If you’re old enough to remember Karate Kid, you might recall the genius of Mr Miyagi. The thoughtful and wise leader believed in focus and wellbeing, facing adversity head-on and the importance of never giving up. Some say he was ahead of his game, because many of these practices ring true today, often used in high-performance culture.
Much like the movie, a high-performance work culture places great emphasis on the environment for growth. A high-performance culture may also be considered as a set of behaviours that leads a group to success. It comes through setting clear goals, defining responsibilities and areas of growth and creating a positive environment where talent is nurtured and celebrated.
It is also one of the greatest issues companies face today, with recent research showing that 87% of organisations cite ‘culture and engagement’ as one of their biggest challenges.
Applying science to sport
Management techniques are often thought of for corporations and academic professions; yet, they translate into sports coaching as much as any other discipline. Workplace performance is increasingly crossing over into sports culture, with great benefits.
Psychology Today explain that the workplace culture in sport can determine the focus of a team – for instance for fun, for mastery, or for winning, or whether it promotes individual accomplishment or team success.
Taking a look at some of the ways that a high-performance culture can apply to sports psychology, here’s five key areas that sports coaches can focus on:
Giving your team enough space to grow is the best way to see them flourish. Helping to build independence can increase self-determination and motivation levels too.
Sports coaches that offer support in an autonomous way show that they respect the athletes’ perspective enough to trust them at a macro level. This can be encouraged by offering athletes a choice and empowering them to make decisions. It also promotes responsibility and encourages athletes to learn in a non-controlling environment.
Micro-managing can be rife in sport, since there’s many areas to consider from nutrition to training, sleep to wellness. Yet, it’s equally as important to empower your team to accept their responsibilities.
The result is a higher level of engagement and motivation, culminating in a high-performance work culture.
Share your vision
Without a vision, there is no shared ideal or platform. Needless to say, a unified shared vision is one way to develop a coherent purpose that showcases your aspirations and values with your athletes or team.
- What values does your workplace stand for?
- What kind of culture do you want to inspire?
- Do your athletes to buy into your vision?
- How can you connect with them?
These are all important questions to consider and answer. But what’s most important is sharing this vision. Be it through a one-on-one catch up, or team away day; sharing your ambition for a high-performance culture and environment is the first step in getting your team to subscribe to the same view.
A high-performance culture values its athletes at every level. It recognises talent on its own merits and respects and promotes individual personalities, while working towards a shared goal.
Key to this is nurturing, developing and sustaining the workplace culture. Your vision underpins everything. Athletes need to feel that they will be rewarded for their commitment to it.
Show that work culture matters to you by laying out clear guidelines about expectations and implement these at every level. Also, create rituals that support the culture, for instance you may periodically invite motivational speakers to attend away days, or you might create recognition programmes for the athletes.
Review and reward
Knowing where you’re coming from and where you’re going to are important characteristics of a successful team.
In sport psychology, we are often reminded of the value of reflection and review. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to management, and we are constantly evolving, tweaking and recalibrating our own personal journey, as we navigate our way through.
This is especially true of our team members, and are traits that a high-performance culture exhibit. As such, it’s imperative that we take time out of our schedules to regularly meet and review with team members.
This can be casual or formalised, as long as it creates an opportunity for honest and open feedback, where views are respected and actions taken where necessary.
Key to this is rewarding performance that reinforces your workplace culture too.
Ensure that all processes encourage the culture you want to achieve. This means avoiding any room for misinterpretation and setting out clear guidelines from the get-go.
From the top, down
The final takeout for sports coaches looking to cultivate a high-performance culture is to focus on the structure in place – specifically those at the top of the organisation or team.
Look at any work place culture and you can see how it’s shaped by it management, specifically those at the top of the hierarchy. For instance, under the helm of Philip Knight in the early days of Nike, an open culture of sharing ideas and supporting each other was encouraged, as he recruited likeminded minds that shared his vision. (If you haven’t read Shoe Dog, add it to your list!)
To that end, it’s important to choose leaders that embody the culture you’re developing. Captains of teams, team spokespeople, mentors and leaders – should all fall in to line with your shared vision, and setting the tone for others to follow. It is, after all, what great leadership is built on.
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