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Posts archive for ‘Performance Psychology’

Want support to achieve your 2011 goals? Tips to find the best….

January 4, 2011

Made your New Year resolutions, now looking for great support to help you achieve your 2011 goals, and you might be feeling confused by too much choice.   As the coaching and lifestyle industries expand, providers are entering the market at an unprecedented rate and the standards of service range from excellent to very poor.  Here are some tips for choosing a professional service provider:

1. Check out the provider (e.g. web search, professional associations, Trading Standards), and ask questions.  Be confident you know whether they:

  • have the relevant experience, training, qualifications and/or accreditation for your needs
  • keep their skills and knowledge up to date
  • have membership of professional body, with Code of Conduct, Ethics and complaints procedure 
  • use an appropriate title (NB providers using protected titles must be registered with Health Professions Council www.hpc-uk.org/aboutregistration/professions or other regulator www.hpc-uk.org/aboutregistration/regulators/)
  • are insured to practice

2.  Before you commit

Discuss:

  • your expectations, challenges, issues and what you want to achieve
  • fees, payment terms, frequency and estimated duration of the service provision
  • how progress will be monitored and evaluated

And ask yourself: Is this beneficial for me right now?  Don’t be coerced into committing unless you are satisfied that the service is of use to you.

3.  Be aware:

  • if you have any doubts about the service, discuss these with your provider, and if still uncertain, seek advice from their professional body. 
  • many of coaching and lifestyle professions are unregulated however good providers are likely to belong to and be accredited by a professional body which requires evidence of a minimum standard of fitness to practice.
  • be wary of providers
    • with memberships which only require payment of a fee (i.e. do not set a minimum standard)
    • who hold ‘certificates of attendance’ rather than ‘certificates of competence’ or other appropriate qualifications.

And finally I’d like to wish you all the best in achieving your 2011 goals.

 

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Goals and motivation ‘Will I?’ vs ‘I will’

September 1, 2010

As coaches we help clients to clearly articulate their goals.  The well established GROW model starts with Goal and ends with Will.  A recent article in Scientific American Mind  by Wray Herbert reports on Ibrahim Senay’s  fascinating research into ‘willingness’ (see full article).  Senay found people in the open mind-set condition asking ‘Will I…..?’  were more goal directed, motivated and open to new possibilities, compared with those in the  ‘I will….’ condition.   Moreover those in the ‘Will I?’ condition were more intrinsically motivated (e.g. I want to) than those in the ‘I will’ condition who were more introjected (e.g. doing through self imposed guilt) in their motivation. 

From a coaching perspective I like the idea of the more open mind set of ‘Will I……?’ for both the potential increase in intrinsic motivation and also the power it might bring to exploring options, as Senay hypothesizes that  ‘it is because questions by their nature speak to possibility and freedom of choice’.

I tested this out on myself a few days ago – when given the opportunity to be a last minute participant in a swim across the Solent (between England and the Isle of Wight) with 8 days notice – and 2 days to decide and no time to train!   This would be the furthest I have swam non-stop for over 20 years, though in summer  I sea swim regularly for up to 15 – 20 mins.   When saying to myself ‘I will do it’ –  I noticed some nerves and anxiety holding me back from saying ‘yes’  – all those little ‘what ifs’ and also ‘this is a great opportunity, I really ought to do it’ (the introjected motivation).  However when I asked myself ‘Will I swim the Solent next weekend?’  I found myself wanting to say ‘yes’ and immediately moving into possibilities and solutions, for example, doing a test swim (50 minutes non-stop), contacting the organiser to find out about the logistics, risk assessment, safety cover, etc.   However was this because I’d already raised my awareness of the ‘what ifs’ before asking myself  ‘Will I?’ ?  I’m now interested to know how I would have responded if I’d asked myself ‘Will I?’ first and whether then asking ‘I will’, I would be more at ease saying ‘yes’.

So whilst Senay’s research suggests ‘Will I?’ to be more powerful in terms of goal direction and motivation it may be the order is key – starting with ‘Will I?’ to tap into the motivation and options and ending with ‘I will……..’  for commitment.    I will be testing this out and following this line of research with great interest, and welcome your thoughts and experiences.

