Category Archives: Uncategorized

Mentoring and Influence

I once gave a presentation to a group of professional baseball managers and coaches and I opened my talk by asking them to think about the manager or coach they had as players who was the most influential in their careers. I was in the presence of some great coaches who had been pretty good players in their own days as well, and many of them had played for legendary managers. I wasn’t surprised when I heard them rattle off names like Tommy Lasorda, Felipe Alou, Tom Kelly, Davey Johnson, and Jim Leyland as the people who had influenced them the most.

Next, I showed the group this quote from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers:

“Successful people don’t do it alone. Where they come from matters. They are products of particular places and environments.”

We then had a discussion about a concept Gladwell describes as Practical Intelligence. Practical intelligence is knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect. Gladwell’s point was that beyond innate ability, practical intelligence allows people to apply what they know and use it appropriately. This practical intelligence must be taught and most of us learn it from our families.

My message to those baseball coaches that day was that they were “where their players come from” and that maybe, someday, former players would sit around in a room naming each of them when they thought about who had influenced them, taught them what they needed to know about being baseball players and successful, well-adjusted human beings.

You don’t have to be a major league baseball player or coach for this to be true. For me, it was my freshman English teacher in college who had the most influence on my life. What he taught me had nothing to do with grammar or sentence structure, but instead was about the power of encouraging people to follow their passions in life.

Each of us has opportunities to influence others, to build a culture of learning around us in our work. Think about people who helped you get where you are today and think about how you impact others each day. I’ve always been fascinated in learning about how knowledge is passed down from generation to generation, whether through biological families or “work families.” How much do you know about your job or about a sport you play or a hobby of yours? Where did that knowledge come from? And more importantly, where is it going??

For more information on Winning Mind programs, please visit www.winningmind.com or contact us at info@thewinningmind.com

Geoff Miller’s book,

Intangibles: Big-League Stories and Strategies for Winning the Mental Game — in Baseball and in Life, is now available!

Click here for more information

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Five Tips for Improving Your Performance at Work

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.

For more information on Winning Mind coaching programs, please visit www.winningmind.com or contact us at info@thewinningmind.com

Geoff Miller’s book, Intangibles: Big-League Stories and Strategies for Winning the Mental Game — in Baseball and in Life, is now available!

Click here for more information

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Golf Channel interview on Golf in America

This summer, Geoff Miller was interviewed as part of story on a young golfer named Amari Avery.  The story aired on the Golf Channel’s sports documentary series, Golf in America.  Avery is just six years old and many are already comparing her to Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie.  Miller’s involvement was to help viewers understand more about the pressure placed on youth athletes, the dangers of burnout, and the impact of labeling young stars as “prodigies.”

Here is the full video segment from the Golf in America Episode:

Click Here for Episode

In addition to the video, here are some important topics that were discussed and commentary from Geoff Miller:

1. The using of the word “prodigy”

I don’t know that it matters if a young athlete is called a “prodigy” or not, at least unless we’re thinking about who is using the word prodigy and how much the child him or herself understands what it means.  I could see positives and negatives associated with the word and I think that the way it is defined and explained to a child is more important than whether or not it is used.

For example, let’s say a young athlete develops such a following that articles are written and news stories are aired about that athlete.  And in those stories, the term “prodigy” is used and the parents have never used the word with their child.  The child asks what “prodigy” means and the parents explain that it means that you have a special talent at a young age, that people are always interested in knowing who the next great athlete could be, and they wonder if you’re this good now, how good you might be when you are grown up?  The parents might continue explaining that it is an honor to be called a prodigy, but that it doesn’t mean more or less to be called one, because you still have to work hard for a long time for what you want and someone calling you a prodigy doesn’t make it easier or harder for you to accomplish your goals.

That seems like a positive outcome from the use of the word “prodigy”, but it is also an example of other people calling the athlete one, not the parents or the athletes themselves.  If a family were to call their own child a prodigy or to teach their kids to think they might be prodigies, I have a harder time coming up with positive outcomes.  In general, I believe that the positive takeaway from using the word “prodigy” would be inspiration and a desire to continue working to fulfill this promise.  The negative would be in placing undue pressure on a child or the child placing undue pressure on him or herself to live up to great expectations.  There is also a sense of humility that could be lost in thinking a young athlete is a prodigy.  There have been plenty of prodigies who haven’t made good on their potential. And there have been plenty of late bloomers who have surprised the world with their greatness.

This is also a great lesson in controlling what you can control. We don’t get to decide what other people say or write about us, so we can’t let that influence how we see ourselves or how we go about our business.  Being called a prodigy is a nice introduction to learning to handle outside pressures and expectations at an early age.


