How To Use Sport Psychology To Perform Better In Business.

Elite sports men and women work on their minds as a much as their bodies.

They are well aware that when they get their minds right, superior performance usually follows.

So why don’t business people do the same?

Is it not highly likely that if we also used the tools of sport psychologists in the business environment that we could enhance our performance?

You bet it is.

Here’s a list of the main techniques used by sport psychologists. Peruse them and pick three that you would feel would help you work faster, smarter and better.

1. Smart Goal Setting

Make sure you set clear, achievable goals that stretch you to perform at your best, then articulate a step by step plan for achieving each of them.

2. Mental Imagery  

Take a few minutes day to mentally ‘see’ moving pictures of you performing superbly. As noted sports performance shrink Dr Jim Afremow has shown, personal performance can dramatically improve when we consistently rehearse mentally.

3. Breath Control   

When you breath slowly and deeply, your mood never fails to calm down. Breath control is a rarely discussed secret to high performance, yet it’s a critical component of top best sports psychologist Dr Michael Gervais.

4. Champion’s Body Language

How you move greatly affects your mood. Carry yourself like a champion and you’ll begin to think like a champion. (For more on this check out Neuro Linguistic Programming).

5. Correct Intensity    

Monitor your intensity level, making sure it’s just right for the situation. Not too tight, not too relaxed.

6. Internal Talk      

Always speak to yourself in a positive, can do, encouraging manner. It pays to talk to be your own best supporter. Constantly be uplifting and supporting yourself through your internal dialogue.

7. Enjoyment  

Business is a long game, if we don’t enjoy each day then our performance will eventually suffer. Interestingly, as British positive psychology expert Dr Robert Holden often emphasizes, enjoyment is  largely a choice, it’s  not purely determined by our circumstances. Top performers choose to enjoy every day.

Okay, these techniques in my view are The Magnificent Seven of elite sports performance.

Which ones could help you perform more effectively in business?

Pick three and focus on them over the next week. Then watch your business performance soar.

 

 

How Your Wealth Is Determined By Your Self Image.

I’ve been reading an interesting book lately.

It’s called ‘Identity Economics. How Our Identities Shape Our Work, Wages, And Well Being’.

It raises some pertinent points for anyone who wants to achieve great wealth in their life.

The authors show that how you see yourself plays a huge part in how much you earn, and indeed how much wealth you believe you deserve.

Identity affects how you dress.  What wages you ask for, or what prices you charge your clients.

Even how much money you save or spend.

With self identity being so critical to financial success, it is truly amazing that people don’t spend time daily developing their self image so that it supports them, rather than pulls them down.

Do you do anything at all to maintain a healthy self identity?

Most people don’t, for two reasons:

1. They have no idea that their identity is affecting how much they earn.

2. Even if they do know, they don’t know what they can do to change their identity.

In fact, changing your identity is relatively easy, although it takes some months to do it.

You just use the same technique taught to Olympic athletes to enhance their performance.

Mental rehearsal.

That is, every day for at least ten minutes, close your eyes and mentally ‘see’ yourself performing superbly at work. Earning large amounts of money.  Being happy and healthy. Enjoying your ideal lifestyle.

At first it seems implausible that something so simple could affect your performance. But there are literally thousands of scientific studies that show that, over time, it does.

And remember this:

You’re visualising how things will go anyway, all day long. It’s just how the brain works. So you might as well take control of the process and visualise exactly what you want.

With regular daily practice you’ll find you will be more confident, more at ease, more effective.

You’ll also find your economic identity will have changed.

And soon after,  your wealth.

The Key Difference Between Winners and Losers In Business.

Are winners in business  just more talented? Or luckier than the average person?

Most people believe yes.

But Professor Carol Dweck of Stanford University has proof to the contrary. After over a decade of research her team has shown that in the long term, consistent success does not largely hinge on IQ or luck.

It relies on a particular type of mindset. If you develop this mindset ( and it can certainly be developed) your chances of achieving uncommon success are high, regardless of your field of endeavor.

Dweck calls that winning mindset the ‘Growth Mindset’, and the essence of Growth Mindset is as follows.

Growth Mindsetters have a core belief that their talents are not fixed. Therefore they are confident that anything they choose to do can be done better. Basically, they have a deep belief that their potential is virtually limitless, as long as they do two things.

