Let Gareth Southgate save your sanity! – Guest Editorial

Paul Orford

How did the coach reframe the fragile mindset of this team to exceed greatly the task given to them, and how can it apply to our organisations? Paul Orford gives the answer.

The following is a guest post by Paul Orford, Head of Institutional Sales at Inflyx.

Last week I realised that football wasn’t coming home.

Not this World Cup, anyway. The post-World Cup comedown ground into my subconscious with the realisation that my thrice daily game addiction cannot be quenched. Normal life moves on with that uncomfortable feeling of France now being holders. The past week has been an existence of ifs, buts and maybes for Harry Kane in the semi-final.

England’s manager Gareth Southgate has gone from a temporary footballing solution to being mentioned as the person to handle our Brexit negotiations and bring back stability to a political system that is destabilising further by the day.

Although from my perspective we didn’t go all the way and win it, we left the competition feeling that a corner has been turned after more tournaments than I care to remember where England appeared to freeze under the weight of expectations.

How did the coach reframe the fragile mindset of this team to exceed greatly the task given to them, and how can it apply to our organisations? What appeared to make Southgate different from previous managers was his willingness to embrace sports psychology.

Based on what I saw, this made a telling difference to the team’s performance. Can it make a difference to a deskbound oaf like me as well?

Empirical evidence shows that more often than not we have a narrative running through our mind where the end result is being played out. Sports performance guru Andy Barton argues ‘Often, it’s the spin you put on things’. Instead of viewing the endgame negatively, we should start to see victory and a positive outcome being played on a loop inside your head.

However, thinking positively, reciting positive mantras and using visualisation techniques are only a small part of the process to enforce change. Barton goes further: ‘Simply thinking positive isn’t helpful. If the team just imagined themselves lifting the World Cup, that’s positive thinking but it doesn’t serve any real purpose.’

Image credit: TfL.

To achieve a positive end result, we must also visualise the steps required to get to that result rather than just picturing the mother of all commission cheques. ‘The skill is in your application to a task because that’s the bit you’re in control of. Say you have a big presentation to do, or a big event, or job interview – if you’re feeling fear you’re already mentally rehearsing it in a negative way. [In mental rehearsal,] you prime your brain to play it how you would like to be. You might want to be confident, speak clearly. It’s not just positive thinking.’

As we operate in a highly stressful and competitive environment, a practice such as using mental cues can be a keen weapon in your arsenal. Kate Hays, the head of psychology at the English Institute of Sport, says ‘People will have cue words that will bring them back into focus on the task at hand. It’s just one or two words that can get people to focus on the right thing.’

England’s team psychologist Pippa Grange stated in a recent interview with the Guardian newspaper that there are five areas to increase the chances of your success when it comes down to operating under pressure.

  • Don’t fear failure: ‘part of what it takes to be courageous is overcoming the constant battle between the desire for what we want and the fear of failure. Most of us don’t expose ourselves because we are fearful.’
  • Reframing emotions: you’re not ‘nervous’, you’re ‘excited’. A penalty shootout or a big presentation is not something to dread, it’s an ‘opportunity’.
  • Positive thinking is unhelpful if you’re simply fantasising about achieving an Oscar/the World Cup/a fuller social life. Instead, focus (positively) on the steps that could get you to your goal.
  • Treat your employees/customers as individuals rather than as a homogenous group: different approaches will work for different people.
  • Kindness, listening and empathy will take you further than barking orders: use praise to motivate people.

It’s said that there are two jobs that are impossible to leave as a success: English football team manager and British Prime Minister. Can Gareth Southgate save not only the country from imploding by becoming Prime Minister, but also set us on the way to a more positive-thinking civilisation with his teachings and change the universe as we know it? I don’t know – let’s start with the next World Cup, maybe.

Disclaimer: The content of this article expresses personal views that are not necessarily shared by FinanceFeeds and its editorial staff.

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