Performance psychology focuses on those factors that enable individuals, teams and groups to flourish and become the best that they can be.
It is a long away from other branches of psychology that are often steeped in malady and dysfunction.
Instead performance psychology combines business, sports and positive psychology, with the ultimate aim of looking for ideal outcomes.
To this end, it encourages individuals to be successful by helping them develop the power of their own minds as a result of practicing mental skills training on a daily basis - as they would if they were undertaking any other form of technical or learning-based training.
Such mental skills training enables people to reach peak performance, often under extreme pressure, whether in a business environment or on the sports field.
Interest in using well-researched sporting techniques within the world of business has grown over recent times as organisations seek to reapply lessons in sporting excellence to their own environments. The Harvard Business Review described the phenomenon as long ago as 2001 in an article entitled the 'Corporate Athlete'.
But there are a number of benefits to organisations of introducing mental skills training in particular. These include individuals performing at high levels on a daily basis; reduced staff turnover and related recruitment costs; a better working environment and an improved bottom line due to staff becoming more efficient and effective.
Employees and managers are also likely to become more motivated and engaged as well as more focused on achieving individual or team goals. They should likewise find they can communicate better as well as be more creative in how they go about solving customer problems.
Other advantages include being able to bounce back from setbacks more effectively; identify critical moments in a given situation; take the right calculated risks and develop the endurance to see a challenge through.
These changes are produced by employing a ‘Mindset 12’ set of psychological skills-based training areas in order to boost individuals’ direction, drive, control and mastery of their working day.
The 12 training areas comprise:
- Professional attitude
- Psychological preparation
- Emotional control
- Mental rehearsal
- Thoughts control
- Mental toughness
- Team dynamics and cohesion.
Organisations such as Proctor & Gamble, Google, PepsiCo, Dell, Merrill Lynch, 3M, Microsoft and the US Army have already embraced performance psychology as part of their staff and executive development activity, not least to try and cut the costs that result from employee disengagement.
In these challenging economic times, however, it is also clear that modern businesses need to change in order to compete effectively in emerging and fragmented markets, which are characterised by shifting customer profiles, demanding buyers and new product and service offerings.
As a result, arming staff and managers with new skills of this type may be an answer. It may also be one of the cheapest options available.
A key issue is that employees have in the past all too often received training and development that was both piecemeal and expensive, but that had little focus on boosting mental functions - except in cases of poor behaviour or dysfunction.
This situation is starting to change, however. Organisations are beginning to take a leaf out of sport’s book and look at approaches that are underpinned by science and delivered by qualified and professional trainers to give them an edge.
As to how HR directors can best go about implementing training schemes based on performance psychology principles, they will need to undertake the same kind of rigorous planning that they would if introducing more technical training.
This planning should include developing suitable goals and objectives as well as ensuring there is a commitment to generating individual and team improvements. It will also need to look at whether a blended learning approach should be adopted, which could include everything from workshops and e-learning to personal coaching.
But organisations also have the option to train up their own in-house mental skills coaches or employ a third party, preferably with experience of both the sports and business worlds. Whichever tack is taken, however, HR directors will need to assign suitable budget and resources to the initiative.
There are a number of important considerations, meanwhile, in order to ensure a successful outcome. For instance, failure all too often results when:
- Changes to attitudes, commitment levels and working environments are not communicated adequately
- Skills are not maintained through deliberate and regular practice
- A tangible return on investment is not identified and measured
- Management styles are too theoretical and
- A lack of clear understanding brings apathy and poor motivation levels.
However, get these issues right and your initiative will succeed. Even more importantly, it will help your employees gain the mental edge required to ensure that the organisation wins the competitive advantage that it craves.
Geoff Greenwood is a business consultant at Global Business Training & Development. Some 25 copies of his book entitled 'The 12 biggest business problems you cannot solve...are all really mental' are available free-of-charge to members of HRzone's community here.