Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams all share a secret. Winning a tennis grand slam, like Wimbledon, is the preserve of a very small and select group of elite athletes. What is it that sets people like Andy Murray apart from millions of ‘would-be’ tennis stars?
Is it his physique? Or maybe it is his commitment to training and physical fitness? Could it be about the number of hours he trains? Perhaps he is just a lucky person? The truth is that points, games, sets, matches and grand slams are won on the court during game time, but off the court in real time. By the time Andy Murray sets foot on Centre Court, he has already won or lost the match – well almost!
Secret 1: Planning
The tactics and strategies, skills and techniques and the selection of rackets and strings used by Andy Murray in a match were planned and decided upon not on the court, but somewhere else. All of the decisions about every aspect of Andy Murray the tennis player will have been discussed, planned, practised, mastered and analysed thousands of times by the Andy Murray Team.
Planning is essential, but learning from the results of having executed plans is critical. The level and quality of planning in my experience is usually a reflection of the results achieved. The Andy Murray Team plans, plans and plans.
Secret 2: Teamwork
The Andy Murray Team will have brainstormed, analysed, reflected, planned, communicated, adjusted, rehearsed, cooperated, collaborated ….. It is also a fact that most of the Andy Murray Team do not even attend matches or see him play. They are the hundreds (if not thousands) that have played or still play a role in supporting Andy Murray to perform. Andy Murray’s team includes the ball boys and girls, his physios, coaches, advisors and sports equipment supplier, his sponsors, fans, nutritionists, drivers and agents plus many, many more. They all play a part in getting Andy Murray on to the court and making sure he is prepared and ready to perform.
Who is in your team? Do you let them know how important they are and do you share your game, set and match victories with them? Stop what you are doing now and make a list of the members of your team and then thank them for their hard work.
Secret 3: Mindset
Secret number three is the Andy Murray mind set. Like every athlete, Andy Murray knows the most meticulous planning and team work counts for nothing without having the right mind-set.
I was speaking with Derek Redmond, the world champion 400 relay gold medallist about the role of mentality in sport. He believes that he won his medals in the pre-race reporting tent by preparing his mind ready for the race.
I know many tennis players say that matches and championships are not won on the court, but in the mind. In the hour before a match, there is nothing physical that Andy Murray can do to improve his physical chances of winning, but he can work on his mind-set.
Just before a match, the only thing he can do is to focus on preparing himself mentally. At world class level, the difference between winning and losing, be it a single point, game, set or match is rarely down to the physical. I suspect that it would be almost impossible to detect any significant difference between the fitness, skills and prowess of the top players. It is often down to winning the mental battle.
Think about how your mind-set impacts on whether you have a good day or a bad day. Have you ever said, “Oh dear, this is going to be a bad day/one of those days?” When you hold a thought like that, guess what follows! My advice is learn to manage your thoughts and your mind so that you have a winning mentality just like Andy Murray.
Secret 4: Execution
All great performers are able to access their knowledge, skills experience and techniques to execute their plans. Planning and teamwork takes you so far, but having the mind-set to ensure that you execute the plan is critical. Having the ability to execute the plan effectively, including switching from Plan A to Plan B and Plan C (yes they have already been decided in advance), is about mental strength and discipline.
The thorough planning, practice, repetition, support from your team and visualising success all leads to execution of the plan. In business, one of the failings I often find is the inability to efficiently and effectively execute the plan. Believe in the plan 100 per cent and only change to a planned contingency plan (worked out in advance during the planning process) when you have concrete, measurable evidence that it is time to swap plans.
How does this relate to you?
I believe the only difference that matters between Andy Murray, you and your organisation is the context. You are engaged in many of the same activities as he is. You need to plan, you have a team, you need to have the right mind-set and you need to be able to execute your plans with the same passion and commitment as the Andy Murray Team.
The next time you watch Andy Murray, just reflect for a moment on everything and everyone that has contributed to getting him there. Then switch your focus to you and your organisation. When you appreciate the resources, support and strategies that help you perform, do what Andy Murray does – celebrate the victories with your team and ask one simple, but powerful question:
How can we improve still further?