One of my favourite speakers is Damian Hughes, professor of organisational psychology and change at Manchester Metropolitan University. He’s the ultimate coach’s coach, an academic with a sports background who knows about the winning mindset.
Great coaches, according to Hughes, have something in common. “They create an environment in which people feel safe enough to ask questions and admit they don’t know everything. That’s where the real coaching work begins because people are exposing a gap in their knowledge and are looking for a leader to help them fill that gap.”
From Liquid Thinking and How to Think Like Sir Alex Ferguson to his latest book The Barcelona Way Damian offers unique insights into the issues confronting the modern corporate environment, and shows how the lessons learnt at FC Barcelona can also be applied to develop a winning corporate culture.
The new book is not so much the Barcelona way as the Pep Guardiola way. Guardiola knows about teamwork “Winning is very hard, whatever the competition. And winning again is even harder. We have worked hard all this time, and that’s what I’m proudest of. I give you my word that the players will make the utmost effort”.
A winning environment
The power of teamwork is that the sum of the total resource is greater than the individual constituent parts. Coaching can make a real difference, a study by Borland and Lye which looked at coaches working in Australian Rules Football noted that there is direct evidence of a coach-team match-specific effect on team performance. Successful coaches are more than great motivator, they are leaders, mentors, and teachers, they cultivate behaviours that drive passion and performance. Matching the coach to the team or individual is important as there is a level of trust and confidence involved but a coach facilitates learning and coachees is empowered to continuous learning and improved performance.
Good coaching is about creating a winning environment – recruiting, developing and nurturing talent, communicating a shared vision to a diverse team of individuals, delivering on stakeholder expectations while overcoming significant challenges, handling pressure and staying focused. As Damian puts it: “One of the trademarks of Manchester United as a club is that they keep on coming at you. Ferguson was relentless with his ‘We expect to win’ tone”.
The key to success is a willingness to learn. We know that those who thrive in changing times are those with the ability to see, feel and experience success before they actually achieve it. Damian Hughes has a formula for this:
I x V = R which represents Imagination x Vividness = Reality
And he describes Sir Alex Ferguson’s great strength as his insistence that everyone at his club shared his ruthless focus on ignoring what he called’ the peripherals of change’ and managing the challenge of an exclusive focus on being the best.
I’m a great proponent of setting and regularly reviewing goals as a way to make sense of personal and professional life. Edwin Locke and Gary Latham spent years studying top performers and found they all set goals. They estimate that an effective goal can improve performance by up to 16% (the equivalent of saving yourself an hour in an average eight hour day). All the sportspeople that Damian quotes suggest that focus on the goal is key to success. He points out the problem for most people is that they lose sight of their strengths at the very time they need to be focusing on then the most. Your strengths represent the things you really excel at. Understanding this and ensuring your use them more effectively enables the creation of a winning environment.