Jacky Leonard's blog

Archive entries for: Sep-2014

A Winning Edge

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing, Sport and Leisure

In my last Blog I asked “…when there's often very little to separate athlete - they all train hard, want to win, and are in excellent physical shape, what's the difference that makes the difference?  What does it take to be the best…in sport…in business…in life?”

You’ve probably witnessed it.  A clash of sporting titans, seemingly equally matched in terms of physical prowess, technical expertise and preparation.  Yet, one comes out on top and the other ends up being the also ran.  So, what is the difference?  What does it take to have that winning edge?  Having been fortunate to observe and work with elite performers in business and sport, here are my top 10 winning ways; behaviours and beliefs that all ‘champions’ access and utilise to great effect.


1. Self-belief – “You know I need that cockiness, the self-belief, arrogance, swagger, whatever you want to call it, I need that on the golf course to bring the best out of myself.” 

~ Rory McIlroy

Champions have a healthy dose of self-belief, even if, like Rory McIlroy, you only display it when you’re ‘on shift’.  That’s not to say you won’t have the occasional doubt or hiccup; just don’t allow yourself to get shifted too far off course by them. You have to believe to achieve!  Winners, expect to win.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  If you want to win, you firstly have to have high expectations; a real belief that you can and will succeed. 


2. Team support – “As long as I have that support from my team, and I have that confidence in myself that I train really hard, I think there's no one out there who can defeat me in my weight class.” 

~ Nonito Donaire

Behind every successful performer, there’s usually a group of people working consistently and tirelessly towards the same goal.  Your support team might consist of family, friends, peers, or technical professionals.  Coach, mentor, or key stakeholder; their role and importance depends on the business or game you’re in.  It’s unlikely you’ll achieve all you want without them.

Make sure your ‘team’ are full of ‘Radiators’…positive, like minded, motivated people with similar values, beliefs and goals. Stay away from the ‘Drains’…people who drag you down and soak up your energy. 


3. Consistency –“In any team sport, the best teams have consistency and chemistry.” 

~ Roger Staubach

Whether you’re managing a work team, playing a sport or delivering customer service, you’ll be more successful if you can consistently produce the goods time after time.  Most people in teams like consistency; you know where you are, what’s expected of you and what you need to do next.  It’s also much easier and more fulfilling to work with someone if their values and beliefs are consistent with yours and they behave in a manner that’s congruent with these.


4. Tenacity – “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”

~ Babe Ruth

To be a top performer you have to possess the drive, determination and persistence to succeed.  To stick with it when the going gets tough and never give up, no matter how bad things may seem. That can often mean, picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and starting over, with a change of approach and renewed enthusiasm when things don’t go according to plan.


5. Adaptation – “If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got.” 

~ James P. Lewis

If you want to be a winner you have to be able to think on your feet and make the changes needed to get the best out of any situation.  Whether that’s adapting to a new system, process or environment, or getting ahead of the competition, the quicker you adapt to the new normal, the more likely you’ll be able to accept the change, discover alternative options and find a new strategy to get you closer to your goal.


6. Technical expertise – “The top experts in the world are ardent students. The day you stop learning, you're definitely not an expert.” 

~ Brendon Burchard

Are you an expert in your field?  Do you possess those exceptional skills, knowledge and competencies required to be the best?  It takes time, effort and commitment to become an expert, but the rewards are worth it.  You’ll notice experts in any field can invariably demand more for their input; whether that’s on the field of play,  in the boardroom or on the shop floor.  

To be good at anything, you have to practice every day until skills are honed and successful behaviours become habitual; practice until you can’t get it wrong…not just any old practice, ‘perfect practice’…the type where you’re completely absorbed, doing it for real and playing full on.  Practice it physically, mentally and emotionally until it becomes second nature and you can reproduce it at any time, in any given situation, against any competition.  


7.Mental toughness – “I’ve been in a poor physical shape many times in my career and I’ve had some of my best results. My best performances happened because my mind was in the right place. The mind is definitely stronger than the body.” 

