Listen live to my interview with Steve Twynham on Inspire Radio at 6:10pm today.
Steve was inspired to transition to optimism by his Dad’s daily negative narrative. It motivated him to discover his daily dosage of enthusiasm and to create Inspire Radio – now with listeners in over 28 countries.
My Dad made an assumption about my narrative and mindset whilst watching me squander a huge lead in a tennis match. From that moment, I decided that I wasn’t going to accept those version of events. I realised you can create your own narrative and decide which memories to hang on to.
Tune in at 6:10pm today to hear my stories and how I have evolved from player, coach, to executive coach.
To listen to live interview follow: Inspire Radio
How do we change strongly ingrained habits, practiced over a life time? The auto-pilot efficiency of habits creates a shortcut from stimulus to response, without conscious thought. This saves time and effort, but it complicates transformation.
Achieving change if the behaviour is well practiced and the person is quite rigid in approach can be problematic. We have to understand why we make choices and become motivated to change, to increase our chances of successful transformation.
Self-management is a learnable skill and the process is almost identical to how you would change the technique of a particular stroke in tennis.
Last week I filmed a tennis client with a faulty backswing - watching his own swing clearly revealed his mistake. This revelation lead to greater self-awareness and motivation towards change. Only focused, sustained and repetitive practice will help him to adapt the swing through forming new neural pathways.
Similarly, the leader in this article will have to devise a consistent plan to alter his habitual behaviour of speaking too much at meetings.
Have you ever changed unwanted habits successfully?
Link to full Harvard Business Review article: How to Move from Self-Awareness to Self-Improvement
What is the biggest test for resilience at work and where do workers draw their reserves from to overcome these obstacles? This survey from Harvard Business Review, of 835 employees in Britain, points to self-reliance.
Employees draw on their own internal resilience 90% of the time to overcome workplace challenges, compared to their organisational support just close to 10% of the time.
By considerable margin the biggest drain comes from managing difficult people or office politics (75%), followed by personal criticism (60%). It is clear we feel the impact and remember criticism much longer than praise.
These findings align with the widely known fact that people leave bosses rather than jobs.
The most resilient are able to do the following:
Link to full Harvard Business Review article: What Resilience Means, and Why It Matters
It would have been Wimbledon fortnight starting today, I've taken a look at how this year's tournament season will differ, the global and local impact of the pandemic on sporting competitions, the health benefits of tennis for all and what the 'new normal' future of tennis might look like.
For now we'll just have to relive the best of time's gone by!
Link to full York Press article: Your guide to a summer of tennis - socially distanced sport
Have you ever been on the receiving end of a leadership decision that lacked empathy or compassion? Have you as a leader ever made such a decision?
This article explores why leaders must guard against making decisions solely from their analytical neuro-network, neglecting their emotional intelligence.
Leaders should use their analytical network AN (task-positive) and emphatic network EN (default-mode) equally to make clear, objective and practical decisions - yes they need to be analytical, but they also need to relate to other’s feelings and emotional states. Decision makers should have a clear perspective and be open to what others hear, see and feel.
Unfortunately, our analytical and emphatic networks actually suppress each other, when one is activated the other is deactivated. Decision makers therefore have to constantly switch from one network to the other. We can however, improve this ability through deliberate practice.
The process starts with the self-awareness of what your preferred mode of operating is. Then you have to practice the less preferred mode until you are competent in that particular neuro-network. Finally, take measures to improve the ability of switching between networks until this occurs seamlessly.
Link to full Harvard Business Review article: The Best Managers Balance Analytical and Emotional Intelligence
We need more ‘Humbition’ – humility in the service of ambition – this is what HR professionals at IBM observed years ago, as an effective sustainable mindset for successful leaders in a changing world.
Why are talented, intelligent leaders overlooked in favour of over-confident, arrogant leaders who can convince the decision makers that they are the best option for a specific leadership role? Frustratingly, you don’t have to search long or hard, even at the very top of society to find these examples.
Habits of truly confident leaders are surprisingly not what we always associate with talking big. Often, they listen more than they speak, celebrate other people’s successes and are not attention seeking, but willing to learn from experts.
As this article explains, humble leaders inspire close teamwork, rapid learning and high performance in organisations. They are effective leaders who do not pretend to have all the answers in a world that is all too complicated, rather they get their best ideas from the right people.
Link to full Harvard Business Review article: If Humility Is So Important, Why Are Leaders So Arrogant?
Leaders can feel a sense of hopelessness when under severe pressure. The tips shared in this insightful article may help.
1. Pause and think, you often have more time than you realise. It reminds me of a Viktor Frankl quote “between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
2. Take a step back and reflect on the situation. But beware: these situations can lead to cognitive tunnelling and decision inertia (the opposite of rushing), with a narrow focus relevant data could be missed.
3. When every option appears terrible pick the best of those available. The consequences of delaying decisions can be even worse.
4. Project a calm and decisive persona because negative emotions can be contagious.
5. Leaders should encourage input from the team’s expertise; a culture of psychological safety will bring good ideas to the table. Communication needs to be short, sharp and clear.
