From the Changing Room to the Board Room – Performance Ideas For Small Business

Humans would be extinct with a singular approach to the unpredictable

It’s Not Uncertainty – It’s Complexity

A question I often get asked is, “don’t you miss it”? It’s a question about football and the interest in my experiences as a professional coach and manager. There’s always some mystique around the game, the personalities and the anecdotes. I appreciate it. So, what’s my answer?

It’s worth first exploring what the “it” really means? 

  • Do I miss the media scrutiny after defeat?
  • Do I miss the agent’s efforts to port their talent regardless of the fit? 
  • Do I miss the pain of defeat, or the raw insecurity of the young player making his debut? 
  • Do I miss planning pre-season schedules? 
  • Do I miss rolling the dice, in pursuit of a result? 

I often start my response with an anecdote around being asked by former goalkeeper Mark Bosnich live on Fox Sports after a defeat, “don’t you think it’s time you resigned?” As an optimist, I tend to remain differentiated under pressure, while curiosity keeps the stress away. 

The list goes on to describe what “it” could mean, but if you were asking me about all of “it”, the answer is, sometimes. I do miss the experience of playing with uncertain outcomes. I miss the individual way that players battle to meet the demands of the game. I miss the chaos. 

Today I get to work with chaos in multiple forms, through the lens of the individuals and the teams who lend me their trust. Wherever people come together to do business, where the outcome is measured by turning demand into value, I help people navigate their approach to this demand. 

As a performance coach, I get to work with leaders and emerging leaders in sport and in the boardroom, who are faced with the complex challenge of navigating their own way through varying degrees of pressure.  

Understanding Myself.  

What I have learned about myself includes the things that were always present, and the things that I picked up along the way. The meaning came from a core purpose that is tied to the success of others. My greatest achievements were aligned to the times when I was most connected to that. 

I can reflect on my greatest challenges in the times when I wasn’t close enough to it, typically when my physical, emotional, cognitive, or spiritual state was sub optimal. These human elements are present for all of us, all the time. Performance goes up and it goes down. 

In an ideal state, we know what dials to turn up and turn down, depending on the situation. 

I learnt that as humans we are more alike than different in large groups, but as individuals our differences are more pronounced. Taking time to recognise, understand and accept these differences counts. What terrifies one person, excites another. My sense of what’s possible, isn’t for everyone.  

We will always be more that what we do, but for most, it’s doing is easier to identify with and measure. The challenge is, how do we avoiding the limitations of responding only to the behaviour we see? Relating to someone else’s internal experiences in evolving situations is a game changer.

Understanding Our Differences

As humans we are more alike than different in groups, but as individuals our differences are more pronounced. Everyone has a unique personality, which explains how common experiences are perceived differently​. 

My work centers around self-awareness, as a pre-cursor to influencing others. Always in that order. We work to simplify the complexity of dynamic environments by surfacing hidden biological traits and motivations that indicate why we work better with some people and in some situations, than others.

There is no doubt people operate best in environments where their unique combination of preferred energy is advantageous.  As the environment shifts, and one’s natural strengths become less relevant, the strengths of others are enhanced. 

The recent Covid driven shift from normal, to virtual, to hybrid working practices is a great example of a dynamic landscape. For any individual, as the context has changed, what may once have been recognised as functional, successful, or optimal, may have suddenly come undone.

For independent business owners, this can be the difference between progress, or burnout, between scale up, or bail out. 

Humans would be extinct with a singular approach to the unpredictable. In sport, it’s the equivalent of no plan B. In business, if you can’t adapt, you die. The value of uncovering the unique gifts of every person you interact with counts, and at the very least, recognising how you are perceived will help. 

The science of personality in practice is the embodiment of diversity and acceptance. In the tension created between our individual differences lies the cornerstone of both success and, without careful management, dysfunctional.  

Setting Yourself Up For Success 

When people shed more of their persona, to share more of their true self, they begin to build deeper interpersonal relationships. For entrepreneurs, where the multiple demands of wearing several hats is all consuming, making subtle adjustments can make a massive difference.

Whether you choose a behavioural profile, type profile, or trait profile, uncovering deeper insight into your strengths, challenges and motivations can help to enhance your mission. 

As uniquely different as we are, we share the common truth that we are in part driven by an element of survival, and long may that continue. In the context of being better, to do better, then in the pursuit of performance, the rest is worth uncovering.


Tony Walmsley believes most managers fail and most teams never reach their potential. Using data driven insights, applied psychology and the lessons from elite sport he helps organisations get the most out of their leaders, managers and teams. 

In 25 years in football, he won league titles, national championships and held head roles in the A-League (Australian equivalent to the Premiership), The Olympic Athletes Program, as Academy Director for Manchester United in Oceania and for Tranmere Rovers in China. The times he failed held the greatest lessons.