance really moved up a gear, he had this to say: “Peter [Moores] definitely got the best out of me, along with the rest of the coaching team.  When I came back from Australia I realised that a lot of the time I was trying to work on things I was not good at, putting all my energy into that rather than spending more time strengthening the stuff I am good at.”

For those of you reading this and saying “but what about the things we are not good at, but that are really important for our roles…?” Joe Root’s story has an answer to that as well – invite us in and we will tell all! 

Your People and the Ghosts of Christmas Past

As you reflect on the year just gone, and look ahead to 2017, perhaps whilst sipping (yet another) glass of mulled wine, how would you answer this question? Is your people strategy working?

Are you recruiting the right people? Are you retaining your best people? And are you developing your people to enable them to drive your organisation forward?


Why is it so important?

For those of you who say: “Why should I care?”, let’s see if this helps.  Grab a piece of paper, and draw an arrow across it, left to right.  Go on, try it, what have you got to lose? At the tip of the arrow, write what your organisation is trying to achieve. For example, it could be ‘Excellence.’ Or it could be ‘To be the market leader.’ Or ‘to hit a turnover figure of x’.

Then put three horizontal lines across the page. You may have one already, from your arrow. If so, make this your middle horizontal line, and add one above and one below. Alongside the top one, write strategy. Alongside the middle one, write culture and environment. And alongside the bottom one, write people.

Now imagine that your organisation is a person.  So the top line, strategy, represents the overall ‘shape’ of your organisation; how you are set up and structured, what your overall strategy is, and what mechanisms and structures you have in place to facilitate this. The second line, culture and environment, represents the character of your organisation. How you go about things, how you act, your beliefs, values etc.  The bottom line, people, represents the individual limbs of your organisation, the actual people you have in place to achieve your aims, and how you use and develop them. 

All these layers are interlinked, and when we talk about your people strategy, this ‘hits’ at each of the three levels. 


What matters most – skill or character?

Now within your people strategy, where do you put most of your focus? Is it on their skill base, is it on their experience, or is it on their approach and attitude? And how does your environment work to get the best out of your people?

Do you hire on skills and fire on attitude, or recruit for attitude and train for skill?

To put it another way, do you want to know what happens if you want to become a fighter pilot in the military? You spend six months in officer training.  And that six months involves no flying at all. Why? Because it’s only worth teaching you the technical skills if you can pass the teamwork and leadership stuff first.  The Red Arrows takes a similar approach – from a one week selection process, only 20 minutes is devoted to a skills test.  The rest is an extended informal assessment of cultural fit.*

What about sport? We have blogged before about the culture and environment of the New Zealand All Blacks, the most successful rugby union team in the world.  One of the key aspects from the All Blacks is that no one is more important than anyone else, and that they all, from the captain down, have to bring the right mentality and approach to being an All Black, even if that means sweeping the sheds at the end of the day. 


The perfect team…..

We will return to sport shortly, but those of you who are regular followers of our blogs will remember Project Aristotle, and the light this huge research project shed on what goes into the perfect team. Fundamentally it came down to a couple of key behavioural norms - essentially listening to one another and showing sensitivity to each other’s needs. What Project Aristotle taught people within Google is that no one wants to put on a ‘‘work face’’ when they get to the office. No one wants to leave part of their personality and inner life at home. But to be fully present at work, to feel ‘‘psychologically safe,’’ we must know that we can be free enough, sometimes, to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations. We have to bring the ‘human’ to the workplace.  

So understanding those you work with, as individuals, is key.  Two of the biggest success stories in sport this year demonstrate the impact this can have.  First, the GB Women’s hockey team.  One of the most significant factors in their turnaround, from a hugely disappointing performance at Bejing in 2008, was the awarding of central contracts, and the impact this had in terms of the squad spending more time together and getting to know each other better. As Kate Richardson-Walsh, the captain, said: “I was part of Team GB at the Olympic Games in 2004 and 2008, but everything really changed in the run-up to the London Olympics in 2012, as the women’s hockey team won a National Lottery grant enabling us to train full time.” This meant also that they could spend much more time together as individuals, eating together as a team, going out together as a team etc. All of which bonded them as a team and enhanced their understanding and empathy with one another. 

And now to Saracens, winners of the double last season – the Premiership and the Champions Cup.  Time together, as a squad, outside of their ‘rugby environment’ is key to them.  In fact just today they are off to the slopes of the French Alps, as a squad, to get to know each other even better in a different environment.  Watch out on the slopes…..! 


Take the time to get it right in 2017

So, whilst sipping your mulled wine over the Christmas break, what is your answer to the question posed at the beginning of this piece? Is you people strategy excellent? If not, why not? And why not see if we can help….

*taken from Justin Hughes, former Red Arrows pilot, writing in the HRZone.