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What Stops High Performance?

What’s the biggest thing that prevents staff and students from achieving high performance and the results they want?

  • Fear (of Ofsted, failure, what others think, change or the unknown…)?
  • Procrastination and/or indecision?
  • Uncertainty or lack of knowledge?
  • Upbringing, experiences or role models?
  • Anxiety and stress?

It could be any or all of these and more!

Yet these are symptoms rather than the cause. The number one thing that prevents high performance and the achievement of results is self-talk – the things we all tell ourselves and the stories we make up.

I have been working with a small group of leaders and teachers at a school supporting vulnerable students. One of the teachers isn’t qualified and another with an English degree is teaching maths – one tells herself she isn’t a real teacher and the other that she’s a fraud!

They work with students from challenging backgrounds, who consistently tell themselves that they can’t do things or react angrily to people and situations.

And with staff and student’s under such pressure there has never been a more important time to take action. A very recent (February 2016) ASCL survey of Headteachers has just reported significant concerns and increases in student anxiety and self-harm.

So what’s the answer? It’s all about helping people raise their awareness of what is happening for them. Over 95% of what we do every day is on autopilot…from breathing through to many of the tasks we undertake and the thoughts we have that shape how we feel and behave.

We have to be aware of when we are thinking unhelpful things and how this often prevents us from achieving the performance and results we want.

It’s all about mindfulness in its full sense – not just about meditation, breathing and being calm (as important as they can be) but being so aware throughout the day that we are able to dismiss unhelpful thoughts, substitute them for positive ones and focus on facts rather than embelishing them.

This allows us to take proactive action in line with our values and goals and respond to situations we find ourselves facing, rather than spending the whole day reacting to others, events or communications we receive.

Is this easy to do? No!

We all have embedded beliefs and well trodden habits and we need to reprogramme these. It’s why coaching done well is so effective. One open question that helps someone raise awareness of the current situation and asks them to take responsibility is a great gift you can give. It gives them choice. You can also ask yourself questions and it’s why coaching is always at the heart of a high performance culture.

As well as teaching coaching to leaders, staff, students and parents, there are many other tips that can help self-talk move from positive to negative and I will share some of these in future posts and e-mails.

Recognising things that trigger unhelpful reactions and ensuring your self-talk supports what you need to achieve is how self-belief, self-worth and confidence are built and how successful people are able to try new things and continually improve performance.

One very confident and successful person is the actor Tom Hanks and when he was 18 he wrote a letter to George Roy Hill, the famous director of ‘The Sting’ – it clearly demonstrates why he was going to go on to such exceptional and long-term success.

You can see what he wrote here.

How can you help all your students (and staff) to think and take action like Tom Hanks?

I will be sharing some more hints and tips here on managing self-talk and if you would like to find out more about how we help schools improve performance and results then please get in touch now.