Lessons From a High Performance Coach
Fergus Connolly knows what it takes to get the best out of people.
As a high-performance consultant, Fergus has worked with a plethora of sports teams and organisations, such as the San Francisco 49ers, University of Michigan, and Liverpool F.C., to name a few.
In 2020 Fergus put his knowledge and experience of high-performance and business coaching into a book – “The Happiness Handbook for High Achievers: Stoics, Circles and Sheepdogs”.
Foundations To High Performance
“The book came about after I had consulted for a lot of NFL teams and then working on the ground with the San Francisco 49ers. We had many experienced high performers, and something I had noticed amongst all high performers, and this was also true in the corporate sector, was that the struggles they had had nothing to do with their ability to play the game,” explained Fergus.
“It was other stuff off the field, so to speak, that was impacting their ability to perform.”
By providing the players with life coaching in addition to sports performance coaching, Fergus was able to help them become happier, improve their skills and achieve their goals.
Methods To High Performance
One key method of his high-performance and business coaching is encouraging his clients to be authentic and show vulnerability.
“The greatest performers I’ve been around have been genuine and authentic. To truly continue to develop, you need to be honest with yourself privately. So that means not lying to yourself,” said Fergus.
“But we all do it. For example, we come home tired, and we’re short with our partner. So we need to be aware of, OK, I’ve had three days of very hard work. I know when I go home, there’s a chance I might be a bit irritable. So taking a moment to be aware of that and having a coping strategy for it is important.”
It’s also vital to be open and honest with team-mates/work colleagues.
However, when it comes to vulnerability, Fergus warns that there are some limits.
“I think you can only be vulnerable with people who genuinely have your best interests at heart. In a competitive environment, you can’t be vulnerable all of the time. You can’t expose vulnerabilities with the wrong people, just like you can’t do it on the field.”
“Sometimes you need to get, you know, a little kick in the backside. But then there are other times you need an arm around you. And so, knowing how to help and support people is critical. That’s the difference between good managers and managers who are not successful.”
Another critical area for optimal performance is adaptability.
“Sport is an excellent way to look at certain things because it’s a fixed, closed environment. However, within that, there are chaotic moments where teams have to adjust and adapt. And so it’s a wonderful way to demonstrate in small examples how players and athletes can adapt in the short term within a game and over their career.”
Fergus says that’s also something he stresses with his business coaching clients.
“Adaptability is important for CEOs and executives too. They have to adjust, adapt and develop to continue to sustain performance.”
However, at the core of his business coaching, Fergus says there are two important lessons to take into account:
“In the corporate space, leaders need to remember that we’re all human beings with the same fears and needs. And the second thing is principles – it’s essential to understand what those key principles are. The biggest mistake is focussing on the methods.”
“So people saying I have to get up at four-thirty every morning and work out. That’s what I have to do because that’s what everybody else says. No, you don’t have to do. That’s the method. The principle is, yes, you do have to have a certain amount of discipline. Yes, you do have to have a certain amount of physical activity. Now, how that works for you specifically, that’s where you can figure it out, or you and a coach can figure it out.”
Effects of COVID on High Performance
Fergus hopes that the current situation with the Covid-19 pandemic and the adaptation of work structures will lead to positive changes in the business world’s approach to wellbeing.
“I think it’s given awareness to a lot of leaders about the importance of taking care of themselves and their employees. And again, being adaptable because you’re working with people who maybe have kids and have spent the morning teaching long division to their child. Recognising that people are doing their best, helping them, and having empathy and understanding will be one of the positive outcomes of this situation.”
We want to take this opportunity to thank Fergus Connolly for sharing his knowledge with The Athlete Tribe. We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog. If you’d like to check out the full interview, head over to our YouTube Channel and listen to the podcast.