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Social Sector ‘Athletes’ – Reaching Peak Performance in 2015


Thursday, 18th December 2014 at 10:54 am
Lina Caneva, Editor
As leaders we can learn a lot from world athletes, writes Lali Wiratunga, National Marketing Manager, Social Sector Banking at Westpac, who offers his thoughts on how Social Sector leaders can improve their own performance in 2015.

Thursday, 18th December 2014
at 10:54 am
Lina Caneva, Editor


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Social Sector ‘Athletes’ – Reaching Peak Performance in 2015
Thursday, 18th December 2014 at 10:54 am

As leaders we can learn a lot from world athletes, writes Lali Wiratunga, National Marketing Manager, Social Sector Banking at Westpac, who offers his thoughts on how Social Sector leaders can improve their own performance in 2015.Lali Wiratunga.jpg

It took 76 years to run 0.7 seconds faster in the 100 metres. Usain Bolt stormed to 100 metres glory at the London Olympics 2012 and in the process shaved 0.7seconds or 7 per cent from Jesse Owens record at the Berlin Olympics 1936.

I. It starts in the mind

Strength, speed and drive may all be words usually associated with an athlete. However, perhaps it is mental training that is the key determinant of consistent peak performance at the elite level.  In the same way for leaders in organisations – it is our state of mind that helps determine our levels of resilience, our ability to lead with confidence and our ability to achieve high performance.

2. Choosing to maintain a positive attitude

Knowledge, skills and passion may secure a great role – however it is a positive attitude that will sustain the Social Sector athlete.

According to Shawn Achor in a Harvard Business Review article, “happy employees have about 31 per cent higher productivity and three times more creativity”.  (Read more here for Achor’s article in the Harvard Business Review on how to train the mind to concentrate on the positives instead of the negatives in our daily life.)

3. Set high realistic goals

Goal setting is one of the most important skills taught to help achieve optimal performance. The goal-setting process helps athletes understand where they want to go.  

The following link offers some great insights and fact-sheets on SMART goal setting that applies to all of us not just champion athletes. In this context SMART stands for:

  • Set Specific Goals
  • Set Measurable Goals
  • Set Attainable Goals
  • Set Relevant Goals
  • Set Time bound goals

4. Deal effectively with people

Skilled leaders of people are critical to an organisations success. A good manager will attract the right people, help drive the community organisation’s performance, help retain the best employees and maximise performance. A critical question that all leaders should consider is, “How can I get excellent performance out of my team members while helping them grow?” Read more on the steps to stimulate learning and development in a Harvard Business Review article here.

5. Positive self-talk

According to Headspace, positive self-talk is: “any thought you think, or any speech you say to yourself that uplifts your social, moral, spiritual well-being and results in improvement. Positive self-talk can be used for greater confidence, adopting a healthier lifestyle and reducing stress.”

6. Positive mental imagery

Whenever we imagine ourselves performing an action in the absence of physical practice, we are said to be using imagery.There is no correct way to practice mental imagery.  It is all left up to individual preferences and the present circumstances. Successful athletes may ease imagery during competition to prepare for action and recover from errors and poor performances. Srini Pillay, Assistant Clinical Professor at Harvard Medical School and a teacher on the Executive Education Program at Harvard Business School, suggests that visualisation can be a method to guide people and teams to success. He says, “Rather than simply having a business plan, they make a mental movie of a business plan.” To read more, click here.

7. Concentration

Athletes have found several strategies to help them stay motivated and focused during the years they spend in training for events. They are the epitome of people who crave high stimulation but focus exceptionally well to achieve their dreams and goals. Equally leaders in any organisation can learn from athletes on focusing on what’s most important in any given moment.

Following some of these tips may help you find that extra 7 per cent, just like Usain Bolt, to reach your peak performance in 2015.

About the author:  

Lali Wiratunga is the National Marketing Manager, Social Sector Banking at Westpac. To ask a question, email socialsectorbanking@westpac.com.au. Connect with Lali Wiratunga via LinkedIn

 For reference:

Click here for Owens (1936) race Bolt (2012)

Achor, S. (2012). Positive intelligence: Three ways individuals can cultivate their own sense of well-being and set themselves up to succeed. Harvard Business Review, 90(1/2), 100-102.        

Mental Skills Training Using the “Nine Mental Skills of Successful Athletes” Model Mindfulness and Positive Thinking


Lina Caneva  |  Editor |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years, and Editor of Pro Bono Australia News since it was founded in 2000.

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