“A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.”
Tom Landry, NFL Coach.
Whenever I work with someone on unlocking potential, I start with this:
Performance = Potential – Interference
Tim Gallwey’s brilliant Inner Game formula is a magical place to start. Because consider now: what might you achieve, if you removed all interference?
If all obstacles, internal and external, were set aside; if you abandoned and upgraded old ways of thinking and behaving that have kept you stuck; if you brought your most powerful self to the game, every time?
Whatever the focus of your next-level potential, challenge yourself with these twenty ideas – and get to grips with the changes you need to make to unlock new performance.
#1 You’re not clear on the goal.
Everything starts with the goal. An obvious thing to say – yet many/most of us focus on the problems and the obstacles – and whilst only having only a vague idea of the goal. Always start with (and keep coming back to!) the goal. And check that you’re crystal-clear on it – and completely connected to it.
#2 You’re not clear on the goal behind the goal.
Why are you doing what you’re doing? What’s most important to you about that? What will that lead to? How does your goal connect to the higher purpose? Get clear on the goal behind the goal.
#3 You’re not clear on the strategy.
This is where many get stuck. And it reminds us that setting an end goal is only part of the story. We need performance goals and work goals to complement – and achieve – the end goal. Move yourself from Vision thinking to Planning thinking. Get clear on the work you need to do, day-in, day-out. And stick to it.
#4 You’re not aligned with your true values.
Whether specific goal work or just (!) the day-to-day, to live and work in conflict with our values creates massive interference. To be once again congruent, get to know your values. And I mean: your actual values, as opposed to the values you think you should or would like to have!
#5 You’re not investing in the right projects.
There’s work that moves us forward. And there’s work that doesn’t. And we know the difference – but act like we don’t. Can you honestly say you’re investing your precious and exhaustible energies in all the right places? Or is it disappearing into low value activities and positive procrastination? Take a mental step back and know which are the projects where the heavy investments need to be.
#6 You’re not choosing to believe the right things.
Beliefs are the stories we tell ourselves – and attach to, as if they’re undeniable truths. We get to choose our beliefs – but you might not think it, given how unhelpful some of the choices we make are. Reflect now: what are you choosing to believe? About yourself. And about what’s possible. Are those helpful beliefs? Or beliefs that are in desperate need of an upgrade?
#7 You’re not working enough on YOU.
We can all-too-easily fixate on the goal, the strategy, the actions. And all the while, neglect self. And how many systems do you know whose standards don’t deteriorate when neglected? Notice now: how little you’re working on YOU (it’ll be reflected in your calendar and on your ToDo list, I’m sure!). Address that imbalance.
#8 You’re lacking outside accountability.
There’s something very motivating about telling someone you’ve done what you said you would do. (Or is that: avoiding telling someone you haven’t done what you said you would?) Find an accountability partner.
#9 You’ve allowed yourself to plateau.
It’s a welcome place to be: knowing you’re in total command of your role. Knowing exactly what you’re doing and effortlessly hitting a high standard. But take a different frame and we might call that a plateau. And for all its seductions, the bottom line: I’m not growing, learning, moving forward. When you get comfortable, it’s time to renew the challenge.
#10 You’re not focused enough on the behavioural.
At your level, it’s not about the technical. Because you know your job and you know it well. At your level, it’s about the behavioural. What behaviours do you need to work on and develop? And what behaviours do you need to stop doing?
#11 You’re not doing enough to look after your energy.
Unlocking potential is about winning an inner game – and then finding the resources to go achieve it. Things like motivation, inspiration, balance and energy. What are you doing to fuel yourself for the journey?
#12 You’re not making decisions.
Indecision is the root of stuckness. We become paralysed at inaction, for fear of making a mistake or missing out or looking silly. And we forget how great it feels to make a decision. Any decision. So for those times when we feel totally stuck, just decide. Simple as that. Find a small decision you can make. Then another. And then another. Don’t stop making decisions. And reacquaint yourself with the decision-making habit
#13 You’re not clear on the “little” things getting in the way.
Tolerations, frustrations, niggles. They add up: quickly and significantly! Make a list now of all the things you’re tolerating, however small. Push yourself for a list of at least 20 things – it’ll be hard at first, but then they’ll flow! And notice just how much interference is out there. Make the commitment now: remove all tolerations!
#14 You don’t know yourself well enough.
This happens in two ways: we decide we’re a certain way, and so rarely see evidence to the contrary (not least because we strive to make ourselves be right about that!); or we just don’t see what is so clear to others. Who is alongside you, noticing (without judgement) how you’re doing your potential – or lack of it?
#15 You’re not acknowledging your successes.
What are you not taking credit for? What losses are you over-inflating and/or failing to view as feedback? What learning are you leaving behind that you could be carrying forward to unlock new potential? In short: who’s there to tame the inner gremlin? Who’s there to catch you doing things right?
#16 You’re not asking good enough questions.
There’s no point in complaining about things that haven’t worked or resources you don’t have. What’s needed is a better question. Whenever “disaster” strikes, build the habit of finding the better question.
#17 You’re not asking brave enough questions.
What questions are you not asking, for fear of moving into areas you dare not take yourself? Our best thinking and most inspired action exists in those dark corners. If you won’t ask yourself the question – find someone who will!
#18 You’re just not playing at the next level.
At some point, we just need to notice we’re simply not playing at the upper level. And that’s a useful thought: because when you see it, you see it everywhere: the company you keep, the environments you place yourself in, the language you use (externally and internally), the way you behave, the priorities you set, the decisions you take. Commit now: play your game at a whole new level.
#19 You’ve already decided.
My favourite potential-limiting obstacle to uncover and do away with: the decision-already-made. I can’t. I won’t. I don’t have the time. That’s just the way I am. That’s not possible. And when you’ve already decided, you’ve set the bar low. Undo that decision, raise the bar – and clear it!
The 20th reason
I can’t say the reason you’re not achieving your potential is because you don’t have a coach. Because that’s not how coaching works. There’s no “should” or “must have” or “need” with coaching. It’s just a question of whether we want it or not.
But notice now: if you had a coach (and by all means: name your own impassioned inner voice “coach”!) the difference it might make to all the other reasons you’re not achieving your potential.
Personally, I believe through-and-through in the power of coaching. I have my own coach and have had for years – but not because “I should have coaching” or “I must have coaching” or “I need coaching”.
I have coaching because I love having someone who believes in me. I love having someone who holds me accountable to a bigger, brighter and more resourceful version of myself. Who helps me overcome obstacles and play at a whole new level.
So, back to basics: Performance = Potential – Interference.