6. Focus on the goal rather than the decision making. Team members on the ground should be empowered to form part of the decision making process because they possess first-hand information. Plans, drills and guidelines are important but adaptability will be crucial.
Link to full BBC article: How to make the right decisions under pressure
It is International Coaching Week, an opportunity to celebrate and share what personal coaching can offer. For the duration of this week, I am providing a half an hour or 45 minute introductory coaching session, free of charge.
These are just some of the difficulties coaching can help with. If you would like to find out more about how I can work with you and support your needs please visit www.mariusbarnard.com
We often focus only on winning or getting to the top of the league table in sport, but what else can playing sport teach us? Can sport teach us to build confidence, to combat setbacks or to develop our leadership skills?
In 2013, 821 global leaders – 328 of which were female, took part in a study lead by Ernst and Young, which explored how women build leadership skills through sport and how it helps to forge their business careers.
The study identified that teamwork, building confidence and dealing with setbacks were the principal lessons that female leaders learnt from sport, which helped not only to support their business careers but excel in their chosen path. Of the female leaders interviewed, 94% of CEO’s played sport and 52% played sport at University level.
It is apparent that sport and the lessons which it teaches, can be harnessed within the working world – evidenced by the 76% of female leaders interviewed, who agreed that adopting sporting behaviours and techniques in the corporate environment is an effective way of improving performance.
Clearly dealing with mistakes, obstacles, setbacks and challenges are part and parcel of competing. But how exactly do you build confidence and self-belief?
People with high levels of confidence consciously know and reflect on what they have already achieved. Visualising and recording past performances is a good exercise for anchoring these moments in the ‘memory bank’.
The champions of confidence will often emphasise their good moments with a slightly optimistic filter. These optimistic memories will then become a part of their narrative, the stories they tell themselves and believe others tell about them.
In 2019, I conducted surveys with 65 tennis players and 48 employees (legal and accountancy). This research uncovered that more than 90% of those people who rated as confident, were able to learn and move on from their mistakes. 28 of the 32 people who rated lower on confidence, were not able to move on from mistakes.
Confident people extract the valuable lessons learnt from their bad moments and then delete their failures from memory swiftly. Primarily focusing on their strengths and expecting to reach their goals with optimism. People with confidence trust their own skill and ability to accomplish the task, they don’t strive for perfection but set attainable goals and record these achievements as they progress.
Self-confident people are characteristically willing to take risks, make a stand and face up to consequences. They are generally good listeners and speak with certainty. Those who are characterised as self-confident celebrate other’s successes, are not afraid to ask for help from experts and are careful to judge others.
Surprisingly, self-confidence has a bigger, more than twice, the impact on performance levels than the influence of anxiety. In an extensive meta-analysis research project, Woodman and Hardy (2003) found self-confidence positively influenced performance in a whole range of national level sports by 24 percentage points versus the limiting influence of anxiety by -10 percentage points. This is yet another reason to support focusing on your strengths, because it can deliver bigger gains than trying to improve your weaknesses.
The following is a shortlist of the beneficial lessons people can adopt from the sporting arena to the business world.
Through sport we can learn how to:
Managing Mental Health and Technostress: Now is not the time to start judging your efforts against tough performance benchmarks
Speaking to colleagues across a range of professions, on how they are coping with working from home, has highlighted key areas and the importance of managing stress. Having recently completed a ‘Managing Mental Health and Stress’ course, I explored a whole range of causes, prevention strategies, practical solutions and case studies of stress. The section on Technostress has taken on particular significance, with so many people including myself, required to work from home.
We are bombarded with all possible causes of stress at present, including financial pressure to managing families in a confined space – our own health and wellbeing is at stake. Technostress is characterised by technical complexity, work overload, role ambiguity, invasion of privacy, the pace of change, job insecurity, work-home boundaries and often low reward for maximum effort. The Effort-Reward Imbalance Model seems to be flipped upside down.
Be aware of the early warning signs of wellbeing taking a dive: withdrawal, apathy, irritability, mood swings, blame culture thinking, lack of motivation and commitment. Changing behaviours and thought patterns at this stage is critical. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of the primary interventions such as job redesign, ergonomic improvements, role clarification, role rotation, participation in implementing technologies to combat stress – we had to swiftly adapt into these arrangements without an alternative.
Therefore, we can look towards secondary prevention tools such as Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) training and Present Moment Awareness, also known as Mindfulness training. I began using these training methods and visualisation techniques as a young touring professional on the ATP Tour – crucial not only for performance enhancement, but also for managing the daily stresses, uncertainty and pressure of having to win tennis matches to secure an income. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a third option, a more sustained process, advisably undertaken with the guidance of a professionally trained therapist.
Implementing these techniques in combination with the normal healthy habits of balanced diet, taking regular breaks, exercising, good rest and sleep can help to combat our current state of technostress and other work-life related pressures.
It's crucial to remember – now is not the time to start judging our efforts against tough performance benchmarks. We have to give ourselves an emotional break, be more non-judgmental, filter the amount of information we digest, as well as being conscious of the information type we absorb in this climate.