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Added by Craig Steel
Insights into commercial performance

We as a proud sporting nation have observed the impact the mind has on our performance.

Close up of woman's face wearing glasses looking at a screen

During the past two years, we as a proud sporting nation have observed the impact the mind has on our performance, possibly more than during any other period in our illustrious sporting history.

So why, when the mental state is so obviously crucial to a team’s success, is this conversation not being discussed in our board rooms?

This is a question I have asked many people and many companies over many years. Why, if Executives and/or Managers can see the net effect of psychological performance on a team’s results are they not exploring how they can revolutionise their team’s capacity to perform?

Is it:

a) Because of a lack of interest or commitment?

b) Because they are concerned they won’t get a return on their training investment?

c) Because they don’t think the performance of their people can be corrected or improved?

d) Because they are unaware that what they see happening on the sports field may apply to them or their business?

Below I have attempted to provide a summary of these issues and a possible solution to each;


Whilst it may sound insulting, I have come to realise most executives and/or managers have such little confidence in their people that over time they simply lose interest, and therefore commitment, in either their development or the potential developmental opportunities available to the business.

Despite this being the case, it is interesting to note the number of companies who say ‘their people are their greatest asset’. Is this because they are not sure how to ‘improve’ the performance capability of the people they have and are therefore trying desperately to attract ‘better’ people, or do they really believe it? Some I believe genuinely do consider their people their greatest asset but unfortunately, they are a minority.

It is clear to me many companies are still grappling to understand ‘how’ to improve the performance and contribution of their workforce. Subsequently, many end up in debates trying to find appropriate solutions to improve the performance of their team. For this reason, it is important you are clear as to the purpose of any training initiative and/or investment.

The two points of interest we should consider in answer to Question A should be either:

  1. The company needs to clarify its intentions (Vision) in order to elevate the importance of ‘performance’ i.e. strengthen the resolve to improve performance and/or
  2. Consider whether the current managers responsible for leading and developing their workforce are willing or capable of ‘leading and developing’ their workforce.


Training investment

Whilst 80% of New Zealand companies cite training as their preferred method to try and ‘improve’ performance, research suggests an increasing number of CEOs say they are not getting ‘value’ from their training investment. As such, many companies are cutting back on ‘non-essential’ training simply because they don’t believe it will add the necessary value to justify the investment.

In my opinion, training is a critical undertaking to become or remain competitive. Successful sports teams don’t stop training – ever. Irrespective of whether they are on top or struggling to make the grade, they train. The purpose of training is to improve what and how we produce or carry out a specific skill and/or task.

However, to ensure your training initiatives do add value, it is critical your team understands the importance of it i.e. what you are aiming to achieve and therefore what they need to start, stop, change, or acquire (adopt) to be in a position to improve.

As you will no doubt appreciate, this approach requires people to personally commit to improving their performance in order to deliver greater value to the company. For this reason, they need to believe their increased contribution will be worthwhile to themselves and the company. The measure or gauging of this increased effort needs to be a transparent process between managers and their employees. Managers need to be fully engaged in and committed to this process, not just agree to participate in the process like spectators on the sideline.


Correcting or improving performance

My previous four newsletters have discussed varying aspects of this subject in more detail than I can provide here. However, one of the primary issues that inhibits a company’s willingness to push the envelope in this area is simply due to the fact many managers don’t believe ‘leopards can change their spots’ therefore they don’t believe it is worthwhile investing time or energy trying to improve the performance of their people.

In addition to this, it is clear managers rate the responsibility of correcting or improving workforce performance to be their greatest challenge. Research continues to indicate New Zealand managers are finding the ‘people’ side of the business the hardest to deal with. One of the reasons for this is that most managers have never been taught ‘how’ to improve workforce performance. Whilst it is a central feature of management, it isn’t well understood and continues, in my opinion, to be the key reason so many seemingly capable managers fail to live up to expectations.

It is important we acknowledge the fact that we must increase managers’ understanding of, and ability to, improve the performance of their people if we are to strengthen the performance capability of an organisation. Failure to do this will continue to undermine the efforts companies are going to, to try and improve performance.


Mental strength/toughness applies to sport not business

The term mental strength or toughness is often misunderstood. Mental strength simply means a person and/or team’s ability to ‘create and maintain’ an appropriate high-performance mind-set despite external influences. For this reason, mental strength is every bit as relevant in business as it is in sport.

The vast majority of poor commercial results can be directly attributed to poor ‘people’ performance or execution. Such issues are human (performance) failures, not mechanical failures, however, too many companies seem to think when things go wrong it must be due to some justifiable external factor beyond their control. How often in such circumstances do companies work through a process to identify the ‘cause’ of such failures? How often do they come to the realization the reason a particular person didn’t deliver was not because they lacked skills or support, but because they lacked the mental strength to deliver i.e. the self-belief, self-confidence, courage, attitude, or motivation?

When things go wrong it is generally because people don’t perform. Sales go down when salespeople don’t perform. Productivity goes astray when people don’t perform. Standards slip when managers don’t perform. Companies lose their way when leaders don’t perform. Of course, there may very well be technical or mechanical issues involved but more often than not, performance, good or otherwise, is a byproduct of Human Performance.

If you are serious about performance, it is critical you focus on increasing your team’s capacity to perform. That is, to identify how best to equip your team with the additional skills and understanding they require to perform at an optimum level.



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