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The DNA of a winning mindset

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Bill Walsh said that “Winners act like winners before they are winners” which indicates that you have to assume the traits of someone who thinks, feel and behaves like they attract success in order to do so.

By comparison, fixed mindsets are those that are often closed to opportunity for growth and that can be the result of a number of factors; from fear of failure to fear of success itself.

Strong leaders have a right to expect their teams to commit to the highest level of actions possible and to create a personal level of professionalism as a solid foundation for future success.

At this point, it’s important to add that there is no finite destination. Even those who achieve Olympic gold medals, by their very nature, strive for a new horizon. When we talk about ‘excellence’ we give ourselves a false sense of attainment in a way, as how do you measure excellence? How can you define it so that each part of the whole understands his or her accountability when it comes to the contribution that collectively creates success?

I prefer to talk about ‘continuous improvement’ because winners never stand still. They face each day with fresh enthusiasm regardless of high how the mountain is that stands before them.

What does it take to be a winner?

While personalities are unique, there are some consistent themes that can be drawn when it comes to defining the traits of a winning mindset.

With talent comes responsibility and the ability to manage pressure effectively. Winners are able to take calculated risks to ensure they are at their optimum when outside their comfort zone – where the real magic happens. Having self-belief is essential and being able to ‘dream big’ and be motivated. However, talent has to be partnered with hard work or it will never achieve its full potential.



There is a lot to be said for tenacity. Take Andy Murray, whose relentless pursuit of Wimbledon glory and Olympic success he proclaims is down to “resolute commitment and persistence.” It is this single-mindedness to succeed that ensures winners are focused when the pressure can cause others to implode and lose their nerve.

The road to success often undulates and is rarely a smooth one. It takes great strength of character to face the setbacks that inevitably turn up along the way. For this reason, winners also need have:

-    Integrity
-    Humility
-    A conscience
-    The ability to accept and respond to challenges

Collectively, these all become the components of a strong leader. 

Consistent success isn't a happy accident

Creating winning mindsets is as much the responsibility of leadership as it is of individual team members. Culture will always precede results in a winning environment, which means you have a chance of being a championship club not merely a championship team! 

If you want your people to believe that they can be a part of something special then you need to enable individuals to value the importance of the traits of a winner so that they can make the transition and take it to the next level.

The ability to win consistently isn’t a happy accident. It is a natural product of culture, fostered by forward thinking, innovation and considerate, intuitive leadership. This is not a five-minute fix but a process of longevity that can be arduous and sometimes very fractious.

Organisational structure and culture pave the way for success. Leaders should look within to ask whether the culture they have created is strong enough to support its strategies, because if it is not then lasting success is unlikely. However, it is a team effort and everyone must play their part. Success is not attributed solely to the top tier of an organisation, but to every single element within it. 

Fostering winning mindsets

As a leader, you can influence the creation of winning mindsets by:

•         Preaching hard work before talent

•         Keeping a check on emotions (both your team and your own), especially when things go wrong or when you achieve success. Balance is vital at all times

•         Creating a bank account of “success memories” for positive affirmations (constant reference to good thing. This is inherent within ‘feed forward’ communication which draws on motivators rather than focusing retrospectively on faults)

•         Encouraging team members to feed off the success of others for energy - it is contagious and very powerful

•         Recognising that when others see obstacles, they see challenges and relish the opportunities they bring

•         Knowing that failure is inevitable and is part of the success equation, but only as a catalyst for learning and future wins 

The toxic disease of complacency

All success must be a collective experience - as Bill Walsh (San Francisco 49ers) stated, “Share the glory”. Complacency is the most toxic disease of all. It can happen quite spontaneously, however it often takes time to take a real hold and eventually drives a wedge of discord in the environment, which can be extremely damaging. Pat Reilly referred to the “Disease of me” which became evident in the LA Lakers’ locker room when some success started to occur. Leaders should keep a check on:

•         Petty rivalries developing
•         Greed and selfishness being displayed (tell-tale comments like “I did that”… “I made that happen”)
•         Factions dividing loyalties

An important lesson to remember is that no single person is greater than the team itself and that everyone need to collectively adhere to the leader’s standard of performance – an overarching vision that keeps the team united, dynamic and focused on success.
 

Peter Lowe

By Peter Lowe

Peter is the former head of development at Manchester City FC, and is the founder of First Team Ltd.

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