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Courageous mindset shift

August 3, 2010

I’ve just been watching a TED.com video of Lewis Pugh, the amazing extreme cold water swimmer give a fascinating talk about being in the right mindset to swim across Lake Imja, at 5300m altitude in the Himalayas under Mt Everest.   Watch now >>  Being in the right mindset is crucial to success in both sport and business.

In sport different mind sets are required for different sports. For example an aggressive mindset is likely to serve you well if you are a boxer, but a calm, ice-cool mind set might serve you better in a target shooting sport. Equally depending on the situation the athlete may need to shift mindset during a performance such as in rugby from controlled aggression in a tackle to calm focus if kicking a penalty.

And in business, a market leader will have a different mindset to a high growth start up, a sales team a different mindset to a research team.  Also different stages of business growth will benefit from mindset shifts to help embrace change and move forward successfully. 

In times when change, creativity and innovation are key to success, practising mindset shifts can create new experiences and new perspectives from which to explore a challenge/task/strategy.  Lewis Pugh sums it up really well at the end of his talk leaving us with some great questions to ponder, which can be adapted to a business and sport environment by asking ‘what radical mindset shift can you take in your sport/business that’ll make that big performance difference?’

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World Class Business Leaders don’t have to be great at everything!

July 20, 2010

Research suggests they will be more successful developing 3-4 World Class behavioural strengths that really make a difference.   This comes from a fascinating book The Extraordinary Leader by Zenger and Folkman (2009) which, based on extensive research,  identifies sixteen key leadership behaviours that differentiate World Class leaders.  They also posit it is a myth to focus on weaknesses, that is unless those weaknesses are a ‘fatal flaw’, in which case they should be remedied.

I’ve been coaching business leaders for a number of years, and working with another very well researched model of Leadership Behaviours, (Schroder’s High Performance Behaviours) and not surprisingly whilst the clustering of behaviours  between Schroder and those of Zenger and Folkman differ, there are many similarities that can be mapped across the two models.  For example Zenger and Folkman’s Solving Problems, Analysing Issues and Innovation are very similar to Schroder’s Concept Formation and Conceptual Flexibility; and their Building Relationships can be compared with Schroder’s Empathy and  Self-Confidence. 

Zenger and Folkman’s model centres around the cluster ‘Character’ and they relate this to Credibility (Kouzes and Posner), Integrity (Bennis), telling the truth (Shaffer) and Principle Centred Leadership (Covey).   I would also add in to this list Roger Steare’s (www.rogersteare.com) recent work ‘ethicability®’ which explores rule compliance, social conscience and principled conscience.  A free on-line test can be found at www.ethicabilitytest.org

I’ve worked with many organisations who have developed their own leadership behaviour/competency models (often less elegant), and typically the majority of the behaviours can be mapped onto the well researched and validated models such as Schroder or Zenger and Folkman.

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Sarah climbing Old Coach Road, Lake District

Tough cycling climbs and tough business times

July 9, 2010

 Last weekend I cycled the Coast to Coast (C2C) route from Whitehaven on the Irish Sea to Sunderland, on the North Sea – 145 miles (on and off road) with over 10,000ft of pedalling uphill. The scenery was stunning, especially through the Lake District and over the Pennines. There were also some really tough climbs that required just getting into the groove, being careful to pace myself and appreciating the moment(s) – scenery, wildlife, animals, flowers, sunshine, mini milestones, support and encouragement from other cyclists, following winds and the reward of making it to the top, before a fast exhilarating descent to start yet another tough climb. On reflection there are some great analogies and metaphors for business in these challenging and tough times. As the saying goes, ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’.