1. Consistently focus on getting better at that particular area.

2. Try hard at it.

Effort, focus and belief are at the core of how a Growth Mindsetter thinks.

As a result, they may start off not being particularly good at something, but by concerted action they quickly get better at it. ‘Excellence through constant improvement’ could be the credo of a Growth Mindset oriented person.

With this attitude, Professor Dweck showed that even people with lower than average IQ’s often succeeded at a higher level than more intelligent people who didn’t dedicate themselves to lifelong improvement.

A startling notion, I’m sure to agree.

After all, if success over time is not about luck or inherent talent, then that squarely puts the pressure on each of us to commit to continual learning and effort to endlessly get better.

Do you have enough of a Growth Mindset ?

If your honest answer is No, it’s time to get to work.

What Business Executives Can Learn From Winter Olympians.

If you were watching the Winter Olympics closely, you’ll have noticed that many of the medal winners are using special mental rituals to maximize their performance.

Many of these same techniques can be used by executives and entrepreneurs to improve their results.

In today’s column I’m going to outline four of the best sports psychology techniques that anyone in the business world can use to lift their level of achievement in the workplace.

1. Get In The Right State Before You Begin Work.

Every Winter Olympic champion takes the time directly before their event to steady themselves, get focused and in the optimum state to perform at their peak.

Yet most business executives rush into work and just start on tasks. Big mistake.

Spend a few minutes getting centered and really present before you begin work and the rest of your day will go a lot smoother. The state you’re in creates the results you get, whether in sport or business.

2. Choose To Enjoy Tough Competition, Not Fear It.

Gold medal snowboarder Torah Bright stands out from all her competitors because she clearly loves what she’s doing. Before every run down the mountain she actually smiles and reminds herself to enjoy the experience. Yet other, less successful snowboarders are a mass of concern and stress.

Remember, you can choose your reaction to the challenges ahead of you. You can get tense or you can choose to love it and have fun. A lot of entrepreneurs could learn a lot from champions like Torah Bright.

3. Focus On Your Own Performance, Not Your Competitors.

Watch the post race TV interviews with the elite Winter Olympians and you’ll notice that they all speak the same way. They speak only of how they performed, they virtually never speak of others who are competing against them. They’ve been taught by their mental coaches that the only thing they can control is their own performance and they have virtually eradicated any concerns about others.

The business world could learn from this. Focusing on your own work rather than others clears your mind and increases your concentration. You have less fear, less negativity and less over thinking. The result? Higher levels of achievement.

4. Have a Pre Game Ritual.

Watch carefully as the cameras pan across competitors prior to their big event. They are often listening to music through headphones, talking positively to themselves, or have their head down visualizing the upcoming race.

This is no accident – almost all top level athletes follow a clearly organized pre game ritual, to make sure they are totally ready to perform. Why shouldn’t we in the business world do the same?

For you it could be reading an inspirational business book, reviewing your quarterly goals or seeing yourself performing outstandingly at your upcoming meetings. It almost doesn’t matter what your pre game ritual is, what matters is that it gets you in the zone for elite business performance.

The world’s best Winter Olympic athletes didn’t get there by chance. And it wasn’t only a result of physical practice either. They all dedicated themselves to winning the mental game of competition as well, and thrived as a result.
Business has so many similarities with high level sport. So let’s take the best of the athlete’s methods and apply them to our work performance.

Notes On the World’s Best CEOs: Alan Mulally.

I’m starting a new series that gives you key bullet points on the world’s best performing CEOs.

It’s a checklist of sorts, that enables you to look at how the top guns work, with an eye for potentially adapting their methods to use in your own work life.

First up, is the brilliant Alan Mulally, who with Bill Ford famously turned around Ford without accepting government hand outs.

Here’s how he works:

* Arrives at the office at 5.15am and leaves around 5.30pm.

* Reviews the Ford business plan every week, with all key team members present.

* Always seeks to simplify. A key mantra is ” Improve focus. Simplify operations.”

* Emphasizes profitable growth, not merely a growing revenue curve.

* Never criticizes rivals. ” I’m not going to talk about GM and Chrysler. It’s just not my place.”

* Believes in what he calls ‘Positive Leadership’, always looking for solutions and acknowledging wins.

* Favorite phrase: ‘How cool is that?”

