Developing the Mindset for Success

By Kathy McKenzie, Director FIRE UP Coaching

The last few weeks have presented me with many opportunities to think about how we keep supporting learning, and helping people to shift old resistant mindsets and replace them with more open flexible ones.

Early in the month I attended a VDC Breakfast at which Chris Fagan was the speaker.  Chris is the Operations Manager for Hawthorn Football Club and gave a great framework for how they have developed a winning mindset not just in their players but their whole club.

He started his story with describing the elation that all the players for Hawthorn felt upon winning the 2008 final.  They won and did what all teams love to do when they win, which was to celebrate and keep celebrating.  Whilst it is important to celebrate victories, what transpired was that there was no reflection on what made them the winning side in 2008.  They went off on season break elated, but the majority of players came back to pre season overweight and unfit. They did not spend the time reflecting on what it took to become champions and hence the lessons were lost.

Roll on 2009 and their season was a disaster.  They went from Premiers to well down the order at the end of the season leaving them all wondering what on earth had happened?  It was time to reflect on what had made them winners and rebuild for the 2010 season.

There were over 25 different organisations represented at the breakfast and we could all relate to what Chris Fagan spoke about.  It is easy when you work hard and achieve success to let the foot off the pedal because you feel like you deserve that break.  The challenge is that in sport, and in life, success needs to be understood, reflected on and fostered continually.

The keys to Hawthorns rebuild was to focus on 3 things.

  1. Team first mentality – Chris spoke about the importance of shared ownership of performance and being reliable, not remarkable, as a member of the team. They openly shared the expectations of all players and how they held each other to account in relation to those expectations. In my own experience, a team first mentality is what creates the most high performing teams always.  It is also absolutely critical to hold each other accountable so that the team achieves overall success.
  2. Keep improving your game plan – Hawthorn shifted from a directive to collaborative approach where they really involved the players in giving feedback. Every player was asked at the end of the season – What did we do well? What could we do better? If you were coach what would you focus on and what 3 things would you do?  This completely changed how they approached the seasons for 2010 and 2011 and resulted in victory in 2012.  This same approach is a powerful strategy for any organisational team to think about how they can keep improving.  In 2016 you cannot expect success with a wholly directive approach.
  3. Back your game plan and play to your strengths – focus less on what the opposition is doing and more on what you are doing. Organisations that are clear about their goals and know their strengths stay focus on what they can achieve.  The first step is to understand your strengths, which is an area we find pays great dividends for teams.

Chris Fagan also spoke about the importance of measurement.  “What gets measured, gets done”.  He spoke of the small marginal things that can be the difference that makes the difference.  By measuring the things that count, they were able to create changes of habits in the players that contributed to success.   That same approach works with any behavioural change you need to achieve.  If it is not clear to the team what is being measured, and what gets rewarded, then there will not be the attention given to creating the habits for success.

These 3 keys to success can be related to so many areas.  I am coaching a number of teams over the next few weeks and the key questions will be very similar to the Hawthorn Coach’s questions.

What are you doing well?

What can you do better?

As a Leader what 3 things can you do to make a real difference?

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