6th Jun 2012
Profitable growth expert Hilary Briggs looks at three aspects behind a winning mindset.
It doesn't seem to be that long ago that people were worrying about how we'd cope with vastly increased amounts of leisure time. Whether it's due to the harsh economic times, increased competition from globalisation, or technology enabling 24/7 working, the reality I sense from my clients, predominantly owners of small businesses, is that people are working harder than ever.
The combination of these and other factors means it’s easy to find oneself in a state of overwhelm, where effectiveness drops, stress increases and a vicious circle of reduced performance kicks in. But how do you ensure you stay on the winning way?
Over the years, I've had the opportunity to work in high pressure environments such as production management and to listen to really successful people from all walks of life, ranging from Craig Duswalt (former band manager of Guns n Roses), Justin Hughes (former member of the Red Arrows) to Darren LaCroix (2001 world public speaking champion).
I've noticed that there are three common themes which facilitate a winning mentality:
Learn to keep calm under pressure
Being grateful for whatever life throws at you, be it good or bad, is a great way to keep positive and in control. Likewise, seeing the funny side of things is not only good for you, it can relax others and help them perform better.
I recall at the end of a crisis meeting to figure out how we'd deal with a factory that had just burned down asking, "Any other burning issues?" It broke the tension and allowed everyone to focus on the task in hand rather than worrying about what had happened.
Meditation, t'ai chi and yoga are fantastic ways to develop an inner calmness, which can then be switched on when you most need it.
Then finally of course it's good to put yourself in pressure situations and test that you can maintain your sense of gratefulness and tranquillity in 'battle conditions'.
Build your inner confidence
We get the results in life that we think we'll get. Hence confidence is a crucial aspect in my opinion. The top performers have an inner confidence which allows them to make the moves which others would step back from.
For example I recently heard a string quartet give a most stunning performance of a Haydn quartet. As it was part of a course, they gave a short workshop the next day and explained how they'd decided to make crucial changes to how they'd play the piece with just 10 minutes of rehearsal left. I should add that this was a piece they'd performed dozens of times. They had the courage to try something different and it came across as completely alive and drew the audience in as a consequence.
The good news is that confidence can be built up by starting simple, acknowledging achievements and, step by step, stretching to go for bigger goals. The fundamental approach to adopt is to focus on the bright spots of what's actually working, rather than the problems. When you do this consistently over time, it's satisfying to catch yourself doing something that you never imagined you'd be able to do.
Develop your discipline
Finally, the 'A' players in life are dedicated to excellence in whatever they do, and have the discipline to put in the practice and training to get there and maintain their lead.
Justin Hughes (former Red arrows pilot and now of Mission Excellence) described the frame by frame reviews of air displays after every event to look for ways to improve.
Listening to the nine finalists at last year's Toastmasters International World final, they'd all scrutinised past winners, worked with coaches and put in a huge amount of effort.
I heard a talk by Robin Sharma, author of 'The monk who sold his Ferrari'. He joked that it took him sixteen years to become an overnight success.
I personally find that sport, whether cycling, going to the gym or long walks, is an excellent way to build the discipline muscle. The benefits of exercise can be felt relatively quickly, within days and weeks, so it’s easy to set up the virtuous loop that builds the motivation to keep at it. Once you’ve got it in one area of your life, it’s easier to transfer to another, and another.
So for a winning mentality to help steer you through whatever challenges come your way, learn to keep calm under pressure, build your inner confidence and develop your discipline. I’ve found they work together as a system, so as you work on one, it’ll help the others too.
And for master level performance, don't just wait for the challenges to appear, go out and create ones by yourself!
Hilary Briggs is managing director of profitable growth specialists R2P Ltd.