* Staff carry the Ford business plan on a card. Four main points.

* The entire company’s performance is put up on the walls of two rooms – 280 charts that outline all key results vs projections.

* Obsessively measures. Including traditionally soft areas such as brand preference.

* Has summarized what the Ford customer wants into 5 areas: Quality. Fuel efficiency. Safety. Smart design.Value.

* Constantly reads business books in his spare time. Also a competitive tennis and golf player.

* Leadership style: positive and upbeat, mixed with disarming honesty and forthrightness.

* Dedicated to company-wide communication. “Everyone has to know the plan, it’s status and areas that need attention.”

Have a think about this list. Ask yourself, what is Alan doing that I can incorporate into my own leadership style? Then pick the most important of these points and focus on it for the next 2 weeks. Then move to the next attribute you’d like to emulate.

We can all learn from the best – and Alan Mulally shines as a uncommon breed of CEO – one who has achieved stupendous results while at the same time being liked by the vast majority in his company. A rare achievement indeed.

Five Ways To Peform Better This Year.

 

1. WORK ON YOUR SELF BELIEF DAILY.

The great business mentor Dan Sullivan has long stated that in his 35 years experience Confidence is the single most valuable attribute to succeed in business. But most of us aren’t just born confident, we need to work at it.

One of the best ways to do this is to spend a few minutes daily being your own mind coach – talk yourself up, convince yourself that you have what it takes to achieve great things this year.

After all, as Dr Maxwell Maltz’s research proved over 30 years ago, we usually perform in accordance with our self identity.

2. GET CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT.

After studying successful people for over three decades, high performance expert Brian Tracy concluded that the most important element of achievement is Clarity. Where do you want to be in 12 months? In 6 months? In the next 90 days?

Write it down and read it every day – it will triple your chances of making it a reality. You don’t have to be a genius to achieve big things in business. You usually just have to be very clear about your aims, then work hard and intelligently to reach them.

3. DEVELOP WHITE HOT DESIRE.

Strong desire is common amongst all great business titans. If you are half-hearted about your goals then mediocrity is assured. As top performance coach Steve Hardison put it, “If you’re not totally committed this ship is sinking, it’s just a matter of when.”

The good news is that personal desire can be increased quickly – by thinking incessantly about your goals, reminding yourself constantly of why you want them and remaining cognizant of how good life will be when you achieve them.

4. DEVELOP SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE.

In 1937 Napoleon Hill identified a lack of specialized knowledge as one of the primary reasons people fail to achieve their dreams in business.

What specifically do you need to learn to succeed in your line of work? What areas of knowledge have the top people in your field learned that those at the mid level haven’t?

Think about this carefully, then make it your business to become expert in those areas. Steve Jobs needed to how to manage people (and boards) better before he could achieve lasting corporate greatness. Investment guru Leon Black had to learn the intricacies of high yield bonds from Michael Milken before he could strike out on his own. What specialized knowledge do you need to learn to make this year an outstanding one?

5. DO WHAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT FIRST.

Having spent almost 30 years studying time management, if I were asked what is the single most critical productivity technique I would say it’s this one: whatever is the highest value activity on your To Do List do it first. Then do the next most important task second, and so on.

You can ignore all the other hundreds of efficiency techniques and still become extremely successful in business, if you master this one.

Yet not one executive or entrepreneur in a hundred does this consistently.

So there you have it, 5 simple tips to making this year a superb one. Why not try them for the next 30 days and see how much better your results become?

In the long run, success in business is no accident, it stems from doing a few key things well, again and again. Starting with the ones above.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles

Making Mark Zuckerberg’s Business Philosophy Work For You.

The central way Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg works can be summed up in his often repeated mandate to his staff: “Move fast and break things.”

What Zuckerberg is talking about has … two dimensions:

1. That speed needs to be a key component of how his people work. If they don’t have a sense of urgency then it’s unlikely that they’ll achieve anything substantial quickly. As businesses grow (and Facebook is no different) layers of bureaucracy develop that impede rapid progress. That must be countered by elevating the speed at which teams work.

(This sense of urgency was also identified as a key component of many other successful businesses. See Professor John Kotter’s work at Harvard on corporate urgency).

2. That no great achievements will occur unless Facebook’s staff maintain a spirit of challenging the status quo, even to the point of destroying what is already accepted as being best practice.

