Play football with Pele

If you wanted to play football and be the best you could be, wouldn’t you train with Pele? Deciding what league, you want to compete in, and adopting the same principle is crucial. Benchmarking best practice and centres of excellence, not only in your own industry but other sectors as well as globally will improve the results you achieve. Just being around the best in the world improves performance and opens your mind to things you might never have thought of.

Make the leader redundant

At the NI chamber lunch, Pat Spillan said “leadership comes from within a team. If a team can lead themselves, they will do well.” The first thing I teach new leaders when asked something by their team is, “if I wasn’t here what would you do?”. Don’t worry I’m being a bit tongue and cheek to make the leader redundant. But on a serious note, I’ve seen it so many times where leaders are constantly giving teams direction, micro-managing and giving all the answers. The team needs to be self-sufficient, with the leader asking the right questions to allow them to develop their own thinking and giving direction only when needed to create sustainable high performance.

Why you wouldn’t ask a fish to climb a tree

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” (Albert Einstein) When someone’s in the wrong role, a square peg in a round hole so to speak they constantly self-sabotage when they get things wrong impacting their confidence and overall performance. I’ve seen this so many times, with people in the wrong roles, and just like a fish climbing a tree it’s always an uphill battle where they constantly underperform. Using a variety of techniques and scientific tools to ensure you have the right fit in skills, job role, culture, motivators and working styles is crucial to achieve the highest performance.

It only took 10,000 hours to make it look that easy

We all know the famous theory Malcolm Gladwell referenced in his book Outliers, “suggesting you will become on expert with 10,000 hours of practice.” However, Brad Stulberg, co-author of the book ” Peak Performance:,” said psychological research actually indicates expertise is developed based on the way you practice, rather than the time you devote. It’s about how you spend that time — which has led to the development of a concept known as “deliberate practice.” I wish I could tell you a quick way to develop high performance, but research has shown it takes time, discipline, deliberate practice and focus.

The inner game of tennis

In 1974 tennis coach Tim Gallway, realised the less instructions he gave his players the better they performed. Tim says we all have two minds, self-one our conscious ego self, and self-two non-conscious self, which compete and cooperate and effect the way we perform. Self-one is the teller, judges and instructs and doesn’t trust self-two. Self-two is the doer, holds all the potential for learning and peak performance and does not need orders. To improve performance: Quiet self-one; Visualise what you want to learn as the more you visualise and do it, the quicker your body will remember it without being told; Repeat, repeat, repeat; Stop inner critic sabotage; Focus the mind to be in the present. It may be hard to imagine as a leader, the less instructions you give your team the higher their performance would be long term but watching Tim Gallway’s video really shows it in action.

Performance from positivity

Having coached dozens of leaders, I’m blown away by the amount of people who ask me “Cara, can you tell me what I need to fix, or focus on to improve?” I have yet to hear anyone say to me, “Cara can you tell me what I’m really good at?” For high performance it’s crucial to recognise your achievements, and what you’ve done really well giving you energy to drive forward to higher performance. When leading teams I focus on peoples motivations, what they love, their strengths and keep reminding them. I’m not talking about completely ignoring when a job isn’t done properly or mistakes happen. These need to be dealt with constructively with the team, and lessons learnt to ensure it doesn’t happen again. But I’ve just seen so many times, people go to the negative about themselves easier. This sticks as the brain can’t decipher between negative or positive and ultimately this holds people back in achieving higher performance.

That inner critic and how useful is it really?

So I know I’ve just talked about not going to the negative, and not letting the inner critic sabotage you. But if managed effectively the inner critic has great benefits to help improve performance. The fear of failure can stop us doing things if we let it, but on the positive can keep us focused to achieve great success. The perfectionist has debilitated many a person who is so scared of getting anything wrong. But in the positive can be used to deliver really high standards of work. One technique to effectively manage the inner critic is to make them into a person. Let them talk when it’s beneficial but shut them up when it’s detrimental and affecting your performance.

Being good is not enough, you need to know why

In his book The prosperous coach Steve Chandler said, “it’s not enough to know you’re good, you really need to know why you’re good.” But how many people really do this. Leaders do this with their business all the time, a SWOT analysis, what is their USP as a business, how do they win against the competition. But in my experience people don’t tend to do it enough about themselves. I use the analogy with my leaders, if Alex Ferguson had have put David Beckham in goals, it wouldn’t have worked out as successfully. David Beckham knew one of his key USPs was his right foot, and it ultimately helped him achieve world success. With yourself, and each of your team what is their right foot alternative. When you know this you can really drive forward the performance of the whole team.

Delivering your message – Five key STEPS and two C’s.

One of the hardest things when trying to get a team to achieve really high performance is delivering your message and bringing the team along. In his book the five steps to a winning mindset and what sport can teach us about great leadership Damian Hughes identifies five key areas. I’ve added an additional two C’s from my experience of high performing teams.
• Simplicity – keep your message simple
• Thinking – Provide easy tripwires and messages to trigger positive reactions
• Emotions – Play to your teams emotions. Hearts always win over minds
• Practical – be practical in how you deliver your message, and always remember what’s in it for the team and what does it mean to them on a day to day basis
• Stories – People remember stories, so harness this power to communicate
• Clarity – Having absolute clarity for yourself and your team is crucial to deliver high performance. If the brain is confused at all, it just says no.
• Communicate x 100 – Statistics show projects that don’t succeed one of the key areas is they under communicate by a par of 10. I would say it’s a lot more. Create really strong communication plans at every level to keep everyone on board.

Contact Cara Macklin,