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Laura Phelps-Naqvi

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Would your team win gold?

Wickland Westcott recently hosted a leadership event with guest speaker Damian Hughes* from Liquid Thinker. Damian, Sports Psychologist, author and change catalyst, shared his experience of working with elite athletes and senior executives in building high performing teams.

Damian highlighted that teams at the top of their game consistently excel against their competition and combine a strong team ethos with the dedication, motivation and discipline of each individual member. Leaders play a critical role in unlocking this team potential and Damian went on to describe how common obstacles to doing this can be overcome.

For example, recognising that high performance demands focused effort, Damian highlighted how team members can easily lose sight of the standards of behaviour they know are required to be successful. High performing teams set themselves superior targets and live up to them, checking and challenging one another to ‘walk the talk’. Leaders need to facilitate this process, helping people define and commit to what good looks like and holding people accountable when their standards drop.

Similarly, delegates also heard about how basic emotional needs influence the way we react to perceived threats. We all have a desire to belong, and feel safe, valued and in control. This links to our fight-flight-freeze response, i.e. whether we outfight, outrun or hide when we feel stressed or under pressure. The leaders of high performing teams understand that pressure affects different people in different ways. They reduce the risk that team members will adopt one of these three responses at crucial times by reinforcing feelings of safety, belonging, and control. At the event, a healthy debate then ensued concerning the application of these ideas to senior and executive teams, with delegates sharing examples of fight, flight and freeze behaviours within their organisations.

Wickland Westcott would like to thank Damian Hughes and Grant Thornton for supporting the event and the delegates for their participation in the discussion. The Talent Management Group is a networking and thought leadership forum. For more information on joining the group, or the ideas described above, contact a member of the Wickland Westcott Talent Team.

*Damian, a former England schoolboy footballer and Manchester United football coach, was previously a Human Resource Director for Unilever. He works with a wide range of organisations and professional sports teams to help build a winning environment. Damian’s new book ‘How to change absolutely anything’ is available to buy online and in stores.

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