Like many other people I recently watched the Champions League final (Football/Soccer) between Chelsea FC and Bayern Munich FC.
In summary, despite being outplayed for much of the game and falling a goal behind late in the game, Chelsea managed to score an equaliser with only a few minutes remaining. This led to and extra period of play where they also had a penalty awarded against them which their goalkeeper saved, leading to the game being settled by penalties. Bayern led these but then ultimately they let their lead slip and Chelsea scored theirs to win the game.
This got me thinking, what is it that stops us performing to our maximum? All of those players were/are capable of putting the ball exactly where they want it, so why did some miss their penalties and is this relevant in other jobs.
At first sight, there appear to be two factors that influenced the penalty taker.
The first is simply physical, they are tired: most had just played for two hours at a speed and technical level most of us will never achieve.
Second, pressure told: the goalkeeper has less pressure as he is not expected to save the attempt, so if he does he is a hero - the only way is up. Conversely, the penalty taker is expected to score so for him the only way is down.
Pressure is a strange thing as it seems to affect some more than others. A psychologist told me once that pressure is created internally by ourselves and not by external factors, which may explain why some can perform when others cannot when external factors are the same. In the game, there is the influence the crowd try to bring to bear as well as the knowledge of many millions of people watching. I would however, argue that the external factors act as a catalyst and fuel for the pressure even if it is ultimately built up within ourselves.
To me though there are two more factors at play, knowledge and luck!
The goalkeeper may have been advised that players tend to aim at the same side of the goal. This knowledge may give him a better chance of making a save, by playing the percentages.
Luck also becomes relevant as the keeper may go the correct way, make a save but the ball ricochets off a post and in or off a post and away to safety. The penalty taker may slip etc.
Are any or all of these factors relevant in the business world?
Physically, we all have days when we feel out of sorts and even the simplest of tasks seem to require extra effort. Days like this often separate the successful from the unsuccessful as tasks or activities get put to one side leading to delay or failure. Physically we all have a limit where our bodies will tell us to stop doing a task, the key is asking yourself WHY your body is telling you this. If you are tired, hungry etc, you will obviously not perform as well as when fresh and well fed.
Of course, illness and injury also play a part in our ability to perform to a high standard (or at all) and depending on the extent and severity of the malady, there may be very little we can do to achieve the goal or task we have set ourselves and it may be better to not even attempt it.
The key here is make sure you are physically prepared to take on the task. Staggering into work after little rest and no breakfast is likely to result in only one level of performance - LOW!
Mental strength is often key to achieving goals and terms like "Positive Mental Attitude" are bandied around as a general panacea. It is certainly true that believing you can achieve a goal or task will make you more likely to succeed than not believing. I have seen this when coaching many times, especially when coaching fencing. A fencer I know was always able to complete a particular action when practicing but without fail couldn't replicate the move when actually fighting. We analysed this over and over and tried to examine what mental block seemed to be preventing this action. Eventually NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) work helped eliminate the block which was primarily caused by fear of being struck by his opponent while executing the move.
In the business world, mental belief is especially relevant when attempting to "sell" something whether a physical product or an idea. If mentally you are at low point, try reminding yourself of successes you have had and focus on the first and most immediate step you must take. If the first step is plucking up courage to approach someone with an idea then focus on achieving that because once we start something we are more likely to continue!
Knowledge is also a key factor in business performance. Without the correct knowledge you are relying on luck to influence your business performance. Simply, the key is to ensure you have the relevant, up to date knowledge and have anticipated the requirements of your customer so you are best prepared. NB: no one is ever fully prepared as there is always the possibility of a question you could never anticipate.
Where possible try to find out as much about clients as possible so you can target you knowledge requirements. If you need specialist knowledge then surround yourself with people who have this knowledge and if necessary delegate tasks to them. You don't have to be an expert yourself, just have access to one!
Luck! Does luck play a part in business performance? Well in my opinion it does. The chance conversation overheard, meeting a person that helps or hinders your performance, The transport delay that leads to a missed meeting etc etc.
Can we beat bad luck? Well, we may not be able to stop something happening but we can look for an opportunity to turn it to our advantage. Partly this is around planning for "bad luck" but also not just blaming circumstance and giving up. Develop an attitude of looking for alternatives, whether they be suppliers, customers, solutions, staff etc. The more you do this, the more adaptable you will be.
As always, these are just my thoughts and are not intended as a definitive treatise, so feel free to discuss, agree, disagree etc.
I've been working in training and development for more than twenty-five years now including twenty-three coaching.