The Sport of High Performance Consulting

I was flying on Qantas earlier this month, and had the pleasure of listening to Kieren Perkins being intereviewed by Peter Switzer. For those not familiar with Kieren Perkins, Kieren broke 12 world records in swimming, and is the first person to hold the Olympic, World, Commonwealth, and Pan Pacific titles simultaneously. In addition to performing at the highest levels of elite sporting performance, Kieren was a 27 year old father of two by the time he competed in his 3rd Olympic Games, and after retiring from swimming commenced not only a successful speaking career but formed a business performance consultancy, PST Systems with Clark Perry, former head psychologist for the Australian Swimming Team.

Kieren, of course, talked partly about the challenges and successes of his swimming career and partly about how the principles of elite swimming performance are transferable to business success. Kieren compared “silos” and KPIs in the corporate environment to the swim-lanes and performance targets in the pool, but noted that however much swimming competitors appear to be individuals, there is actually a team around them – and the reason that the swimming team leapt to such outstanding performance as a team was that head coach Don Talbot had invested such sustained energy over 10 years building the team. Kieren describes a “dispirited group of rock stars” brought together into a team. For example, in the coaching:

. . . when you have ten of the world’s best swimming coaches actually collaborating and communicating and fast tracking their own R&D in finding the best way to coach people, all of a sudden instead of having ten good coaches or ten great coaches you’ve got the best ten coaches bringing athletes together to train side by side to push each other, to use each other, to learn from each other . . . it was something that was completely foreign to the swimming environment in Australia when Talbot arrived

Similarly for the athletes:

. . . when [Talbot] arrived we won the odd Olympic gold medal and nobody broke world records — in fact, you wouldn’t even hear anybody talking about getting close to one because they were impossible targets — to when he left and you look at the Australian swim team now where there’s gold medals coming from everywhere, there’s world records falling left, right and centre, and you hear it in the cultural way that the athletes speak, that it’s about the Australian team, and we support each other and we push each other, and we excel together, and as a consequence the whole team is exceptional.

The effect was that a synergy where the total was greater than the sum of the parts: where previously there was someone who was also going to be a gold medallist, now there was a silver and a bronze medallist right behind them nipping on their heels, and they were being pushed and lifted to new levels of performance. And, Kieren notes, the same effects can be realised in the corporate world.

Another point Kieren discussed was that in both sport and a corporate environment, “exceptional differences” are created when we “imagine,” “try things that everybody else is saying can’t be done or shouldn’t be done,” and “push the boundaries.”

Another really interesting comment was in relation to the Atlanta Olympics, where Kieren had in his own words experienced “bad trials – only just made the team – had a bad heat swim – only just made the final . . .” But he did make the final. And then an “emotional rollercoaster” set in, oscillating from absolute confidence to despair. And then he had an experience, an insight where he realised that he “actually had a really simple choice to make.” He could continue in this emotional state, exhaust himself beforehand and lose the race, or give it his best shot and whatever happens, be happy. Kieren’s further comments illustrate the power of mindset at the elite sporting performance level. He lined up on the starting blocks, excited to race, thinking “c’mon, let’s go. I can’t wait to win this thing,” and then:

Of course, it panned out that way but I don’t think any athlete has ever won an Olympic gold medal or a golfing green jacket or a premiership without knowing before you start Iam, I know I am going to win this, and that mindset and that understanding of yourself gives you the opportunity . . . not a guarantee but it gives you the opportunity as opposed to the “gee, it would be nice if . . . I wonder if I could.”

A similar crossover between elite support and business performance has been happening in other Australian consultancies. For example, the Mettle Group, co-founded by Rugby Legend John Eales intertwines experience from sporting success to do consulting with the culture of business corporations and sporting groups. Eales is also author of the book Learning from Legends, a series of case studies of a series of sporting “legends” in a variety of sports, each of whom had subsequently moved into corporate roles and who could intertwine insights from both sporting and corporate worlds.

And why is the Think Differently!! blog interested? Apart from its intrinsic interest as a subject, and the fascination of looking at what makes proven successes work, there are two additional points I want to highlight. First is that elite sporting or business success is preceded by the development of a mindset that leads to superior sporting or business performance – mindset often precedes successful action at the elite level of competition. This holds for individuals and even more so for shared mindset, where a team culture achieves greater success. The second point I’d like to highlight is how the interplay of insights across different domains help businesses – and sporting athletes and teams – to harness advantages they would not otherwise have been exposed to, to ‘think differently’ – and better – in order to perform better and achieve exceptional results.

If you know some other great work with crossover between sport and business (or art and business or success in some other field of activity and business) please do leave a comment here and let me know. I’d love to hear some great examples and great work from around the world.

