Coaching Peak Performance


Tuesday 20 April 2010

Frank Dick

Coaching Peak Performance: Seven steps to building elite performance

BAFTA, London

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Coaching Peak Performance

Frank Dick O.B.E has a lifetime of coaching experience at the top levels of British Athletics. He brought this experience to the BAFTA theatre on Piccadilly. His clear, no-nonsense approach to the practicalities of team building and his infectious enthusiasm for his craft hold many lessons for those of us who strive to succeed.

Kicking off, he explained that winning is not purely about results. There are always elements that are beyond your control that can affect the result. Your performance is what matters. If you are truly driven to win, you’re competing against your previous best performance, not your opponent. Frank believes that the best way to enhance your performance is to rely on and, in return, nurture a winning team, even in the seemingly cutthroat realm of business.

Frank quotes the former Shell line manager and business strategist, Arie de Gues, to make his point. “The only sustainable competitive advantage you have is your ability to learn faster than your opposition.” And this is where coaching and teamwork comes to the fore, because you learn faster and can adjust better when you pool your resources with people you trust.

But this also has an obligation, a sense of interdependence.” If someone has a problem it’s not just that person’s problem, it’s the team’s problem,” Frank says. “No one sets out to underperform. If you see someone underperforming, and you know how to correct their mistakes, but you don’t, then what sort of a team are you? How do you expect them to be the wind under your wings when you need it?”

Moving on, Frank described what it takes to win in the world of peak performance. “The difference between being a moment in history and being disappointment is less than a tenth of a second. The winning difference is tiny, but the winning difference is you.” By this, he means that we have certain responsibilities to ourselves and others. We’re responsible for our own performance –no one else can make you succeed. We’re responsible for our own development – your coach or mentor can’t live your dreams for you. Finally, we have a responsibility to coach others –we need to “pay it forward.” He explains this, “People give you things, your teachers, your coaches, your leaders, your managers, your parents, and the truth is we can never pay them back completely, so the only thing we can do is what they did for us, you don’t pay it back you pay it forward.”

To be a success, coaches, like team leaders or project managers, need to concentrate on two very different aspects of success at the same time: Dreams and milestones.

Dreams are your overarching goals or outcomes, and here he let us in on a little bit of coaching inside information, “Coaches don’t plan forwards, they plan backwards.” You see where you need to be, and plan back to where you are now, bearing in mind that every plan needs to be open to adjustment. So “your first step is aligned with where it is you’re trying to head for.” What we want is to learn fast, so that our course adjustments are small, rather than large.

A milestone is “taking care of business in the arena that you’re in right now; because if you don’t take care of business, you’re out of business.” It’s each moment where you can positively affect your performance. And each one is equally important; because you don’t know which element of your performance will be the decider in any competition. Frank believes that “every touch of the ball is the most important touch of your life.”

Frank’s formula for personal and business success is an acronym called ODD. It’s what differentiates the average person from the exceptional, and the leaders from the followers. The ‘O’ stands for taking ownership of situations and turning those moments into opportunities. The first ‘D’ is for taking considered risks and decision making. The last ‘D’ – just doing it, consistently and excellently. He insists that these qualities can be taught, and that’s what makes a good coach.

Changing tack, Frank explained seven key concepts to achieving peak performance from yourself and from your team:

  1. Learn and persistently practice a quality technical game. Keep the fundamentals sharp and don’t assume that everyone on your team has the same basic skills.
  2. Develop fitness to be technically effective. Even the best technique is let down by a lack of endurance.
  3. Develop maximum speed without compromising your technical effectiveness. Delivery time, both in sport and in business is crucial.
  4. Develop an optimal cruising pace that’s close to your best performance. Live “up there” so you can easily raise your game when needed.
  5. Rehearse extreme changes in conditions and pace. Putting yourself in tough situations will help you cope with unforeseen crises.
  6. Read the game and respond faster and more effectively than the opposition. With this, manage your relationships and align your vision and values with your customers.
  7. Win and win again. Once you’ve conquered your individual mountain, search for a new, higher one.

Closing off, Frank reminded us that our professional life must be balanced with everything else we do. “All of us, whether you’re an Olympic athlete or couch potato, your wellbeing, your relationships and your business are all interrelated.” If the winning difference is less than one tenth of a second, then failing because we’ve neglected our social development or personal health is a crime.