Executive coaching is not an exact science. You can’t just apply Method A to Employee B in Situation C and come up with Result X. We are all different people with different backgrounds, personalities, education, and experiences. Coming up with simple formulas that work in any corporate setting is a difficult challenge. We recognize the need for simple solutions that promise big results, but we remind our clients that simple is not EASY.
Winning Mind, LLC provides corporate coaching for business executives and teams, leadership development and succession planning in small, medium, and large companies, and selection and screening of executive hires for Human Resources departments. Our model for helping elite performers improve performance in business, sport, and military settings is based on helping our clients understand how, when, where, and why they experience pressure. The following are basic starting points we think can have an immediate impact on your development in whatever career you’ve chosen.
5 tips for improving your performance at work:
1. Pick ONE Thing
Most people are in executive positions because they can handle multiple projects at once while managing a team full of people, a family, and volunteering duties for their kids’ soccer teams! The modern work environment demands multitasking. But making real progress in changing behavior is best done when we take on one task at a time. This is a common problem among ambitious, achievement-oriented employees. We find our clients ready to dive in to the coaching process, wanting to improve on multiple objectives all at once. Our advice is often to prioritize development objectives, then pick the most important one, the one that will make the biggest difference in your life and work, and focus on making progress in that area before moving on to your next objective.
2. Know Who You Are
One of our starting points for helping people perform under pressure is to help them understand more about the details that make them who they are. Are you a strategic thinker or someone who nails down every last detail? What distracts you? How do you get yourself back on track? When you feel pressured, do you become more conservative in your decision-making? Do you need to be the one in control when everything is on the line? Do you need a few minutes with your door closed when you have to solve the really tough problems?
Most people gravitate toward careers that are well-suited to their personalities, but we don’t always get to stay consumed in work that perfectly fits our profiles. Knowing who you are, how you concentrate, make decisions, and interact with others when you feel pressure is a great beginning to mapping out a coaching or development plan.
3. Know What You Want
This seems like an easy one, but it gets overlooked by many employees. What do you want out of your job? What do you want out of your career? We all need money to survive and we all have different standards of living that tell us how much is “enough.” Beyond salary, and sometimes in spite of salary, many people want to have a fulfilling career that helps them define themselves. Some people want the opposite, to know that their jobs are a means to an end and their identities lie with their families, their friends, their faith, or some other calling.
Within the workplace itself, it can be easy to get so focused on getting a promotion, landing a new account, or meeting a specific goal, that we get fixated on that goal and lose sight of what we really want. When I work with minor league baseball players, I’ll ask them about their goals for the season. Those goals sometimes include hitting .300 or making the All-Star team, or moving up from AA to AAA during the season. We all need to have goals to help us measure our performance, but we have to be careful not to let them take the place of what we’re really aiming for. Every minor league baseball player I’ve ever met wants to get to the Major Leagues! But if they find themselves hitting .250 instead of .300 at midseason, they get frustrated and start losing sight of their real objective, to learn what they need to learn to become big league players. You might have to hit .250 for a season and let go of your goal of hitting .300 to get what you ultimately want. We find people in business and sport getting so caught up in the little things along the way that they forget what they were trying to ultimately accomplish.
4. Expand Your Comfort Zones
Our entire executive coaching model is based around this concept. We begin with our TAIS inventory (TAIS: The Attentional and Interpersonal Style) to help you know who you are, but also to help define your comfort zones. Our philosophy is that people can stay focused, maintain confidence, control their emotions, and make sensible decisions when they are comfortable. When they experience increased stress, they do whatever they can to maintain their comfort levels. To compensate for the pressure they feel, people need to interact in ways that are most comfortable to them. This explains why we see coworkers and colleagues acting completely “out of character” when they reach their boiling points.
For example, one of the factors we measure using TAIS is called “Decision Making Style”. This factor tells us how quickly a person commits to decisions. Some people make decisions in no time and don’t look back. Others need to have as much information as possible before making a tough call. On this continuum, one group needs to be fast, the other group needs to be accurate. Under normal operating conditions, both groups make decisions without issue. However, when pressure is added, fast decision-makers need to “do something” now. The longer they wait, the more tortured they feel. The opposite is true for decision-makers who value accuracy. Rushing a slow decision-maker only adds pressure, as it takes that person further out of his or her comfort zone. To improve performance, you need to know your comfort zones and start working slowly on becoming more comfortable operating outside them.
5. Focus on Processes
Control what you can control. Have you heard that cliché before? It’s a common one in the performance psychology world and it’s the right mentality to have, regardless of your job. It’s easy to waste energy trying to control what we CAN’T control. It’s such a simple concept to follow, but we find ourselves breaking this code every day. Why?
Because we want to win. We want to do a good job; we want to see results at the end of a long day of work.
Winning is almost never completely under our control in sport or in work. Most jobs depend on collaborative efforts of teams, business units, supply chains, or market conditions. Take a look at how you measure success in your job and think about how much of that can be directly controlled by you. Then define the most critical processes you need to engage in on a daily basis in order to be successful. Here’s the tricky part…give 100% to those processes and measure your success on your effort, rather than the output of the finished product. If you’ve done everything you can to achieve a desired outcome and it didn’t go the way you’d wanted, what else could you have done?? With a name like Winning Mind, you’d better believe that winning is important to us! Our secret is helping businesses and leaders redefine winning so they stay focused on processes that lead to consistent victories rather than focusing on the victories themselves. Processes are completely within your control. Results are not. Stay focused on processes and stay patient. You’ll see your performance improve and you’ll experience less stress along the way.
Geoff Miller’s book, Intangibles: Big-League Stories and Strategies for Winning the Mental Game — in Baseball and in Life, is now available!