The full transcript of Kieren’s interview is available online from Qantas.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

The Sport of High Performance Consulting

I was flying on Qantas earlier this month, and had the pleasure of listening to Kieren Perkins being intereviewed by Peter Switzer. For those not familiar with Kieren Perkins, Kieren broke 12 world records in swimming, and is the first person to hold the Olympic, World, Commonwealth, and Pan Pacific titles simultaneously. In addition to performing at the highest levels of elite sporting performance, Kieren was a 27 year old father of two by the time he competed in his 3rd Olympic Games, and after retiring from swimming commenced not only a successful speaking career but formed a business performance consultancy, PST Systems with Clark Perry, former head psychologist for the Australian Swimming Team.

Kieren, of course, talked partly about the challenges and successes of his swimming career and partly about how the principles of elite swimming performance are transferable to business success. Kieren compared “silos” and KPIs in the corporate environment to the swim-lanes and performance targets in the pool, but noted that however much swimming competitors appear to be individuals, there is actually a team around them – and the reason that the swimming team leapt to such outstanding performance as a team was that head coach Don Talbot had invested such sustained energy over 10 years building the team. Kieren describes a “dispirited group of rock stars” brought together into a team. For example, in the coaching:

. . . when you have ten of the world’s best swimming coaches actually collaborating and communicating and fast tracking their own R&D in finding the best way to coach people, all of a sudden instead of having ten good coaches or ten great coaches you’ve got the best ten coaches bringing athletes together to train side by side to push each other, to use each other, to learn from each other . . . it was something that was completely foreign to the swimming environment in Australia when Talbot arrived

Similarly for the athletes:

. . . when [Talbot] arrived we won the odd Olympic gold medal and nobody broke world records — in fact, you wouldn’t even hear anybody talking about getting close to one because they were impossible targets — to when he left and you look at the Australian swim team now where there’s gold medals coming from everywhere, there’s world records falling left, right and centre, and you hear it in the cultural way that the athletes speak, that it’s about the Australian team, and we support each other and we push each other, and we excel together, and as a consequence the whole team is exceptional.

The effect was that a synergy where the total was greater than the sum of the parts: where previously there was someone who was also going to be a gold medallist, now there was a silver and a bronze medallist right behind them nipping on their heels, and they were being pushed and lifted to new levels of performance. And, Kieren notes, the same effects can be realised in the corporate world.

Another point Kieren discussed was that in both sport and a corporate environment, “exceptional differences” are created when we “imagine,” “try things that everybody else is saying can’t be done or shouldn’t be done,” and “push the boundaries.”

Another really interesting comment was in relation to the Atlanta Olympics, where Kieren had in his own words experienced “bad trials – only just made the team – had a bad heat swim – only just made the final . . .” But he did make the final. And then an “emotional rollercoaster” set in, oscillating from absolute confidence to despair. And then he had an experience, an insight where he realised that he “actually had a really simple choice to make.” He could continue in this emotional state, exhaust himself beforehand and lose the race, or give it his best shot and whatever happens, be happy. Kieren’s further comments illustrate the power of mindset at the elite sporting performance level. He lined up on the starting blocks, excited to race, thinking “c’mon, let’s go. I can’t wait to win this thing,” and then:

Of course, it panned out that way but I don’t think any athlete has ever won an Olympic gold medal or a golfing green jacket or a premiership without knowing before you start Iam, I know I am going to win this, and that mindset and that understanding of yourself gives you the opportunity . . . not a guarantee but it gives you the opportunity as opposed to the “gee, it would be nice if . . . I wonder if I could.”

A similar crossover between elite support and business performance has been happening in other Australian consultancies. For example, the Mettle Group, co-founded by Rugby Legend John Eales intertwines experience from sporting success to do consulting with the culture of business corporations and sporting groups. Eales is also author of the book Learning from Legends, a series of case studies of a series of sporting “legends” in a variety of sports, each of whom had subsequently moved into corporate roles and who could intertwine insights from both sporting and corporate worlds.

And why is the Think Differently!! blog interested? Apart from its intrinsic interest as a subject, and the fascination of looking at what makes proven successes work, there are two additional points I want to highlight. First is that elite sporting or business success is preceded by the development of a mindset that leads to superior sporting or business performance – mindset often precedes successful action at the elite level of competition. This holds for individuals and even more so for shared mindset, where a team culture achieves greater success. The second point I’d like to highlight is how the interplay of insights across different domains help businesses – and sporting athletes and teams – to harness advantages they would not otherwise have been exposed to, to ‘think differently’ – and better – in order to perform better and achieve exceptional results.

If you know some other great work with crossover between sport and business (or art and business or success in some other field of activity and business) please do leave a comment here and let me know. I’d love to hear some great examples and great work from around the world.

The full transcript of Kieren’s interview is available online from Qantas.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.