2. Labeling kids too early in life, making sure there is a balance in their lives

I really believe you can always find positives and negatives in any of these situations.  Of course you don’t want to pigeon-hole anyone or keep them from experiencing the diversity of life, but at the same time, it’s nice to be able to develop pride and an identity in something you do well. Balance is definitely the key word there and there has to be enough freedom for kids to see what they like to do and try sports, music, history, science, anything else that might be of interest. And the most important part of developing an identity in your sport may be to make sure that your child feels like he or she can be successful no matter what they do, without developing a belief that playing this sport is the only thing they can do.

I’ve met too many adult athletes who have told me that if they weren’t good at their sport, they wouldn’t know what they would be doing with their lives.  That’s not something I would want for my child, no matter how talented he or she was in a sport.


3. The pressure that children deal with when given the “prodigy” label

In my experience, children who are serious about their sports put extra pressure on themselves no matter what labels are placed on them or how supportive and encouraging their parents are with them. I’ve met many parents who tell me they would be perfectly happy for their children to give up their sport at any time if that’s what they wanted.  But kids understand how much time, effort, and money their parents are spending on lessons, training, tournament play, and travel and they often internalize the need to “make good” on all that effort.

4. The role of the parents

Obviously, parents need to be supportive, encouraging, and affectionate regardless of how their children perform.  But beyond the obvious, I think that the most important role the parents of young, talented athletes can play is in teaching their kids how to be professional in handling their success.  They should be humble and gracious in victory and defeat. They should be proactive in educating their children on what words like “prodigy” mean and why they are important to so many people who follow sports or achievement in any area. I believe that parents can have profound influence on helping their children develop character and leadership skills, the ones we all think are natural byproducts of playing sports.


5. Potential burnout

Burnout happens when someone doesn’t enjoy what they are doing anymore.  Getting kids started in sports and having them concentrate on only that sport can certainly lead to burnout, but it can just as easily create a lifelong love of the sport.  My advice would be to check in with your child on a regular basis to make sure that he or she is enjoying the activity.  That way, you can change the pace of training, take a break, play another sport for a while, or try to make your primary sport more fun.  As long as kids are having fun and they have a chance to experience some other things in life so they can compare the fun they are having with other opportunities, I don’t see any harm in putting a lot of time and effort into one sport or activity.

For more information on Winning Mind programs for athletes and executives, please contact Geoff Miller at miller@thewinningmind.com.

Geoff Miller’s book, Intangibles: Big-League Stories and Strategies for Winning the Mental Game — in Baseball and in Life, is now available!

Click here for more information

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Building Mental Toughness Workshop at San Diego Hall of Champions

The San Diego Hall of Champions honors the greatest athletes in the history of our city. So there can be no better venue for helping today’s athletes learn what it takes to be great.

Geoff Miller, a partner at Winning Mind, LLC, presents “Building Mental Toughness” at the Hall of Champions on Monday, June 21 from 6:30-7:30pm.  Miller offers this free workshop on building mental toughness to high school athletic programs in all sports around San Diego county.  The workshop is designed to help high school and collegiate student-athletes, coaches, and parents learn how to develop mental skills for better on-field performance.  Topics include the effects of pressure on concentration, identifying critical mental game factors, dealing with failure, and strategies for performing under pressure.

Located in the historic Federal Building in Balboa Park since 1999, The San Diego Hall of Champions is the nation’s largest multi-sport museum. Boasting three levels of memorabilia and 68,000 square feet, the museum offers a state-of-the-art theatre, an interactive media center and fascinating displays on the nation’s favorite sports. Exhibits cover high school to pro sports from traditional sports of baseball and football to exhibits for Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, Surfing Legends, Action Sports and Challenged Athletes.

Winning Mind (www.thewinningmind.com) is a high-performance consulting company based in San Diego and dedicated to helping people perform under pressure in corporate, sport, and military settings.  Winning Mind clients include the Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers, Toronto Blue Jays, Liverpool FC, Manchester City FC, New York Rangers, Nashville Predators, individual athletes from the US Olympic team, NFL, WTA, PGA, and many aspiring amateurs in all sports.

Geoff Miller is the Mental Skills Coach for the Washington Nationals organization and has spent six seasons working in Major League Baseball.  He directs all of Winning Mind’s sport business and provides support for corporate training, teaming, and leadership workshops.

