Choose your attitude
In order to consistently perform to the peak of your ability and have the best chance of delivering the results that you crave, it's really important that you understand where to focus the power of choice.
Having worked with Olympians over the past 15 years, we've learnt some very important lessons regarding the choices that have to be made in order to maximise the chances of success, when that success is defined by a handful of days every four years. It’s not an option to wake up on the morning of an Olympic final and to throw in the towel because you don't feel 'quite right'. The prospect of having to wait for the next opportunity focuses the mind to consider the choices you need to be great at making on a daily basis and for those unique, high performance moments that will be gone all too quickly.
Attitude choice is one of the most infrequently used high performance skills, usually because people are in such a rush to cut to the action and tick things off that they are constantly adding to their to-do list and they forget to check whether they are in the best place to deliver their best performance. Equipment is regularly checked to see if it's up to the job, along with the technical or tactical content required for a particular event. Seldom though is the real equipment that is delivering the performance checked for complete readiness. 'Is my attitude spot on for this situation?'. 'Am I thinking the right way?'. 'Is my mood as it needs to be?' You can have all the technical readiness in the world, but if these three questions can't be answered with a firm 'yes', then chances are you won't deliver your best possible performance. You'll probably do OK, but sometimes, OK just isn't good enough.
Attitudes influence our behaviour; just think about how your attitude towards certain people determines how much time you choose to spend with them, or how you choose to speak to them. Therefore, making sure that we've got the best possible attitude to drive the best possible behaviours is a choice that we can't afford not to take. Not checking our attitude in order to provide ourselves with an opportunity to refine or change it, could be seen as being professionally negligent.
Along with attitudes, you need to be great at choosing your thoughts and your moods. Great bodies of emotional intelligence are available and provide compelling evidence as to why the ability to choose your mindset and mood is much more than simply being nice to people. There is a bottom line impact to be had from consistently choosing your thoughts and feelings, and the impact becomes ever-greater the more senior your leadership position. So, which thoughts, feelings and attitudes will maximise your chances of success for the rest of this week? The choice is yours.
Choose your fuel
A really simple element that we can challenge you with is to choose your fuel. If you discovered that an elite athlete was eating poor quality food, skipping meals before important events, not remaining hydrated in key competitions and not refueling properly after an event, you'd have a pretty poor view of their professionalism. Equally, if you knew a Formula 1 team was putting regular unleaded petrol in their car, you'd want to know their rationale.
The relationship between your body and brain, and the fuel you choose to put inside you is just as important. Not eating regularly during the working day or staying hydrated sufficiently can make a small, but significant impact upon your ability to deliver at the top of your game. So, when it comes to fuelling your talent and giving yourself the best chance of delivering ongoing success, are you making the best possible choices? Why not look at your eating and hydration habits and see if you could make some small, but worthwhile changes?
Choose your company
The next set of choices that we'd encourage you to think about exploiting are those that sit around the company you surround yourself with. In some cases, you can't choose your company (but as we've just seen, you can choose your attitude to that company), but are you exercising enough choice to ensure that you spend time with those people who challenge you, inspire you, make you feel good about yourself or help you to learn and grow?
For us, choosing to spend time with people who make a positive difference to you is a performance choice that should be promoted as a necessity, rather than thought of as a luxury. Many top athletes train with their closest rivals or the world leading proponents of their art in order to get a positive benefit. The athletes also choose to put together a 'team me' around them to ensure that they're getting the best support of all kinds; from emotional, to expert technical support.
In order to keep growing and improving you need to create the right environment of talent and support around you, so choosing your company really can make a significant difference over time. Think about this in terms of the frequency with which you give yourself the chance to be immersed in such company and make sure you are planning it in to your diary.
Very often, choices seem to be black and white, whereas in reality, we know that shades of grey exist. Being effective is often interpreted as having to choose very clearly your way forward so as not to confuse the people being led. However, being authoritative with a point of view doesn't always mean you need to choose one end of the spectrum over another. Using AND thinking is a very powerful way of ensuring that strong leadership is provided. One of the most useful ANDs that we see being used is when people get passionate about learning from success and learning from failure.
Typically, failures are poured over with furrowed brows to make sure that the negative outcome doesn't happen again, while successes are celebrated with very little evaluation of why the success occurred. When success and failure are both seen in the same way, as opportunities to learn, then we begin to ensure that vital ingredients for ongoing success are captured and pointers or pitfalls to avoid are identified. This provides a much more balanced approach to developing your success and allows you to make choices regarding pursuing positives or avoiding negatives, rather than simply being left with an ever longer list of things that you know you shouldn't do.
Choose to learn
The last choice that is a really powerful one to keep making is the choice to learn. This should not be seen as an invitation to randomly acquire new information as an ongoing way of working. This is a suggestion that choosing where you focus your learning in order to gain maximum performance gain is a critical choice to keep making. One definition of learning states that it can only be said to have taken place when you can observe a relatively permanent change in behaviour. So, the invitation is actually about choosing to focus on the things that are going to bring about ongoing development of the behaviours that will deliver success.
So, where do you need to focus your learning for the next month? Who needs to be involved in the learning and how do you need to make sure that the knowledge gained gets turned into behaviour change (might be a small change, might be a significant change - the size of the change is irrelevant, the choice to get better in some way is what matters).
There is too much learning that ‘happens’ to teams and individuals; an event occurs and we pick over the bones of it afterwards to determine what valuable information might be gained. Learning needs to be directed from the outset and made accountable to the performance you intended to deliver. So, you should make sure that you choose to learn in relation to the process goals you set yourself, as well as the results you were aspiring to. Once you get into this way of learning, you can keep asking the question, 'how well did we do what we said we were going to do?' with a view to then capturing the key information about how well you turned intentions into reality, so you will make better behaviour choices next time around.
Your final choice is to choose which of these ideas might be of greatest relevance to you right now. Which simple choice, if stuck with consistently, might make a small, but important difference every day so that it adds up to something significant over time? If you make the right choice, you should expect to feel more in control of your performance, more of the time so you almost get to the point of being able to choose your result. Now wouldn't that be a nice choice to have?!