Coaching & Development, Data & Innovation, Human Performance, Leadership & Culture, Performance | Nov 11, 2020
The second day delved into problem-solving during the pandemic, change management and the development of an organisational philosophy.

The second day of Virtual Leaders Meet: Total High Performance saw no let up in the high performance insights from the world of sport and beyond.

By John Portch

Once again, Leaders Performance Institute members from far and wide logged on, this time to listen to best practice insights from Premier League Southampton, McLaren Applied Technologies and luxury fashion retailer Farfetch.

While we were still unable to invite our members to Twickenham Stadium for the London leg of our Leaders Sport Performance Summit, the Leaders Performance Institute worked with our main sponsors Keiser to deliver the levels of shared knowledge and insight to which you have grown accustomed.

“We are here to create a world that enables the high performance community to target every aspect of high performance,” said host Michael Caulfield at the start of day one. “Such is the evolution in society and not just high performance sport, it’s no longer enough to be an expert in your own specialism.

“And if you want to take yourself or your organisation further, you need to see beyond your usual horizons and target every aspect of high performance.”

Whether you were able to attend or not, we hope these takeaways will help you to begin to achieve that aim.

Click here for the key insights from Day One.

The Southampton Way: Organisational Development in Complexity

Speaker: Matt Crocker, Director of Football Operations, Southampton FC

Photo: Andy Rain & Pool/Getty Images

When Matt Crocker agreed to become Southampton’s Director of Football Operations, almost 12 months ago to the day, Covid-19 was still a remote and faraway concern.

Nevertheless, having started in February, Crocker has worked with Southampton through the myriad challenges posed by the pandemic to optimise high performance across all levels and all teams at the club.

In the first session of the day, Crocker shared what he and Southampton have learnt from the pandemic and how the club makes good on its desire for alignment. He also reflects on his time spent at the Football Association [FA].

Crocker is proud of Southampton’s fine form upon their return to Premier League action in June, even leading the division for a period last weekend, and there are four areas where work done during the pandemic endures in current practice:

1. You don’t have to lead from the front – it’s about the right people at the right time. Create the right platform for the right expert and employ collaborative staff with growth mindsets.

2. Collaboration and communication – make sure that players and staff feel emotionally connected to the club. This is not just a job.

3. Staying connected off-site – make sure that remote-working staff feel connected and their roles feel important.

4. Community/foundation work – show that you care about the local community and build that connection to the local community through appropriate initiatives.

Southampton also created alignment between their under-23s team and their first team to bridge the notorious gap between the two across football. The 23s were taken out of their academy and styled as a ‘B-team’. A first team/B-team playbook has been devised detailing Southampton’s preferred style of play and position-specific profiles, how they train, the types of training sessions and when they are done. There are days when the two squads play together, pitch by pitch, and players are shared; schedules can be adjusted to allow the first team to train in the afternoon and the B-team to train it in the morning, which enables first team coaches to work with the younger players. “There has been some good work mapping player progress from the B-team to the first team,” says Crocker. “It’s almost a concept of ‘keeping your shirt but chasing the one ahead of you’.”

In reflecting on his time at the FA, Crocker saw the value of specialist-generalist coaches who are continually upskilling. He cites the FA’s model of People & Team Development, devised by former Head of Team Strategy & Development Dave Reddin. The idea was that psychological support at international level begins with the coaches, who are upskilled beyond their grass work and coaching acumen. “The biggest lever we can pull is off the pitch in international football,” says Crocker.

It’s All Change: Exploring the Neuroscience & Psychology of Change Management

Speaker: Kim Wylie, Director of People Development & Change, Farfetch

Photo: Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Farfetch

In 2018, Kim Wylie joined Farfetch, the online luxury fashion platform as Global Director of People Development.

She arrived from Google where she had spent more than a decade working across multiple divisions and built her reputation as an expert in, amongst other areas, change management, the psychology and neuroscience of change, organisational culture, and digital transformation.