To RSVP, for more information on Winning Mind’s individual and group programs, or to arrange for a free Building Mental Toughness workshop at your school or sports club, please contact Geoff Miller at miller@thewinningmind.com.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Bend Fitness and Winning Mind Announce Mind/Body Clinic for Youth Athletes

Bend Fitness and Winning Mind Announce Mind/Body Clinic for Youth Athletes

(March 15, 2010 – San Diego) A local strength and conditioning center and a sports psychology consulting group have teamed up to produce a Mind/Body Clinic for youth athletes in San Diego.  The clinic consists of two thirty-minute sessions that teach athletes from ages 10-14 how to improve physical strength and develop mental toughness.

Jeff Rose is a trainer at Bend Fitness in La Mesa and is the head strength and conditioning coach at Francis Parker Upper School.  He has spent the last ten years refining a program that integrates core strength with weighted cardio. Rose was a local high school and college athlete and he has trained many youth athletes who have gone on to play Division I sports.  Bend Fitness is owned by Greg Clark, a McDonald’s High School All-American who played basketball at the University of Washington.  Clark is the younger brother of 15-year Major League veteran, Tony Clark. Rose will teach clinic participants proper stretching and conditioning while taking them through a series of simple strength-building exercises.

Geoff Miller is a partner at San Diego-based Winning Mind, LLC, a company that helps Fortune 500 executives, professional and Olympic athletes, and special forces military units perform under pressure.  Miller spent five years as the Mental Skills Coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Winning Mind sport clients include English Premier League soccer teams, NHL teams, and individual athletes in golf, tennis, basketball, football, and track and field.  Miller conducts workshops on Building Mental Toughness and has adapted his content to suit a youth audience.  Mental toughness topics include making learning permanent, learning to use visualization and goal-setting, and strategies for dealing with failure.

“Youth sports have become serious and competitive and we wanted to support the young athletes in our community with a program that matched that importance,” says Rose. “With more kids playing their sports year-round, traveling around the country to play in tournaments, and competing for fewer college scholarships, every advantage is critical.  Our Mind/Body Clinic is meant to help prepare aspiring athletes for these challenges and to enjoy themselves in the process.”

Mind/Body Clinics will be launched on Saturday afternoons at Bend Fitness.  Space is limited to 20 participants per time slot, with three clinics scheduled each day.  Cost is $30/person.  For more information, including registration information and clinic schedules, please contact Geoff Miller at 619.255.5250 or miller@thewinningmind.com.

www.thewinningmind.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Missed Field Goals: Kicking System Interview

John Matich is the owner of Kicking System (www.kickingsystem.com), a local resource for kickers and punters from high school to the NFL.  He interviewed me for a story on the NFL Scouting Combine that he ran on his blog and he has agreed to let me post the interview in its entirety on www.sandiegosportspsychology.com as well.  I’m including the original link to the interview so you can get more information on John and Kicking System.

http://wp.me/p3SrC-d1

I always find the NFL Combine an interesting topic of conversation and this was a fun interview.  John Matich is a former kicker at Boston College who has been through the combine, has been in NFL training camps, and has experienced the pressure of having his team’s success or failure depend on his kick at the end of a game.  Missed field goals have been on the minds of so many San Diegans in the last month and I’m glad to have had a chance to offer some thoughts on the subject.

John Matich: This year was an “off” year for kickers & punters in the NFL.  Why do you think that is?

Geoff Miller:It’s hard for me to speculate as to why so many kickers and punters performed worse this year than in other years, but in general, I think the increased scrutiny on every game and every kick is a contributor.  Some of that scrutiny comes from media, fans, and even teammates and coaches and some of it’s self-imposed.  I work with athletes in a number of sports and the advances in technology, video analysis, measurement, and strength and conditioning have made it so that every last detail can be studied and improved. Kicking a football is not a skill that can be executed perfectly 100% of the time, but that’s the expectation and it’s an unrealistic one.  I see too many athletes making mistakes because they get overly focused on being perfect in their mechanics rather than just going out on the field and competing.  I’m not saying that the advanced techniques aren’t important, but I do think they contribute to kickers and punters (and golfers and pitchers, etc.) overcomplicating the game.”

JM: The testing methods they use for kicking at the combine are over 15 years old.  What would suggest as some new testing measures for kickers? David Buehler, Dallas Cowboys kicker, set a record for a kicker in the bench press last year, are those tests necessary?

GM:I’m not in a position to speak on the testing methods for the combine, but my advice for measuring the potential of kickers in any setting would be to find out as much as possible about how they handle pressure.  That should be done by simulating game conditions as much as possible and through having kickers compete against each other as well.”

JM: How would you test the “mental” side of the game?

