What a month for British sport!  It’s been an exciting time with the England women’s win at the Euros followed by the  Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.  Plenty ot opportunity to get some insights about motivation from sport.

I went to the Commonwealth Games last week and saw Wales men’s hockey team play Ghana – a good excuse to wear my Welsh t-shirt and wave the flag.  I also saw eight badminton matches – the fastest racquet sport – and finally athletics.  Young healthy athletes performing at their best – giving their peak performance, fulfilling their human potential.  And what a wonderful feeling when they achieve their goals.

Watching the athletes at the Games made me think about how to replicate some of their effort, excitement, and achievement at work.  We can’t operate at peak performance all the time, but we can lead others in a way that engages and inspires them to apply their talents and enjoy their work.

Motivation comes from having a sense of purpose and being persistent and resilient.

What are the insights we can get about motivation from sport?

Purpose

Have a purpose that is meaningful to you over the long-term – bigger than the short-term aim of winning a race – and one that meets your core needs for freedom, competence, belonging and fulfilling potential.

• Learn more in The Long Win by Cath Bishop (Olympic medallist).
• Check out Lewis Pugh – the first person to swim in every ocean in the world, in extremely physically and mentally challenging conditions – who talks about “the power of having a purpose”.

Persistence

Focus on the process, not the outcome – the athlete cannot control the outcome of a race – other athletes might perform better than them on the day, but they can control the process of preparing for and running the race to give themselves the best chance of winning.

• As Sarina Wiegman (England’s women’s football team manager) said before the Euros final: “I know we have done everything in our control. It might bring us a win or maybe not, but we know we have done everything within our control to do as well as possible, and that’s OK”.
• Listen to Laura Kenny reveal how she had “lost motivation” and had a “serious confidence crisis” – then managed to get “fired up” by some positive self-talk to win a gold medal.
• Build self-belief with helpful thoughts and remove the interference from unhelpful ones – see Tim Gallwey’s The Inner Game books – his approach helped me change my thoughts and improve my tennis.

Resilience

Being resilient means looking after your energy – physical, mental, emotional – so that you have enough resources to deal with challenges.

• Max Whitlock, the most successful British male artistic gymnast, 2016 double Olympic champion and winner of three world titles, talks to Simon Mundie about “determination and resilience” which kept him motivated to work hard despite setbacks.
• Kelly Holmes talks to Simon Mundie about how the power of self-belief helps her persist and be resilient. There’s a summary here.

The challenge for leaders is how to apply these lessons in our management practices

My new book has practical tools, tips and insights for these three areas of motivation. Find out who has endorsed it!