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Steve Peters

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Learning Live: Keynote speaker Dr. Steve Peters


In our final piece of editorial before the event, we sat down with Learning Live keynote speaker and sports psychologist Dr Steve Peters to talk performance improvement, resilience, books and more. 

You’ve worked with Ronnie O Sullivan, Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and many other successful sportspeople. Are there common problems that they have all been held back by, and can you draw parallels between business success and sporting success?

I think universally we all recognise that our minds can hold us back or cause us to underachieve. What is common to successful sports people that I work with is that they recognise this and are willing to look at ways of managing their minds to get the best out of themselves. I have worked with numerous corporate groups and as you can easily infer that the problems that arise are typically recognised as frequently coming from the person’s mind. What I do is to work with an individual and help them to clarify what they are trying to do, and together work out what behaviours, beliefs, drives or emotions are helpful or unhelpful and gain insight into their own mind and how they want to operate with it.

Give us a quick synopsis of your book 'The Chimp Paradox'.

The mind is complex so I invented a model based on the neuroscience of the brain that would make the mind accessible to work with. Basically I simplified the mind into three interacting teams. The Human is the team that represents us. It is essentially the person in front of me. The Chimp is a complex powerful machine that works to fulfil its own agenda, which may be very different to ours. It thinks in a different way to us and has modes of working that are not based on fact or logic. It is highly emotional. The crucial point is that it is a thinking machine outside of our control. It is not just instincts and drives. Finally the Computer is a team that operates by being programmed by either Chimp or Human and holds our beliefs and values and automatic behaviours and responses.

Is there any advice you can give business leaders to improve their day-to-day performance at work?

From my perspective it would be to try and gain insight into how the mind works and more specifically how their mind works. Learn the skill of operating the mind and try to improve and maintain this skill once you acquire it. We are all unique individuals so I don’t have a recipe. Anyone I work with becomes a team with me and together we work out what they are trying to achieve. You can approach this by looking at specific areas. I do this by looking at the person themself, how they manage their relationships with others to get the best out of them, communication and the environment that they work in. My model and way of working is not for everyone. There are plenty of good models, therapies, coaches and techniques available. I would encourage business leaders to find one that they relate to, or work with someone who they find helpful and invest time in their own self-development.

Resilience is a popular subject in leadership training at the moment - why do you think this is?

I think it is self-evident that resilience, however you define it, is a useful feature to posses. Over the years I think I have seen many words become ‘flavour of the month' and often they are taken seriously. However, it also seems that the lessons learnt don’t stick and soon another word appears as the flavour of the month. My experience has been that these words often represent outcome behaviours, rather than traits, and they result from firmly embedded values and evidenced-based beliefs and not from learnt behaviours. So I think I would help someone establish the values and beliefs that would result in resilience so that it becomes second nature to them. I would also help them to recognise how their Chimp may try to sabotage their objective.

Do you have a mantra you repeat to yourself each morning to make every day a success, or do you think each day brings its own specific set of challenges?

I don’t have a mantra. I go a lot on my values and beliefs and accept what life brings to my door and then try to deal with it constructively. I define success for myself as doing the best I can. I don’t always get it right but if I know I have done my best then I don’t worry and I don’t beat myself up. I accept the consequences of not always being able to achieve what I want. Working with people is a great privilege so I do reflect continuously on what effect I am having on others. Being able to have a positive effect on others I find fulfilling. Helping others to get into a great place is important because I think if you are in a great place then you can deal with most things that come your way.

Dr Steve Peters is keynote speaker at this year's Learning Live. For more info and a special discount exclusive to TrainingZone register here and quote code TZ250LL


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