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Confidence–considered a common and necessary element for success. We often believe that those who are confident will succeed. A recent study provides some intriguing insight into just how confidence can contribute to high performing teams. Two studies were conducted with soccer teams to determine if players’ confidence in either the team’s ability or the game outcome influenced team performance.
While the players’ confidence correlated with the team playing well, it did not necessarily predict the game outcome. In other words, team members’ confidence had an impact on the quality of their playing performance, but not necessarily on winning. In part, the researchers believed that confidence influenced individual and team performance, but it could not influence the play of the other team, the referee’s calls, or just plain luck. Put another way, your confidence influences your own actions, but not the actions of others or flukes.
Another important finding was that players’ confidence can change during the game. The researchers found that if the players gained confidence in the first half of the game, it positively impacted their performance in the second half.
This study offers some great news for managers and leaders. Based on the findings of this study, three strategies for building team confidence are recommended.
First, when leaders strive to enhance each team member’s confidence in an individualized way, it contributes to the total team confidence. Attempts to elevate the entire team’s confidence through collective actions such as a motivational speech to the entire group were less effective than coaches’ appeals to the motivating factors of each individual.
Second, bolstering individuals’ confidence in the team strategy was also found more effective than imposing unrealistic expectations on individual and team performance. Focusing on unrealistic overconfidence at the start of a game often led to confidence collapses during the game if the team’s performance falls short. A game plan provides a more stable source of confidence as game plans require time to work out—and they can always be modified or even replaced without shaking the players’ confidence in themselves.
Third, peer leaders within the team played a key role in enhancing the team’s confidence and preventing downward performance spirals. Verbal persuasion was an effective strategy for increasing players’ confidence in the team. Team confidence building was facilitated if key players used their leader status to affect their teammates’ confidence positively. As such, an important task for mangers and coaches is to make peer leaders aware of their potential and responsibility as role models in the team.
I called Roger last week to discuss some business in Taiwan. He and I do consulting and coaching for the Taiwan National Athletic Team. Roger Kingdom has twice won the Olympic Gold Medal in high hurdles. Currently, he is a Strength and Conditioning coach for the NFL Arizona Cardinals. At the time of my call, the Cardinals had just lost to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship game. Despite a great season, that loss left the Cardinals one game short of playing in the Super Bowl this coming Sunday. Early in our conversation, I attempted to convey my condolences to Roger on what had to be a disappointing, if not devastating, loss. Roger quickly and flatly replied, “You win or you learn.”
There was no disappointment in his voice; clearly no devastation, no complaining, no blaming bad luck, no ‘we shoulda done…” no excuses, and no ‘we’ll get ‘em next year!” I listened to Roger clarify his statement. Long ago I discovered that Roger Kingdom is intelligent, articulate, experienced and confident without a hint of arrogance. In short, he’s worth listening to. And having earned the top spot on the champion’s podium in two different Olympic Games, he knows something about winning and being a champion.
The undercurrents of a winner’s thinking were evident in his explanation: “We can learn a lot from that game. If we can figure out what we need to work on and improve, then we will be playing in the Super Bowl next year.” Roger recognizes the need to change for success to be gained. He understands success takes work; often a lot of work. And finally, he knows that success results from continuous improvement. What is not needed is dwelling on disappointments or thinking about what might have been. Winners focus on solutions, losers on problems. ”You win or you learn.”
In undertaking research for a new book, I’ve spent most of this week in Widener Library at Harvard University. Every morning I climb a set of stairs to my favorite ‘hideaway’ in the reference room. Half way up those stairs there is a door that opens into a beautiful walnut paneled room displaying rare, first edition books. Holding the prominent place in the center of that room and locked securely in an airtight glass case rests a Gutenberg Bible–one of only 48 known to exist today. As someone currently writing a book, this Bible represents a tremendous source of inspiration–but not for its’ traditional intention.
Being one of the original books to ever be printed on a moveable type printing press may serve as inspiration to some. Billions of printed books have followed from the one you see pictured here. Inspiration might also come from the shear beauty of the book–it resembles fine art more than a book for a casual reader. Others may also draw inspiration from the priceless value of the book. The last Gutenberg Bible to be sold was in 1985 for $5.4 million; and that wasn’t even a complete copy. The estimate value today runs to over $30 million. But beyond the book itself is a story and it is that story that provides me the greatest inspiration.
Johannes Gutenberg was born and buried in the German city of Mainz along the Rhein river. His training as a blacksmith provided him the knowledge and skills to design and build the first moveable type printing press. Being from a wine-growing region, Gutenberg fashioned the printing press much like a wine press. With a loan from his brother-in-law, Gutenberg had constructed a workable press by 1450. With the assistance from additional loans, Gutenberg printed about 180 copies of his now famous Bible by 1455; one of which I am looking at while I type this blog. But Gutenberg’s Bible project was more expensive than originally projected and the slow sales of the expensive book prevented him from repaying his loans. Consequently, he lost his printing shop and press and was to produce no more Bibles. In lieu of loan repayment, investor Johann Furst took over the printing shop, but gave no credit to Gutenberg for the Bibles or the invention and construction of the printing press.
As the popularity of the printing press grew, historians recognized that it was the development of the mechanical moveable type printing press–Gutenberg’s press–that ignited the Printing Revolution. To this day, Gutenberg’s invention is widely regarded as the singularly most important event influencing the modern era of man. But when Gutenberg died in 1468, his contributions were largely unknown and unrecognized. It would take another century before historians began crediting him with both the press and the beautiful Bibles.
In his lifetime, Gutenberg never realized the imprint he would leave, not just on paper, but on mankind. And in that story, there is unintended inspiration from Gutenberg’s Bible. In our daily work and life, we often have little understanding of the impact we have on others or the world. But just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean it is not there.
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