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Performance | Dec 3, 2021
A summary of key learnings for Leaders Performance Institute members across the month of November.

We are a few weeks away from Christmas and a few weeks on from seeing many of you in person for the first time at our Sport Performance Summit on the 9 and 10 November at Twickenham Stadium.


By Luke Whitworth

It was fantastic being able to create a space for some learning and perhaps most importantly, quality reconnection. We hope you enjoyed it.

As we approach the end of the year, November brought about another batch of quality learning and interaction across our Performance Institute portfolio of learning opportunities.

As always, with these varieties of learning opportunities, interactions and conversations we brought together practitioners from across high performance to discuss their current challenges and immediate priorities through a number of different learning environments.

Here are some of the key takeaways and thinking areas that came through particularly strongly across a variety of different formats.

Leaders Sport Performance Summit:

It was fantastic being able to welcome over 200 people back to the Performance Summit last month for an opportunity to learn and reconnect. There was a lot of variety in terms of the sessions, but a number of similar themes came through strongly across both days. Below are a handful of discussion points that stood out to us:

  • Empowerment for Players: how often do coaches say they want to be challenged but don’t mean it? Important to lean on experienced heads (players) who have lived and breathed the environment. Create coach and player alignment through opportunities to sit and have conversation – ‘what are our derailers’ is something Premiership champions Harlequins talk about.
  • Learning to Learn: the Royal Ballet and Royal College of Music explained how students haven’t actually been taught how to practise and learn properly. ‘The Practice Process’ is integrated into the curriculum. The RCM even use simulation to helps students to practise performance in a ‘live environment’.
  • Belonging & Story: the DNA of an organisation or team can get lost over time. Reflect back on the identity you have inherited. What needs mentioning now so the people who come after us have everything they need to succeed? Look to the past to see if it helps with shaping the future.
  • Environment: 70% of behaviours are shaped by the environment you’re in. Before blaming an individual for making a mistake, reflect upon whether the environment is setup for success or failure.
  • The Meaning of Diversity: ED&I needs to mean something to everyone in the organisation, you have to feel it. At Brentford FC, every member of the organisation has objectives and KPIs around ED&I. This makes it relevant to the individual and creates a level of accountability.

Leaders Sport Performance Summit: The Playbook

Many of you will know that around our physical events, we always produce our Playbook. The purpose of the playbook is to provide some additional considerations and thinking points around the event sessions – there is also some recommended reading around the sessions if you want to do some deeper reading around the topics. Based on the areas outlined above, these bullet points below maybe a nice follow on for you to think about in terms of your own environments:

  • Is feedback interweaved into your culture? Feedback processes are changing. Gone are the days of coaches being the sole figure delivering it. Giving people autonomy in their own performance is becoming very important and the more they are engaged the better.
  • Learning how to learn: is your programme looking at how to develop the performer’s understanding of how they learn?
  • Is your culture making you and others have a sense of connection and belonging? Is it providing collective confidence? If your culture and environment is not doing those things, why is that
  • People and athletes flourish in environments where the leadership is consistent and composed. We don’t tend to thrive in environments where there are wild mood swings and inconsistency of behaviour.
  • When talking about diversity, we need to reflect on which type of diversity can bring the team to the next level whether that is gender, race, age, nationality or educational background. Profiling the environment and organisation is important in identifying those.

Virtual Roundtables

In November, three Virtual Roundtables took place, which featured two topic-led discussions, namely Supporting & Stretching Coach Creativity and Evolutions in Wellbeing & Mental Health, and our final Leadership Skills Series session where we explored innovation and problem-solving. Here are some key thinking points from two of the sessions.

Innovation & problem-solving

The final instalment of our Leadership Skills Series for 2021 focused on the theme of problem-solving and innovation. There will be another six new topics next year so keep an eye out for those.

Innovation – it still remains one of the crucial pillars of the success of high performing teams and organisations, so how are we thinking about it?

  • Innovation Process: there are x3 key parts to the innovation process: define problems, generate ideas and test & learn. How clear are we on the problems we are trying to solve or the opportunities for competitive advantage?
  • Two Types of Problem: is the problem ‘tame’ or ‘wicked’? This distinction between these two problems can become really powerful when we try and treat a problem that is a ‘wicked’ issue as a ‘tame’ issue
  • Tame = A known solution exists. We know if we do X, Y will happen. It requires one solution. It is a challenge of execution and not a challenge of innovation. This is often a problem that is solved in one action.
  • Wicked = It’s a new problem, no known solution exists. We need new thinking. So it’s an innovation challenge. And it’s unlikely one change will crack it, so it’s complex. One type of action is not going to solve it.

Think about these five strategies for Innovation:

1. Step Change Thinking: set a very stretching goal, and then think how that could be possible (something that is used a lot in Google ‘How Might We Do It? – x10’)?

2. Ideal World: describe your absolute ideal outcome. Then ask yourself under what circumstances you would get this?

3. Redefine or Reframe the Problem: what’s a different way of expressing this problem?

4. Related World: learning from others who have addressed a similar challenge. Staying open to insights from outside of our immediate sector.

5. Using Mind Mapping for Generating More Options: what could we do vs. what should we do?

Now we are clearer on five strategies for innovation, these are questions we should be asking ourselves:

1. Step Change Thinking: set out a ‘step change’ goal, and explore how we might reach for that?

2. Ideal World: in an ideal world, what would be happening here? How might that be possible? Set out a ‘step change’ goal, and ask them how they might reach for that?

3. Redefine or Reframe the Problem: what is a different way to think about this problem? What solutions do you have for this new problem?

4. Related World: who has already solved this problem? What did they do?

5. Using Mind Mapping for Generating More Options: if you were to draw a mind map with the problem at the centre, what are the different types of solution we can think about?

Supporting & stretching coach creativity

An interesting question that has been asked a lot across our conversations with coach development leads and programmes is how we can continue to stretch our coaches.

A virtual roundtable was run on this to see what others are doing in this space. The areas below were ones highlighted by the group as considerations for all of us:

  • Organisational Coaching Philosophy: the philosophy of the organisation you are in is key. It needs to be clear enough that there is direction but broad enough where people can explore things. If the fundamentals aren’t taken care of, the level of creativity can be limited.
  • ‘Principles & Parameters’ – what is the activity, why are you doing it, have you picked it up from somewhere else, do you fully understand it and what are you trying to achieve with it?
  • On the Pitch vs. Off the Pitch – creativity doesn’t just have to be on the pitch. How are we thinking about the development of athletes or other staff around their day-to-day lives? That personal development can have a domino effect on their performance and how they prepare for performance on the pitch.
  • Creativity: For Us as Coaches or Our Athletes – are you communicating well to the athlete around ‘what’ and ‘why’ you are doing something? The risk is that we can apply creativity because we see our athletes a lot during the week and we as coaches are often the ones that feel the monotony at times with the process.
  • Consistency With Less-Experienced Coaches: there is a balance to be found with less experienced coaches in particular – they are more likely and willing to try new things but they don’t have the foundations that underpin their craft at this stage. We don’t want to get into habits of no consistency at all, as this can stifle development. There is potentially an opportunity to promote and encourage creativity but within parameters. Parameters can provide the guidance around where the creativity sits and how it can still guide outcomes.
  • Giving Athletes Ownership: how do you facilitate the abilities for athletes to explore what their capabilities are so they can develop in a creative way and be creative themselves? It’s often not about us as coaches being creative in what we are changing, but instead what we are facilitating from a creative point of view.

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