Daniel McGinn is a senior editor at Harvard Business Review and the author of Psyched Up: How the Science of Mental Preparation Can Help You Succeed. He was also recently named one of the top 100 leadership speakers for 2018 by Inc.
Daniel wanted to write a book about mental preparation and leadership for three reasons:
- Going back to high school, Daniel was on a number of sports teams. He wasn’t a star player, but he always tried his hardest. He became fascinated by the psychological and emotional tactics that coaches used to motivate their players, especially in the minutes leading up to a game.
- When Daniel got out of school, he saw former athletes turned professionals using some of those same techniques to psych themselves up for their jobs.
- When Daniel started working at HBR, he started seeing studies supporting the efficacy of mental preparation techniques for improving performance.
It’s interesting to look at the pep talk as an example of these preparation techniques. In sports, business, and even the military, there are three elements that these pre-engagement speeches need to be effective:
- Direction. The nuts and bolts; the offensive scheme, business plan, or battle strategy.
- Empathy. The leader needs to say things that make it clear he or she personally cares for the team. Actively try to build that connection so that the team wants to please and satisfy that leader.
- Meaning-making. Whatever the task is, make it seem more important, more meaningful, or related to a larger message.
Another prevalent and intriguing mental preparation technique is the pre-game ritual, which can be simultaneously “meaningless” and effective at building confidence (or even just making someone feel more comfortable).
LeBron James will walk to the center of the court and chalk his hands, and then he takes a handful of the chalk and makes it rain over his head; Jerry Seinfeld listens to Sinatra, puts on a suit jacket five minutes before the show, and paces in a certain pattern; Daniel puts on a pair of sound-blocking headphones.
So we don’t always need to get “psyched up” to mentally prepare ourselves, but high achievers (and their mentors or coaches) develop techniques, sometimes unconsciously, that help them succeed.
Don’t be a podcast junkie…
- Learn more at PsychedUpBook.com
- Connect with Daniel on Twitter
- Read: Psyched Up: How the Science of Mental Preparation Can Help You Succeed
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