Each time I have had the opportunity to lead a board retreat or staff management seminar, the question comes up from at least one of the women attendees – “How can I keep my confidence at a consistent and /or higher level in _____ situation?”
I had the privilege of being an athlete and playing numerous sports roles such as coach, sports administrator, and colleague to many world class athletes. I know the sensation of ‘walking like I own the earth’ – feeling that I could accomplish almost anything no matter what the odds. This is just one of many elements that all of us can model from being around athletes as a participant and/or fan.
Here are three characteristics of high performance athletes and some cues that I find the most helpful to offer folks who may not have had the chance to compete or may have overlooked the connection between their performance on the field to their work product and practice.
1. Visualizing Success – Every athlete goes into a game imagining they will win. They have practiced the same skill for hours on end, they believe in their abilities, and they have visualized success. As part of a team, they have a level of surrender and trust that their teammates also have the skills for success. This positive team attitude is led from the top (coach, manager, owner) and expressed on the field by the captain.
Application – whatever your next ‘performance’ at work is, visualize what a ‘win’ looks and feels like. Be specific! Perhaps it is people applauding a speech, staff being motivated to work smarter, a proposal being approved, a check or new client coming into the office, etc. Model this behavior in how you stand tall and proud, how you look people in the eye with confidence, and how you express a “captain’s positive attitude” to others around you. Your self-esteem is an extension of what you say and think about yourself so choose your thoughts and words wisely.
2. Discipline and Goal Setting– I can remember at age 12 having a list of drills and exercises that I would do every day. Each time I got to 10, I would push myself to get 15 with a new twist on the drill. There is something to setting a goal and then seeing what happens when you ask yourself to do more or to do it in a unique way. Putting your goals in writing and reviewing these regularly reminds you why the ‘daily drills’ are important.
Application –Each time you create something (speech, letter, budget, etc), pay attention to the detail and see how you can bring the product to a new level. When you have finished your project, read it one more time before you go to sleep and one more time when you get up. Repetition and ‘practice’ makes you better. Put in writing what your goal and intention is for a project, for your career, for your organization, etc. Review your goals with loved ones and encourage them to support you in ‘doing the drills’ to achieve success.
3. Risk Taking and Empathy – There is nothing like sports to teach you compassion. When a good softball batting average is .350, this means you miss 65% of the time. Same with basketball with the best player making her shots 40% of the time. There is no team or player that has not experienced a loss and then gotten up and played the next time with a desire to win.
Application – Possessing empathy for people when someone loses, understanding the feeling of being on both sides of an issue, having a willingness to take risks; this is the type of emotional intelligence that employers and leaders look for in members of a successful team. When you enter a conversation or negotiation, imagine what it feels like to hear it from the other side of the table. Express yourself with words that honor the experience of the recipient. As well, when the opportunity arises to move a step closer to your goal, don’t hesitate to ‘grab the ball’!
There’s an athlete in each of us because confident performance truly is a state of mind.