All change…

From our time spent working in elite sport with some world leading athletes it’s very clear that one of the differentiators between those who fulfil their potential and those who don’t is the attitude to change.

Within the world of sport the athletes who are most successful know that change is a state that has to be constantly generated and exploited in order to at least keep up with the rest of the talent in the world.

Failure to change and update approaches to training and competing results in performances that soon become outdated and don’t register amongst the competition.

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For the most consistently successful athletes, change is not something that happens to them, or that is imposed upon them. Change is not an inconvenience that moves them out of their comfort zone. Change is not something that requires a massive investment into experts in change management and detailed systems and structures for coping with change.

For those athletes who consistently raise their standards change is an exciting opportunity, a puzzle to be solved and a challenge to overcome. Change is an area where competitive advantage must be gained, and change is the source of the performance edge that delivers maximum confidence when going into competition. In fact, change usually boils down to one motivating question that the athletes regularly ask themselves; “I wonder how good I could be?

In relation to motivation and delivery of consistently high level, elite performance, it is absolutely critical to feel in control of change. You can see that the fundamental quality that the elite athletes have is that they are constantly driving change and are excited and engaged by it because it represents focused, essential, professional development. They’re in the driving seat and this is an essential quality for motivation. We all know from personal experience the simple reaction that if we’re told to do something, or required to do it, then our motivation is never as high as if we’ve chosen to do something or are actively excited about the prospect of doing something because we have seen the value of it to us.

Importantly, the elite athletes also know some other important details that help them manage and exploit change as effectively as possible. Check you and your team against this list of change foundation requirements:

  • The elite performers have a crystal clear understanding of their overall strengths and weaknesses, so really know the base from which change is starting from.
  • The performers have a clear understanding of the process by which strengths are going to be made stronger and weaknesses developed and there is a clear rationale why the changes are being attacked in the order laid out. This is not just change for the sake of change.
  • The athletes will get regular feedback about how the efforts to change are accruing. Rather than worrying about whether change has happened or not, they and their coaches are assessing how effectively movement has been made along the continuum that is anchored by “where we are” and “where we need to be”.
  • There is an acceptance that there isn’t necessarily a single best way to effect the change, so the focus is on finding the best way to make the change and then sticking with the most effective approaches that are uncovered. This leads to open mindedness about change, rather than a dogmatic approach to imposing change.
  • There is an acceptance also that the change isn’t necessarily easy, but the benefit of the change is so great that the challenging process of change is worth committing to in order to determine how effectively the projected improvements can be put in place.

As with most elite performance characteristics, the real impact results from actually taking the time to talk about the process ahead. So, rather than jumping headlong into change, the elite performers ensure that enough time has been invested in creating the most effective attitude towards change. Beginning the change process too early, without hearts and minds on board, inevitably leads to wasted time and effort.

So some questions to ask yourselves about change and the approach to change in your team.

  • Is change something that is being actively driven from within the team to ensure that competitive advantage is being attained or maintained?
  • Is change happening to you or are you making change happen?
  • Are you laying the right foundation for change in the team by having conversations about how change will help you get to where you want to end up?
  • Is change seen as a step-by-step process or as a black and white shift in behaviour?
  • Does the prospect of change currently motivate or demotivate the team?

The psychology of change, for both individuals and teams, is critical to get right. Packaged effectively and exploited appropriately, change mindset is a critical characteristic to take a team from good to great performance.

So, make sure your team isn’t judging itself by how good it’s been in the past, but is judging itself on how good it should be with the talent available to it. Once you have this picture in mind, see how effectively the team can change to fulfil the potential and start using change to leverage competitive advantage.