(This concept is similar to the Austrian American economist Joseph Schumpeter’s theory of ‘creative destruction’ ).

Zuckerberg urges his teams to keep these two mind filters front of mind, to ensure they don’t rest on Facebook’s existing achievements and that they keep pace with social media’s breakneck pace of progress.

We all should do the same.

I’ve found a simple and effective way to do this is by continually following two strategies consistently.

1. SET SHORT, UNREASONABLE DEADLINES.

Only be putting time pressure on both yourself and your staff are you likely to push both to achieve at an unusually fast rate. Follow normal, reasonable deadlines and your chances of being faster than your competitors are low. Time pressure almost always brings out the best in people of talent.

2. ALWAYS ASK. ‘HOW WOULD THE NEXT GREAT COMPANY IN MY SECTOR DO THIS?’

We need to stop aiming for best of category and start thinking major disruption. The first gives you progress and perhaps brief leadership, the second gives you a chance at really changing the game and establishing medium to long term dominance.

In today’s uber fast business world, Zuckerberg’s simple philosophy is a potent mind tool to get the most out of yourself and your people. The two strategies above will help you bring that philosophy to life in the day to day running of your business.

The Single Most Important Element for Business Success

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If somebody asked you what is the most crucial aspect of business to focus on to ensure success, what would you say?

Some would choose Sales. Some would say Marketing. Many would claim it’s Leadership. Others believe it’s Systems. More than a few would be adamant that the most important element is financial acumen.

I don’t disagree that these areas are all vital to the creation of any outstanding commercial enterprise. But in my experience there’s one element rarely talked about that trumps all the others in importance.

That element? Urgency.

Think about it. What’s the number one gripe of executives and entrepreneurs today?

They can’t get enough done.

Sure they’ve got great ideas, plenty of them, but actually making those ideas happen is the hard part.

It’s not just a matter of spending more time working. The reason so many are not achieving enough is not actually a shortage of time (who isn’t working at least 50 to 60 hours a week?).

It’s that other people get in the way.

In so many different ways.

They take ages to decide. Or make it difficult to get your job done. Or sit in endless meetings pontificating on the pros and cons. Or put off allocating the right resources. Or just don’t make a decision. Or forget they agreed to do something. Or don’t follow up.

The plain truth is that getting anything done in the business world is damn hard, because the inertia, complexity and resistance to action is so strong.

The only way to cut through it all is to act with a real sense of urgency. To behave with an almost desperate urge to get the job done, no matter what and as soon as humanly possible.

Only when you have a spirit of urgency can you push your way through the admin and red tape. Only by acting with urgency can you get others to deliver on time. Only being truly urgent in your dealings can you achieve anything significant in a year.

The more you think about it, the more it rings true. Urgency is the one thing that drives projects forward quickly.

If you’re not urgent, people sense it and relax and move slowly. Things take ages to bear fruit. Mediocrity abounds.

The big question you may be asking is of course is, are you performing with enough urgency?

Are you demanding enough? On others, or indeed yourself?

Urgency is not an easy character trait to develop. The world doesn’t particularly like urgent people. They can seem rude. Pushy. Unreasonable. Yet being that way is often the only way to get stuff of consequence done.

As George Bernard Shaw so aptly put it, ” The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

There are several different types of urgency we should focus on if we want to achieve great things.

1. Urgency with strategic planning.

I know so many business owners who have taken over a year to make a decision. As a result of their strategic cowardice and complacency they often get left behind in their industry. (What have you been thinking about for too long? How about making a decision in the next 60 minutes on it?)

2. Urgency with other people.

Who owes you a report, product or idea? Why haven’t they sent it to you already? Do they really need that much time, or are they taking advantage of your leniency? When you ask for a result with genuine urgency you usually move straight to the front of the other person’s line of important tasks. That’s where you deserve to be, must be, to get things done quickly.

3. Urgency in your own mind.

To achieve greatly, we must cultivate great urgency in the way that we think. We need to see ourselves as highly time sensitive, fast achieving people. Only when we view ourselves this way are likely to muster the energy and drive to make things happen at warp speed. As the great American psychologist, William James, so often reminded us, we become what we consistently think about. If daily we have a self image as somebody who has a real spirit of urgency, then soon we are likely to become that type of person.