GM:We have an assessment that we use with professional and Olympic athletes to identify the critical mental game factors that predict performance under pressure.  This assessment is called TAIS, which stands for The Attentional and Interpersonal Style, and we are able to directly measure how people concentrate, where they get distracted, and general personality characteristics that tell us how and when people will experience pressure.  When people are comfortable and confident, they are able to be focused and this allows them to execute their skills.  When people feel pressure, it affects the way they concentrate and makes execution more difficult. So we are often asked by professional sports teams to evaluate potential draft picks using TAIS and we outline for players and teams the mental game strengths of each player and the potential challenges players will face when they encounter pressure or have to deal with failure.”

JM: Do you recommend any certain type of tests for kickers?

GM: “I would certainly recommend that kickers prepare mentally and learn as much about themselves as possible in advance of the combine.  Most of my use with TAIS is not done on the scouting side, but for player development.  We use TAIS to design specific programs for athletes to help them improve their performance under pressure.  And I have worked with football players to help them prepare for the pressure of the combine experience itself.  The combine has become so important to draft status that some players place too much pressure on themselves to “do well” during that weekend and that added burden impacts their speed, strength, and agility in drills, hurts their test-taking abilities which impacts their Wonderlic scores, and makes them more nervous during their interviews.”

JM:  What are your thoughts on San Diego Charger kicker Nate Kaeding? Why did he miss three field goals in the playoffs against the Jets?

GM:Living in San Diego, I’ve been asked about Nate Kaeding a lot in the last month.  As I mentioned in my first answer, it isn’t appropriate for me to speculate on why Nate missed those kicks.  But this example of a great kicker who has missed in multiple playoff attempts demonstrates the importance of the mental game in sport.  Obviously, this is someone with elite level physical talent and something has kept him from displaying that talent when the season is on the line. And it brings to mind an example I use called “the downward spiral.”  An athlete finds himself in a pressure situation and makes a mistake.  He has trouble letting go of the mistake and instead of focusing on his NEXT opportunity to succeed; he stays focused on the LAST play that didn’t go well. This makes it more difficult to focus and another mistake is made, which increases the pressure, and so on and so on.”

JM: Do you recommend kickers working with someone such as yourself?  How often? How can it help?

GM: “Not only do I think kickers should be working with sports psychology professionals, the most important message I would want to convey is that this is not something that should only be done when an athlete has a problem.  The best way to get the most out of yourself as an athlete is to learn the complexities that make you who you are so you can be prepared for pressure, failure, competition, and success, too.  When I work with athletes it is typically to help them make sure that they maximize the tremendous potential that they possess, not to help them “get out of a slump”.  I’ve worked with some athletes for a month and some for five years, but for kickers out there who want to get started, I think a realistic expectation would be to plan for 3-6 months.  We call our services at Winning Mind “performance coaching” and we typically meet with our athletes every other week for an hour at a time.  There are many ways a performance-coaching program can help, but my simple explanation is that performance coaching helps you to:

1. Know who you are

2. Know what you want

3. Know what to do when you don’t get what you want

4. Know what to do in the meantime while you’re figuring those things out”

· · ·

If you are interested in taking TAIS or for more information on Winning Mind performance coaching programs for individuals and teams, please contact Geoff Miller at miller@thewinningmind.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Geoff Miller to Speak at St. Augustine Baseball Night

Geoff Miller, a partner at Winning Mind, LLC, will be speaking to baseball players, their parents and the coaching staff at St. Augustine High School on Wednesday, January 20.  Miller offers a free workshop on building mental toughness to high school athletic programs in all sports around San Diego county.  The workshop is designed to help high school and collegiate student-athletes, coaches, and parents learn how to teach and develop mental skills for better on-field performance.  Topics include the effects of pressure on concentration, identifying critical mental game factors, dealing with failure, and strategies for performing under pressure.

Winning Mind is a high-performance consulting company based in San Diego and dedicated to helping people perform under pressure in corporate, sport, and military settings.  Winning Mind clients include the Pittsburgh Pirates, Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers, Toronto Blue Jays, Liverpool FC, Manchester City FC, New York Rangers, Nashville Predators, individual athletes from the US Olympic team, NFL, WTA, PGA, and many aspiring amateurs in all sports.

Miller spent 2005-2009 as the Mental Skills Coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates and he directs all of Winning Mind’s sport business and provides support for corporate training, teaming, and leadership workshops.

For more information on Winning Mind’s individual and group programs or to arrange for a free Building Mental Toughness workshop at your school or sports club, please contact Geoff Miller at miller@thewinningmind.com.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized