‘The Psychology of Leadership and Motivation’ is always something that interests me greatly and while I normally avoid talks and seminars on the topic, when the opportunity came up to spend some time with a current “World Number 1”, you didn’t have to ask me twice. It’s not every day that a highly respected world leader is in your area and by the size of the crowd attending, I wasn’t the only one that wanted to hear how he had achieved such success.
I find that people who typically deliver these types of talks are often trying to sell me something or rarely have the track record to back up their theory. I often like it to the profession of an economist i.e. someone who knows how to make love a thousand different ways but the only problem is that they don’t know any women! In other words go away and bother someone else. Billy Walsh on the other hand was going to be different. Currently holding the title of “International Boxing Coach of the Year” and “Head Coach of USA Boxing” there was no ulterior motive, no sales pitch. A man who’s already hugely successful tips on high performance are the stuff of legends in Ireland and if statistics are your thing; Ireland reached the heady heights of being ranked 4th in the world under his tenure. Six months after his departure we flounder at 88th.
I will do my very best to try and give you a flavour of that evening, the lessons learnt on high performance are equally as applicable to business as they are in sport. Needless to say, a large part of the evening focused on ensuring you had the right people, in the right places and with the right processes. Here were my lessons from that talk:
- Lesson 1: Clarity of Purpose. Not everyone gets the opportunity to play at Senior All Ireland level but those that do, typically have great leadership and a good vision. The Irish Olympic Boxing team had a simple vision of “To consistently stand on the world podium”. Of course vision and leadership alone are not enough, you’ve got to have the right mindset and hunger to achieve it. You’ve got to feed the positive every day, accept that the team has to strive to become world class and if you’re going to treat this like a Junior B game then you’ll never win an All Ireland. No excuses. Continuous Improvement. And if you’re not ready to rock and roll 15 minutes early for training or for work, you’re already late.
- Lesson 2: Culture Eats Performance for Breakfast. The price of entry to your team has to be non negotiable. Your team must have resilience, commitment, courage, performance, preparation, belief, fun and honesty. You got to run a tight ship and get the culture coming from within the team. If you have someone who has ulterior views and is a detractor then get rid of them no matter how good they are. When you have your doubts, have the courage to stick to your system. All you can do is control your own performance. Some people are so focused on competitors and the big prize at the finish line that they forget to start. The biggest battle will be with yourself, not with a competitor. Be professional at all times and be focused on the process itself as that is the only thing you can control. Think world class. Remove all excuses. Your colleagues will perform best when they have a purpose, they have the tools to deliver and are given the autonomy to deliver.
- Lesson 3: High Performance is a Choice. It’s tough, real tough and the reality is that it’s not for everyone. Lots of people say they want it, lots of people think they are entitled to it but unless they are willing to put in the effort in everything they do, then they are dreamers and will always be just dreamers. It may not be for everyone on the team no matter how hard they try and it may ultimately be beyond their abilities. They gotta be world class in every detail. Focus on every step by step, punch by punch, minute by minute, round by round, fight by fight. Those that are looking around them or focused on other things rather than their own process, will ultimately not reach their ambitions. If you have a sloppy desk it’s an example of a sloppy attitude that will not be a world beater and will not reach the desired ambition. If you want an Olympic Medal then visualise it, paint it on the wall and then get on with being world class in every step in order to achieve it.
- Lesson 4: Benchmark against the best – then outperform them. Your preparation has to be high intensity. Prepare like you are competing to win on a Global Level. Prepare in exactly the same way as you are going to compete. Benchmark your preparation against the very best and then outperform them. Have a steely focus on winning.
- Lesson 5: What’s good enough today, wont be good enough tomorrow. Putting yourself out there means that everyone is watching you and everyone wants to beat you. They will beat you if don’t get better. Team players should focus on the here and now. Once they have their vision and leadership then it’s back to the process. It’s all about the process. Perform, monitor, evaluate, act.
- Lesson 6: The Captains Job. You need to understand what makes each individual member tick. For some it’s money, for some its fame, for others it’s being the best they can be. As captain you have to generate belief in every team member and remind them every day. Each team member needs to have the discipline and drive to back it up or you get rid of them. In a team sport or business you never leave a teammate behind. You work for each other and with each other. Your job as captain is to create the right environment for your team to thrive, regardless of how you feel personally. You gotta let the air out from time to time but in the meantime and in front of your team it’s high intensity focus. Always show that you are committed as everyone else. Lead by doing. Lead by example.
My penultimate lesson of the evening was to not want it too much. You’ve got to let things flow. You’ve got to stay in the moment. You’ve got to focus on the process. If you focus too much on the end game you’ll forget to start, you’ll forget the process, you’ll tense up, and you won’t win. If your preparation is at the same level of intensity as the best then you will win.
Finally, and I’m really only starting to understand this properly after all these years, is that visualisation as well as practice is the difference between elite and excellent. Visualisation as a motivational tool is of course important but there is so much mumbo jumbo surrounding it that it’s often hard to see thw wood from the trees. One thing was clear from our talk and that is if you manage to achieve the right balance, you too can become World Number 1.
Dulann is a provider of technology-enabled learning solutions for many of the world’s leading organisations. Services include Product & Process Simulations, Contractor Inductions & Employee Onboarding, Mandatory & Commercial Training, Contractor Management & Learning Management Systems.
About Damian Donlon.
Damian is a Non Executive, Senior Consultant, Interim Manager and Talent Adviser with specialist experience in the Technology sector. Please feel free to contact him directly on 0879218616 for a confidential conversation