So in conclusion, if you are not happy with the speed at which you are achieving in business, don’t just look at tactics, like sales, marketing, systems and the like. Spend at least as much time focusing on the one mindset that makes all the other stuff happen.

A real, deep, all encompassing, powerful sense of urgency.

Why the Super Bowl is Like the Business World.

Throwing a football around wearing tight pants and eye black may seem the opposite of the world of business, but I think the two share important similarities.

In fact I believe if we don’t develop 3 of the same character traits of the top NFL players we will never reach the top of the corporate world.

The best players and the best business execs each have these personality aspects to an extreme degree:

1. Ultra focus.

You don’t see linemen trying to be quarterbacks, or the team kicker trying his hand at playing wide receiver.

The NFL world understands that you can only be superb if you specialize. The same is true in business. Great entrepreneurs understand that they must focus on an industry or niche – really get to know it and delve down into its intricacies if they ever hope to master it. In the same manner superb corporate executives appreciate that they need to be brilliant at just a small number of skills, the critical few that they are both suited to and are the most valuable to their company.

Whether in football or business, generalists are less likely to reach the top.

2.Devotion to practice.

The Superbowl wasn’t won by the Ravens on February 3. It was won far earlier, during the thousands of hours the players and coaching staff practiced and refined their craft. Business is no different. Skills practice is vital – whether it’s sales skills, marketing expertise, financial acumen or strategy prowess.

Both footballers and business people are made not born; through endless finessing of their key skill sets.

3. Deep passion.

The wild, chest beating machismo of many of the 49ers and Ravens players is certainly not evident in the corporate world, but make no mistake, deep down in every great business person is similar passion- though it will express itself in more sedate ways.

Nobody ever got to the top in business by being nonchalant. No matter how talented, those who are ambivalent about their careers tend to get steam rolled by those that are passionate. The complexities and shifting sands of business life demand total immersion and commitment- anything less leads to mediocre performance.

So as you can see, Superbowl players actually have quite a lot in common with people in business. Which begs the question, how do you score on the three key attributes of both professions – ultra focus, devotion to practice and deep passion? Are you too a world champion?

The Link Between Being Tidy and Success.

This is something most executives and entrepreneurs rarely think about.

But in my opinion there’s a strong correlation between a tidy environment and business wealth.

In fact I’d go far as to say, if we perform in a consistently untidy environment we condemn ourselves to achieving at a much lower level than we are capable of.

Why? Because a tidy environment improves how you think.

1. It makes your mind calmer and clearer.

We’ve all had times when we are flustered and disorganised in our thinking. In this mental state problems seem hard to solve, and obstacles appear large and difficult.

But I’ve found a very strange thing. If instead of trying to overcome the problem we take a break and spend half an hour tidying our desk and getting our immediate surroundings clear and organised, soon after our thinking becomes much more clearer.
We feel less frazzled and overcome by the enormity of our workload, and things get solved and completed faster. Haven’t you also found that to be true?

2. It increases your sense of being in control.

There’s loads of research that shows that humans feel much happier the more in control the believe they are. (Read ‘Control Theory’ by William Glasser for more on this area). When your immediate environment is clean and in order, we feel that we are more in charge and on top of things. Confidence increases and mood lifts. Then once we feel better we tend to tackle our work with force and optimism and soon we gain real momentum.

3. It strengthens our self esteem.

The work of Dr Nathaniel Branden (and many others) shows there is a powerful connection between the level of our self esteem and our ability to perform at a high level. But it’s hard to feel like a champion when you work in a disorganised pig sty of an office.

But take the time each day to get your papers in order and keep your desk neat and pretty soon you feel more like a winner.

After all, there are very few leaders in business with messy desks (check the pages of Forbes for photos of top CEO’s offices and you’ll see what I mean).

4. It improves our image.

Not only does a tidy environment make us feel good, it makes us look good. If clients or staff see your office they will think less of you if it’s constantly messy. (I know of one highly successful advertising agency owner who decided not to hire an architect once he saw how disorganised his office was).

When you work in a neat environment it sends the message to all around you that you are competent, organised, focused and in charge. And that’s exactly what clients want you to be.

So before you dive into another mountain of work, stop and get your environment in order. It may feel like you’re not working, but (for the reasons above) you are probably doing some of your most important work of all.