Talking performance with the worlds best

We’ve done a lot of work over the past 15 years with some of the world’s best athletes and coaches in sport. And we’ve also worked with some brilliant performers and leaders in the business world.

Over that time, we’ve noticed that in truly high performance environments, populated with people who are great at what they do, there’s a particular mindset and approach to talking about performance. So here’s what we’ve noticed.

Reading time: 5 minutes

High performance headlines

In truly high performance environments, what you’d see and hear is:

  • A shared mindset of curiosity, collaboration, improvement and learning. That overrides any sense of competition for places or a pecking order.
  • Conversations on performance not results. 95% of focus is on the ingredients required to get the results desired.
  • Coaches and leaders as equal collaborators, not experts. They’re completely invested in understanding and exploring how the team and business can perform better
  • Behaviours follow that mindset and spirit. The mindset and overall goal of improvement is clear and regularly reinforced.

The full viewpoint

We’ve been fortunate to work with some of the worlds best over the past 15 years, in business and in sport. Over that time, we’ve learned a lot about how these people approach performance. And when it comes to how people think and talk about performance, there’s no better environment to use as a model than some of the Team GB sports we’ve worked with that have produced multiple Olympic and Paralympic medalists.

It starts with desire…

In environments where people are striving to be the best in the world and to win those elusive Olympic medals, you have to be better than the rest. No ifs. No buts. No maybes. If you have a burning desire to achieve at this level, you do everything that’s needed to be better, constantly. You are always seeking out ways where it might be possible to get an edge over the opposition, no matter how small. All options are considered, all avenues explored. If you fail to do this, you don’t just stand still, but you go backwards. It’s as simple as that.

A shared mindset

That desire and necessity creates a shared mindset where collectively we do everything we need to do to get better, every day. There’s a mindset of collaboration and co-operation – together we’re seeking to get better. That overrides any personal agenda, goal or ego. Even in individual sports where athletes are in competition with each other to get a place on the squad or team, people share information and work together to get better. That’s a pretty different mindset from what you might expect. And it’s a different mindset to what we see in some teams and organisations where people sometimes go out of their way to stop others getting better.

There’s also a shared focus on performance, not results. Although the end result is critical – after all, staying ahead of the opposition will be measured in going faster, scoring more goals, being higher in the world rankings – everybody knows that the end result is only achieved by being obsessed with doing the right things . On a day to day basis, people are immersed in the game of understanding how to perfect their performance recipe – doing things better and better so that they ultimately get the results they want. There’s a sense of curiosity to see how good we can be – how far or how fast we can go, how well we can do things – rather than what we can achieve.

Talking performance

This shared desire and mindset drives behaviours when it comes to how people approach and talk about performance every day. If you walked into a truly high performance culture, you’d see and hear the following:

  • People sharing information constantly, whether they’d been asked or not. If they find something new that’s useful to them and others doing things better, they’ll tell each other.
  • Lots of questioning. Questioning that’s driven by genuine curiosity rather than a need to know or extract information.
  • Loads of watching and listening. Great performers are like sponges – they’re constantly alert for new information that they can use to get better .
  • Constant quick reviews, where one person is seeking to learn from another person, and at the same time helping that person reflect and improve.
  • No hierarchy. The mindset here is that we’re all involved and responsible for improving. Everyone is constantly learning and improving and helping each other do the same.
  • Coaches and leaders seeing themselves not as experts but as enablers. So they’re constantly also seeking to understand how to perfect the performance recipe, and how to get better at helping others.

Keep the fires stoked

Great performers talk about performance with impact because of their desire to get better. In high performance cultures, this shared desire and mindset is very obvious – and it’s very obvious because it’s something that’s discussed and reinforced often. And because of that, everyone is clear about how they need to behave when it comes to thinking about, approaching and talking performance.

It all starts with desire and mindset. How’s yours? And what’s the collective mindset in your team or business? Invest time in choosing your performance mindset to lay the foundations for great performance conversations.