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Is your team mentally tough enough?


While playing cricket for England against India in front of a crowd of 120,000, my mindset failed under pressure. It was interesting that up until that point, most of my coaching had been technical and very little focus had been on shaping our mindset.

Our team hardly mentioned the huge crowd, we just carried on as if it was normal. Speaking to the players several years later, most said their thinking was affected by it in some way on the day. So perhaps one of the signs of mental toughness is not being robotic and impervious to pressure but having the ability to show vulnerability with our teams so that we can create a bullet proof plan.

Despite my mistake under pressure probably costing England the match, it fuelled my fascination to understand more about champion performers so that I could simplify and share their secrets.

I went in search of the best leaders in sport to ask them how they would solve the most stubborn performance questions. Here are three game changing leadership insights from our interview library for you to consider with your team.

1.    What comes first – process or people?

In a world teaming with data, models and analytics it’s easy to focus on the processes before the people but as England rugby coach Stuart Lancaster explains this could be a big mistake “What really tests your culture is when you have setbacks or an extended period of adversity, so I believe that you need to focus on building solid foundation between people first rather than the ‘what we are going to do’ because that may deliver a short term win but your team will ultimately fall apart under pressure if your culture isn’t strong.”

Is your team culture strong enough to withstand a period of adversity?

2.    Does the perfect team culture exist?

Sir Dave Brailsford is widely renowned as one of the world’s greatest coaches following his unparalleled success with GB Cycling and Team Sky in the Tour De France. When Sporting Edge interviewed him to investigate this seemingly ‘perfect’ team culture, his answer was revealing. “If you put enough humans in a room for long enough there will be conflict, I used to try and make everything perfect but it’s impossible, you have to accept that there is a background noise in the team and if you do have a cosy environment with complete harmony then maybe you are not pushing hard enough.”

Many leaders work hard to create a friendly team environment but it’s the teams which harness constructive task focussed conflict which really deliver great results.

Do you encourage strong task focussed debate within in your team?

3. How do we sustain success?

Baroness Sue Campbell has been a successful coach and business woman with UK sport for over three decades and her insight is as relevant to leaders in the board room as they are in the dressing room “If you want long term success, your job as a leader is to provide the safe place to go when things are not very good, where people feel supported and valued. Then I think you also have to be strong at the right times, to challenge people to become the very best that they can be.”

How can you balance support and challenge for long term success in your business?

The secrets from these high performing sporting environments are fascinating and with the analysis, the setbacks and the pressure for results, the links between sport and business have never been so clear.

So are your individual performers aware of the pressures which lie ahead of them and does your team proactively discuss these potential derailers. In sport there is no hiding place as the game is coming and the cameras are primed.

In a world of increasing pressure, will your team survive?

Jeremy Snape

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