How to perform at the top of your game

Man wearing a red top and sweatband holding a tennis racket playing tennis


The techniques used by sports stars to maximise their performance can also work in the world of business - and might be able to help you and your employees perform better under pressure

Ian Cochrane (IC) from training company Gazing Performance Systems explains how small firms can borrow approaches from the sporting world to improve their performance.

Can businesses really learn from sports professionals?

IC: "Irrespective of the domain you work in, the pragmatics of performance under pressure are similar. Most people agree performance comes down to three areas - your mindset, your skills and the structures underpinning those skills. Sports people focus on these areas and when you talk to business leaders these are often the things they need to look at. Training can help firms improve in these areas."

How does this translate to the workplace?

IC: "Our clients often say 'I want to get my staff motivated'. This is important, but first the skills and structures need to be right - it is no good having a motivated team who can't do their jobs. In a rugby team or netball team we look at the skills needed for them to improve, and the same goes for a small business.

"In terms of structures, we look at the systems underpinning a business, such as a customer-relationship management system. You need to work on getting simple structures right because doing the basics well is what delivers good service for a customer. It's the same in the sports world - sometimes players try radical moves that go wrong, but if it is well drilled then it works."

But what about individual performance - how do you improve that?

IC: "If you look at great tennis players like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, they execute their basics really well under pressure. That is what businesses can learn from. Sports people who perform well under pressure focus on the task - that's what separates them from those who only give an average performance. The same applies for a salesperson doing a presentation. If they start thinking 'I have that other proposal to do when I get home', the chances are performance will drop."

Can all firms benefit from this approach?

IC: "It is actually easier for small firms to implement than large companies because there are fewer people involved, so fewer people to train and fewer systems to change. If they buy into the principle of skill set, mindset and structure and they work hard, then they should be able to get results quicker than a big company.

"The training works for roles that are customer-facing, be that sales or service provision, right through to the management of those areas and then the leadership of a business. It also isn't specific to any particular sector."

Written with expert input from Ian Cochrane of Gazing Performance Systems.

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