Sunday, September 20, 2009

Exceeding Expectations

We have been re-reading Tony Jeary’s book Strategic Acceleration in an effort to impart to our swimmers how to identify what he calls “highly leveraged activities”.

He refers to “the strategic acceleration tripod” which works to achieve superior results faster. The three legs of the tripod are clarity, focus and execution. He defines clarity as “knowing what you really want”. Focus is “about avoiding distractions and learning to identify the high leverage activities that significantly move the results needle.”

While all three are equally important in that your chances of success go down dramatically when you lack one or more of them, execution is where you spend the bulk of your time. Execution is the “doing” and that is where we spend the majority of our time and effort. As such it is important to consider the impact of exceeding expectations.

Jeary points out that he has learned “a lot about meeting and exceeding expectations, and one of the things I’ve learned is that it’s not complicated or hard to understand. Expectations are met when things happen the way people expect them to happen. However, expectations are exceeded when positive things happen that people do not expect.”

He goes on, “I want to be very clear about why exceeding expectations is the strategic mind-set that leads to the creation of superior results. Exceeding expectations is a strategic way of thinking based on the fact that we ultimately become and do what we think. The mind is the engine of action, and action produces results.”

We have our swimmers regularly consider the power of goals on their actions. When a swimmer tells us that they want to swim in college, we ask them to consider if their training supports their declared intention. It is a way for us to help keep their focus in a world busy with homework, social and athletic pursuits. What we are attempting to do – and we are having a pretty darned good measure of success with it – is get them to understand that their thought process leads to their actions.

And if they want to get there faster then they need to consider the concept of exceeding their level of expectation. To use Jeary’s words, coaching becomes the following in our eyes: “To persuade others to exceed expectations requires us to be able to persuade them to think differently about what they do and how they do it.”

On our set Saturday after discussing this concept with them we asked them to exceed their expectations as they trained. Many did just that and as a result swam faster and tougher as the challenge rose the deeper we got into the set. We have our first meet next week and we are asking them to do the same thing there, regardless of how they feel due to heavy training. We feel confident that most will respond to the challenge!

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