How often is it when faced with what appears to be a really difficult goal to achieve (a 7 mile uphill cycle) , our initial reaction is ‘it’s too difficult’, or ‘is it worth the effort?’. People who rise to tough sporting or business challenges tend to:

  • break them down into mini milestones (reaching each bend)
  • ensure resources are available and making best use of resources (avoiding burn out, refuelling with energy drink, support from others, following winds)
  • take time to appreciate the journey (scenery, wildlife) • enjoy the rewards of achieving the goal (feeling of achievement at reaching the summit, the views and/or cafe/bar at the top!)
  • enjoy the downhill speed, the time to recover and replenish resources (muscles). Caution on the descents though, whilst exhilarating be aware of the risks (tight bends, missing turnings, not knowing when to apply the brakes, etc!)

Sarah at top of Hartside Pass, Pennines

And then…….you are ready to take on the next tough climb, knowing you can do it, it is worth the effort and the rewards!

I’d love to hear what analogies and metaphors came up for you.

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Were the England football players in flow?

June 28, 2010

With the massive football World Cup interest and what appears to be the happiness of many around the world dependant  on the success of their nation’s football team, I was reminded of Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of flow and how actively participating in an activity (in any aspect of our lives e.g. work, leisure, sport) is far more likely to produce feelings of engagement and fulfilment than being a passive observer.   

In sport flow is sometimes referred to as being ‘in the zone’ and is key to peak experiences and/or peak performances.  I absolutely love experiencing flow, whether it be in my work as a business coach and sport psychologist, in the sports I’ve practiced (paragliding, sailing, cycling, etc)  or in any of my leisure time activities. 

However given the England football team’s poor record at the 2010 Football World Cup I’m left wondering why so many are content to put control of their happiness switch in the hands of a few overpaid and underperforming football players, and…. more interestingly which of the following 9 elements that contribute to creating ‘flow’, the players did or did not experience:

  1. having the right balance between challenge and skills
  2. body and mind are working automatically
  3. having clear goals
  4. receiving unambiguous feedback
  5. Concentration on the task in hand
  6. Sense of control
  7. Loss of self-consciousness, i.e. totally absorbed in what you are doing
  8. Transformation of time – i.e. so absorbed you don’t notice time passing
  9. Enjoying the moment

Do let me know what you think?

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Imposter Syndrome – feeling like a fraud

June 2, 2010

Do you ever feel like a fraud…… that you’re not as good as others think you are, fear that you’ll get found out or put success down to luck or huge effort?   Feeling like a fraud and being a fraud are very different.    Feeling like a fraud is what is known as  Imposter syndrome and has been attracting attention in the public and academic press recently.   Dr Pauline Clance and Dr Susan Imes research in the late 70s and early 80s started out studying successful women, however research over the intervening years on successful males and females found that men can also experience ‘feeling like a fraud’.   

It was a relief for me when I first heard about imposter syndrome  having  experienced  the ‘I’m a fraud’  thoughts and feelings when I set paragliding World Records, putting it down to luck ‘I was just in the right place at the right time’, or  ‘if I can do it then lots of other people can too,’  or with my academic/professional qualifications ‘it was an easy exam paper’ or ‘I must have found the easy route’.    However once I start to challenge these ‘feeling like a fraud’ beliefs I soon realised that to have been successful, took me years of learning and practice to become expert enough to be successful.   Yes, you might get really, really lucky and set one world record through amazing luck, or get a really good grade in an exam through the right question.    However I can’t put three world records down to luck, or a number of professional qualifications down to ‘stumbling on an easy route’.   

If the idea of ‘being caught out’ or ‘feeling like a fraud’ hits a nerve with you a couple of techniques that might help overcome imposter syndrome are:

«  Challenge the irrational belief(s)

  • make a realistic and rational evidence based assessment of your success

«  Feed your successful beliefs through

  • keeping a success diary
  • accepting compliments and positive feedback

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High Performance top tip: set challenging goals

May 12, 2010

Having come back down to earth from our fantastic and sometimes extremely challenging ‘experience of a lifetime’ sailing expedition to Antarctica, I found myself wondering ‘what next…..?’ ‘how do I top that?’

Many people who achieve what they once thought was their ‘ultimate’ goal have reported similar thoughts. When I was paragliding competitively, the holy grail for me was a World Record, yet when I achieved that I wasn’t satisfied….I wanted another……and another – my bar kept getting higher! The key is to ensure you are constantly reviewing and upgrading your goals, setting the bar higher each time, pushing your comfort zone.   I remember reading in one of Ellen MacArthur’s books how before she crossed the finish line of one race around the world, she was already setting herself goals for her next challenge – thus avoiding those ‘what next?’ thoughts.

