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The most successful sports teams focus on performance not the outcome. How often do you hear football mangers talk about performance regardless of the result? Great performances will ultimately lead to success but poor performances will not. Focus on the performance and success will follow, focus on the result and success will continue to be elusive.


Success is not controllable but performance is.


Performance is all about decision-making and execution. Decision-making is a skill that can be analysed and developed in the classroom, but execution happens on the pitch. It can be practised in training, where the outcome is more controllable, but ultimately it’s on the pitch where high performance is put to the test and where the least amount of control exists

It’s common amongst high performing sports teams to analyse key moments (critical incident analysis), but how that analysis takes place and where the emphasis lies, will have a decisive impact on what is learned. The intent has to be from a positive perspective; otherwise the outcome is destructive rather than constructive. Here is a simple template for a discussion:

  • Experience
    • What happened
    • What were the consequences
  • Analysis
    • Why
    • Controllable (internal self)
    • Uncontrollable (external)
  • Learning
    • Beliefs
    • Feelings
    • Future action

What is fundamental to developing high performance is the culture. There has to be a culture where the focus is on the positive intention to use analysis and measurement as a development tool, rather than to highlight shortcomings. Research by Losada and Heapthy (2004) discovered that when teams focus on positives and on each other, performance improves.  Critical and negative feedback had a detrimental impact on performance.


This brings us to the question of leadership and how leaders build a culture of high performance where development is at the heart of improvement. Leaders create the climate and the culture that leads to high performance. What leaders often lack is a framework, the tools and techniques to create the conditions where high performance can emerge.


The Four Stages of Contribution model is a great template for developing and managing high performance. Over 30 years of research has gone into defining what high performance looks like in organisations.  The answer to the question what does high performance really look like is, of course, “it depends”, and you’re right.  It depends on where someone is in their career.  A football apprentice wouldn’t be expected run rings round1st team players, but they do have to meet expectations appropriate to their stage of development.  The same is true for a graduate entrant in their first role.


what is important is to be able to articulate these expectations and give them a clear line of sight about how those expectations will change as their career and performance progresses.  To learn more about the Four Stages of Contribution download and  read this really useful guide  Developing and Maintaining a Competitive Career and if you want to know more contact me at ememex 

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