Frank Dick OBE is one of the country's best loved sports personalities. From 1979 to 1994, he was the British Athletics Federation's Director of Coaching, where he was widely acknowledged as and remains one of the outstanding sports coaches and coach mentors in the world. In this position Frank led the British Athletics team into its "golden era" with Olympic gold medalists such as Daley Thompson, Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe. Frank personally trained Daley Thompson and created training programmes for individuals such as Gerhard Berger, Katarina Witt, Boris Becker and Justin Rose.
Frank currently coaches business owners and helps them to attain their personal best. My business partner Kurt Won and I caught up with him recently, and the result was the fascinating interview below.
How do you create a winning mentality in sports?
I think this starts with defining winning from the very outset as about performance - both personal, and in teams, collective. While you do not have total control over results, you certainly do have total control over your performance. Once that's clearly understood the idea is to perform better today than yesterday - every day, whether in the arena, in preparation for it and in how you live your life. This, not just when you feel like it and conditions are perfect, but when you don't, when the conditions are not what you'd prefer, and doing so under pressure on the day! So a winning mentality is built over time through experiencing challenges and, with thoughtful coaching and mentoring, learning from such experience.
A winning mentality is not something you can be taught. It can only be learned.
Challenge then becomes a learning advantage, not a threat.
And piece by piece those characteristics that make for a winning mentality are brought together. Characteristics such as persistence, patience, resilience, focus, self-discipline, emotional control, considered risk taking and driving beyond what others see as limits are all part of this.
How can this be applied to business?
All of this can be applied to business because we know for sure that if we are to achieve targets and get the results we need, it comes down to people delivering great performance in carrying out their roles and responsibilities personally; in the teams that make up the business; and in the greater team that is the business.
Copyright: Frank Dick OBE
Personal endurance is a necessity in sports. What are your tips for developing this in business?
Endurance is not just a physical thing. It also has a mental and emotional dimension. Athletes going the distance during each training session are not only testing heart, lung and muscle but attitude to see things through when things get tough. I believe that by building into our weekly routine times to do an aerobic endurance workout, we not only burn off the fallout of stress and give our heart, circulation and respiratory system healthful activity, we maintain the fitness we need to be effective in the workplace and build such characteristics as persistence and resilience. There are loads of options for such workouts - walking, jogging, cycling, swimming and of course, the several machines available in gyms. Personally, I find I can think through issues and come up with ideas during an hour's walk - and know I get through work more effectively and efficiently once back at my desk.
Why is it important to have a coach in business?
A coach who is a good listener, communicator and lateral thinker, and can facilitate the process of turning talk to effective action is gold dust! Whether coaching or mentoring, a good coach variously uses sessions with you to effectively address challenge, and support your ownership of personal development and performance.
The process keeps delivery of your role and responsibilities in the business aligned with long term vision whilst meeting short and medium term targets and results. In both business and personal life, the coach:
• Celebrates your achievement
• Supports your endeavour
• Challenges your underperformance
In all businesses I believe there should be a coaching culture throughout the organisation with each person scoring 'A's in their 3 'R's. Each 'R' is a responsibility:
• Responsibility for your own performance
• Responsibility for your own development
• Responsibility for coaching others.
In this way each of us learns from the experience of others and helps others learn from ours. This is not only a function of strong leadership but of all levels of player in the business "team."
Sometimes, the lowest performers on a team have to be coached to give one extra point. How do you personally coach the lowest performers on a team to give their best?
The fact is that whether in sport or business, you will have a range of ability in your teams. For illustration, let's imagine that the superstars in your team are the people who can deliver the highest possible score of ten points. At the other end of things there are players who are worth one point on paper. Then there are some who are worth five points and so on. As a coach, leader or manager, you must ensure that the whole team recognises the value of each player's contribution. When they do, the climate is set not only for each player to have motivation to raise their game, but also for players to support each other in their endeavour to do so. The person who is worth one point delivering two gives the team the same advantage as the five point player scoring six. And of course, the ten point player must deliver all ten points! In other words each player has their own mountain to climb. All must know that getting to the top of their mountain matters for them and for the team.
How have you seen the sporting industry change over the years?
The sporting industry in terms of business has grown from a small player in the world economy to one of the major players. In the sportswear sector, once sportswear was seen as overlapping the world of fashion rather than being simply functional, it really took off. Television has played a huge role in transforming the economics of competitive sport. In some instances it has also influenced changes in sport's rules and has certainly changed sport's culture from one where the focus was exclusively on the contest to one which is as much entertainment as contest. This in turn has created for some a motivational climate where fame and celebrity becomes the reason for being in the arena rather than a possible consequence of competitive endeavour. That can hurt sport.
How did it feel to win an OBE?
I don't think I felt as if I'd "won" an OBE. To be honest it was a most humbling experience. I was just doing my job. In my whole life I had never thought that such a thing would happen. Our honour system is a pretty wonderful part of our culture. In appreciating and recognising particular contributions from all walks of life, I believe the system binds our culture more strongly together.
What personal goals do you have that you are yet to accomplish?
There are a few ideas for projects in my head - all to do with coaching. One of these is to write a book on coaching. I've written about coaching in the context of other books - Sports Training Principles, Winning and Winning Matters - but not one exclusively on the subject. I'll do so this year.
What tips do you have for people who want to become the best in their field?
• Be clear on where you want to get to, then plan backwards through the stages that make the final destination possible.
• Admit your mistakes, learn from them and don't repeat them. Because going for the win in life means you'll make mistakes. No mistakes - no risk; no risks - no progress.
• Be persistent, patient and resilient. You must learn to stand up every time you're knocked down.
• Be prepared to learn and never stop seeking opportunity to learn.
• Define who you are by the quality of the decisions you make.
• Do all you can do to be all you can become, so be relentless in pursuit of personal excellence.
• When you lead, don't do so to get followers. Take people with you and make it possible for them to achieve their goals personally and for the team. This is best achieved in a climate of constructive candour.