Before our Antarctic experience I’d put in place clear business challenges for 2010. And, recently I’ve been following two friends on North Pole expeditions, part wishing I was doing something similar out of my comfort zone, and part enjoying the warmth and comfort of home, well within my comfort zone! However their experiences awakened my yearn for more challenges and reminded me I was a bit late in reviewing and setting my challenging goals for 2010.

I thrive on stretching my comfort zone whether that comes from sport, adventure or the challenges of working with business coaching, executive coaching and sport psychology clients. So alongside keeping focus on the business challenges, I’m now working towards other challenges including gaining accreditation in a coaching technique, speaking at a conference, a kayaking expedition and changing roles when sailing our F18 catamaran.

Remember when reviewing your goals to keep them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic or Relevant , Time based). Achievable and Realistic is where we set the challenge. We want to set the bar high enough so that it is really challenging and will require skills, practice and effort to jump clear over it but not so high it’s unrealistic and we don’t believe we can achieve it. Measurable and Time based requires we regularly review progress and reset or even change the bar!

I’d love to hear from you about your out of comfort zone challenges and goals.

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Flying out of our comfort zones

April 19, 2010

One of my favourite poems Christopher Logue’s ‘Come to the edge’, really captures the essence of flourishing through embracing risk, feeling the fear and stepping beyond our limiting beliefs and out of our comfort zone, and as Jeremy Irons said of the poem ‘it deals with risk and trust and the magic that occurs sometimes when you do either’.

For the full poem www.sarah-fenwick.com/about.html

Learning to fly (metaphorically) helps us to flourish and achieve beyond what we thought possible, whether through pushing ourselves over the edge, encouraging others to step off the edge or leading others over the edge. 

My role as a coach is to challenge clients to find the courage to step off the edge and  fly, so that the discomfort of your fear zones becomes your comfort zone.  We then work on the next edge, and the next and the next and so on, expanding the comfort zone and pushing the boundaries of the fear zone, pushing ‘beyond belief’.    

 As one client, with a fear of abseiling, once said to me ‘Just the thought of talking about it with Sarah sent me over the edge!’ 

And I’ve been there on the edge many times myself (e.g. stepping off the edge with clients,  using new coaching tools/techniques for the first time, wing walking, white water rafting).   When I embrace my fear and ‘fly’ I feel so much more alive, excited and fulfilled, it’s a real buzz.  And when I haven’t quite got it right and have to pull the parachute there is always a learning to help me fly even better next time.

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Behavioural change top tip: visualise how you want to be

April 6, 2010

I’ve recently been working with highly academic/scientific delegates to develop their capability in creative thinking and facilitation.  This has been a really interesting journey, which has reminded me  about how knowing about something doesn’t necessarily mean we can do it.     I can think about many things I am knowledgable about and can talk about what to do and how to do it. However the challenge is to actually do it.  Clients often report ‘I feel uncomfortable’, ‘it’s not my natural style’, ‘I’m concerned as to what others might think if I change the way I do things’ and I also experience these thoughts and feelings.  These are normal anxieties when we come to changing how we do things.

So when you start out changing how you do or think about something, it is normal to feel that it is ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘un-natural’.  However the more we practice, (and we do need to practice, practice, practice!)  the new behaviour the sooner it will become automatic and you will feel more comfortable and with time it will feel like your natural style. 

There are tools and techniques available that help us to practice and learn new behaviours. One powerful technique is to practice visualising yourself doing the new behaviour how you would like to do it, and to keep refining and practising your visualisation.  This can be done from both the video/observer perspective of watching yourself and/or through being in your own body, and experiencing what you are seeing, thinking, feeling, hearing and doing.  Remember also to include visualising the impact you are having on others around you.  Done well this will really help you improve how you do things when it comes to real life, whether that is a  business, sport, performing arts or personal life situation.

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