As the first sport psychologist of the Collingwood Football Club, I cut my teeth on the challenge of converting significant potential to high performance.
I worked with four talented coaches, leaders of the Magpie tribe. I helped senior coaching staff (and players) come to see that what occurs above the shoulders of elite athletes is as important as what takes place below the knees.
All players participated in pre-season learning and development programs designed to strengthen their psychological capacity or mindset.
This initiative enhanced their playing performance as well as their ability to cope with tough situations and to manage stress, including helping to overcome what used to be called the Colliwobbles. I worked with many individual players during the week and immediately before and after a game.
Strengthening the mental approach of highly talented athletes often makes a big difference to their performance. This principle also applies to helping develop the leadership potential of those who work in any job sector.
Through these experiences and working with a variety of educational and business organisations, I am now absolutely convinced that the capacity of people at all levels in an organisation to perform at their best is enhanced when they know more about how their mind operates at its best – and at its worst – and this is where HR learning and development can play a significant role.
The HR challenge
Today, HR continues to expand its role in supporting new business strategy as well as increasing employee engagement, innovation and productivity – signature strengths of high-performing workplaces.
It’s my view that the HR role can be enhanced through learning and development that focuses on strengthening the psychological capacities and the high-performance mindset of leaders, managers and, ultimately, of the total workforce.
Such efforts have important bottom-line benefits including:
- Accelerated business/organisational strategy execution.
- Greater ROI on learning and development initiatives (more people applying what they learn to produce concrete and worthwhile results).
- Development of strengths of leaders, managers and employees in an organisation’s competency framework.
- Increased employee positivity and capacity to cope with change.
Serious investment by organisations in developing the psychological capabilities of leaders and managers at all levels is more the exception than the rule.
Decision makers are used to investing in technical skills development to solve existing problems and increase capacity.
Therefore, the case needs to be argued by HR that evidence (research and case studies) clearly shows that what occurs above the shoulders is as important, or sometimes more important, than the technical skills of the job.
Here are three important points that can be made when arguing the case to senior management and executive leadership that growing leadership capacity of people results in higher performing workplaces.
The extent to which people consistently and effectively demonstrate high-impact leadership behaviour and display effective styles of leadership depends on their psychological capabilities and the extent to which they possess a high-performance mindset.
People who display effective leadership style and positive leadership behaviour are those who have well-developed psychological capacity. Without well-developed psycho- logical capacity, it is much harder for people to develop as leaders and demonstrate leadership behaviour.
Thanks to the ground-breaking work of Professor Fred Luthans of the University of Nebraska, we know there are four types of capital (assets or resources) that are associated with individual and organisational workplace performance indicators such as productivity- profitability, engagement, innovation, quality of life (wellbeing at work) and leadership.
- Economic capital – finances, tangible assets.
- Human capital – job experience, education, skills.
- Social capital – relationships, networks, friends.
- Psychological capital – confidence, resilience, persistence.
The more your organisation possesses of each type of capital, the higher the levels of workplace performance.
Which of the four types of capital listed above do you think provides the competitive advantage that takes individuals and organisations from good to great? If you think psychological capital, you are on the money.
Leaders vary in terms of the development of a high-performance mindset. Some have a highly developed capacity to work hard, but display areas of under-development related to their relationships with others.
And some, because they do not look after themselves or have a negative bias in the way they view the world, are prone to ill health and burnout.
Many studies reveal the robust relationship between a high-performance mindset and better job performance and resilience. It also allows for reduced stress, higher motivation and commitment and increased levels of job and life satisfaction.