During her presentation, Wylie illustrated what leaders need to be mindful of in the neuroscience of change:

1. Uncertainty – the worst state for the human brain. It causes more anxiety than the certainty of bad things. “We need to make sure as leaders of change and those responsible for helping others thrive and change, we have to bring as much certainty as we can to a situation.”

2. Inclusion – being excluded from something triggers the same part of the human brain (the anterior cingulate) as is triggered when we feel physical pain. “If there’s a sense from people that they weren’t invited or didn’t get the email or they weren’t picked as part of the team, your brain is reacting as it would to physical pain.”

3. Problem-solving – when we solve our own problems, we get a rush of dopamine (a positive natural high). “By solving other people’s problems, we’re robbing them of an opportunity to feel good, even if you know the solution. It depends on the situation, but let people solve their own problems.”

4. Simplify – we are overwhelmed by unfamiliar concepts, it triggers our amygdala making us feel anxiety, fear, fatigue and anger. “How can you manage the amount of change, bringing certainty where you can and not overwhelm them with multiple things at once?”

5. Stress – when we are stressed our amygdala sends cortisol (stress hormone) into our bloodstream. Over time, cortisol enlarges the amygdala and weakens the prefrontal cortex, which can result in memory loss. “We don’t want to reduce stress to zero, some stress is good as it ups our game and gets the adrenaline flowing, but we need to be careful of that balance over extended periods of time.”

To engage people with change in a meaningful way, you need to reach them on three levels:

1. Head: rational connection

People need to understand how the change connect to the big picture (strategy, mission, objectives).

2. Heart: emotional connection

This is the hardest but most critical piece. There are two ways to connect people on a broad emotional level. Firstly, helping people to find what’s in it for them i.e. skills or career options or even spelling out potential risk factors of not getting involved. Secondly, have them feel part of the change, shaping what’s happening.

3. Feet: behavioural connection

Make sure that people have the knowledge, skills and ability to operate successfully in your new construct. People fear not being the expert and looking stupid – so equip your people accordingly.

Fighting Covid-19: Lessons in Team Agility & Problem-Solving from the World of Formula 1

Speaker: Mark Mathieson, Director of Innovation, McLaren Applied Technologies, and Piers Thynne, Production Director, McLaren

Photo: Peter Fox/Getty Images

Mark Mathieson and Piers Thynne of McLaren brought down the curtain on another successful summit.

The duo explored the McLaren Group’s efforts to meet the UK government’s call at the start of the pandemic, when Formula 1 was suspended, for all industry to play a pivotal role in the production of ventilators for Covid-19 patients. In just 12 weeks, more than 100,000 individual components were manufactured by McLaren at a time when sport was shutdown.

All in all, the VentilatorChallengeUK consortium, of which McLaren was a key part, ventilator production in the UK went from 50 a week to 200 a day, with stock available to the NHS doubled to 13,437.

In the early weeks down on the factory floor, it was important to understand the nature of the task and formulate workstreams that enabled simplicity of focus, whether that be machined, fabricated, electrical or proprietary components. McLaren also identified constraints to ensure there was expert help on hand to ensure supply chains were maintained and the consortium could achieve the build volume.

As for challenges, they were largely rooted in unknowns and uncertainties – things inevitably went wrong at times – but were best approached by McLaren’s flat team structure and culture of empowering their staff. “We’re not ventilator experts but we’re pretty comfortable at running towards a problem and breaking it down to find the issue, break it down, fix it, and move on,” says Thynne.

The welfare staff was also important in a work-from-home environment at a time when it was full on. McLaren made sure they were checking in on everyone. As Thynne says: “a problem shared is a good way to unlock it.” There was also a sense of pride at joining a national effort and deploying the right task to the right person. Again, it comes down to clarity of purpose, simplicity of approach, and engendering trust.

Click here for the key insights from Day One.

Download the latest Performance Special ReportThe New Now: Navigating High Performance During an Ongoing Pandemic – featuring a selection of insights collected from practitioners around the globe as we all continue through these unprecedented times.

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