~ Kelly Slater

Can you handle difficult situations?  Can you step up to the plate when the going gets tough; when you’re tired, things aren’t going as planned and people start to doubt you?  It takes a huge dose of mental toughness to maintain a high level of performance through the inevitable disappointments, challenges and setbacks that life throws your way.  Your success depends on your attitude; how you perceive the situation (challenge or problem?) and what you’re willing to do to make it work.


8. Passion – “There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart…pursue those.” 

Do you love what you do?  Or as my friend Brian Mayne put’s it…Are you doing the thing that makes your heart sing?  Successful people are invariably absolutely passionate about what they do and their ‘why’ (motive/reason) is completely aligned to their values.  Your passion provides momentum and keeps you on task when things are tough.  If you pursuing something you love, you’re more likely to be good at it.  You spend more than half of your waking hours at work, so shouldn’t it be doing something that turns you on?


9. Outcome oriented – “Staying focussed on your goal is a lifestyle not a weekend plan.” 

Are you completely focused on your goal and willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve it? It’s easy to get distracted by irrelevancies, pulled off track, or sidelined into doing something else.  After all, there are so many distractions these days…technological gadgets creating constant interruptions, conflicting demands on your personal resources and people insisting you do more with less.  It can be difficult to keep your eye on the prize and continue to move consistently towards your goal, particularly if you’ve set yourself some big, audacious ones. 

Ensure you have a plan that includes your goal and the milestones you want to pass en route.  Set yourself some journey goals to help keep you on track, gather momentum and act as review and reward stations along your route. 


10. Being Present – “The secret of health for both the mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles…but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” 

~ Buddha 

Do you live in the moment, or are you constantly planning and reviewing without really being present?  I’m not suggesting high performers, don’t plan…far from it.  Most will keep records of their plans, track their performance and review their next steps, making the necessary changes and adaptations to continually improve.  However, you have to be present at each stage of the process.  Be absorbed in the task; be in the moment, be focused on the job in hand.  

Athletes are aware of the potential distractions that can take them off track.  They consider the ‘what ifs’ and practice how they’ll deal with them when they arise.  This allows them to be in the moment when they play; to quickly shake off the disappointment of a bad call, a poor shot, or an opponent’s comment and stay present, goal focused and ready for the next move.

 So all things considered...what's your next move to getting that winning edge?


The Team Works

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Sport and Leisure

Congratulations to all athletes representing the home teams at Glasgow 2014.  So many notable and inspiring performances from the Commonwealth’s sporting elite.  I had the privilege of supporting Badminton Wales at The Games.  My responsibility as a team manager was to take care of everything off court so our players and coach can concentrate on their game.

It was truly fascinating to witness the competitiveness, camaraderie and commitment; the highs and lows, the desire and passion, the energy and drive there on display in one event.

It was a wonderful, albeit surreal and exhausting experience.  Team Wales were keen to promote the concept of ‘togetherness,’ one team working together to achieve more, supported by statements such as “We are all part of something bigger, something special, no-one of us is greater than the whole.”

It reminded me of an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far go together.”

Working together to achieve a common goal.  Home nations being lifted by enthusiastic supporters, to exceed expectations and medal targets because of all involved.

Of course you only get to see the few fleeting seconds or minutes it takes to compete, not the months of long, hard, demanding preparation it takes to get there.  Even athletes competing in individual events have an extensive support team to help them go far…and fast.  Coaches, managers, physiotherapists, medics, nutritionists, physiologists, psychologists, officials, administrators…not to mention family and friends.

For some this event was a milestone on their journey to the next big event, World championships, Olympics etc. For others it may have been a wakeup call and the realisation that there is still so much more to do…more sacrifices to make, more miles to run, more skills to hone.

So when there's often very little to separate each athlete - they all train hard, want to win, and are in excellent physical shape, what's the difference that makes the difference?  What does it take to be the best…in sport…in business…in life?

Of course talent plays a big part - an innate ability to perform is a great starting point, but there are a lot of talented people out there that never achieve their full potential.  Perhaps they don’t have the single minded determination, perseverance or the right support to achieve their very best.

If you want to go far, as well as fast it may be worth asking yourself:

“Who are the important players in my support team, in my business and life?”

“How can I ensure I get the best from myself and my team?”