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Improving Performance- Are you Making it or Faking it?

Performance has captivated my attention seriously in one guise or another for over thirty

years. All humans have some form of a competitive instinct. It is one of the main reasons

that video games are so successful and even addictive; whatever we do, there is a deeply

seated drive to do it better.

One of John’s personal motivations, if that’s the correct description, was a profound

discomfort with the constant self-proclamation that “we are the best”. It seems that if you

have a deep commitment to your organisation or team, it gives you the permission to tell

one and all you’re the best.

So you’re good, how do you know?

It didn’t sit comfortably with John when he was in the fire service. Two questions constantly

jumped to his mind.

1. How do we know?

2. Who are we compared with?


Regarding the latter, frankly no one!

We have a monopoly and should be honest about that fact.

 This unease prompted John to write articles, about many areas of performance, most in fire

service journals. It led to him obtaining a higher research degree with Bradford University

(not bad for someone expelled from school!) and the development of a performance model

that is being taught, used and refined up to the present day.

Apply the model consistently – your performance will improve...

Here is John’s model, with a simple promise.

If you apply the model consistently, your performance will improve. It has been used in

many areas, some with great success from business to sport.

From the onset, it must be stated that many such models exist out there, some excellent.

My academic research certainly confirms a multitude of suitable offerings, it’s mostly down

to how well you can understand and then apply them.

One of the best I have encountered for business is Tony Wilson’s of Lifestyle Architecture.

It’s really simple to understand and easy to action.

So, let’s get down to the model.

Doyley’s Performance Improvement Model

Most models out there, in their basic form, have two main components. Mine are Talent

and Effort.


The dictionary definition of talent is “ a special natural ability or aptitude “.

Before we proceed, a spoiler alert - there is no such thing as natural talent! To take the

Atheist analogy, if there is such a thing, there’s absolutely no evidence it exists. In simple

terms, nature doesn’t play chance.

An incredible amount of research has been conducted, and many authorities come up to the

same conclusion. Perhaps the most noted is K. Anders Ericsson’s work. It formed the basis of Malcolm Gladwell’s “10.000-hour rule” rule, that anyone can be world class; or at least an

expert, with that amount of practice.

A great recent book ‘Superhuman’ by Roman Hooper, challenges that assertion,

unsuccessfully in my opinion; but certainly does posit that a predisposition whether physical

or mental will greatly assist that ambition. Still a book well worth reading, as is Matthew

Syed’s Bounce and Outliers by Galdwell that explains the 10.000 hour rule.

Talent has three main progressive aspects.

3. Knowledge. The acquisition through learning, either applied or experiential, and

understanding of the appropriate knowledge from which one can develop the


4. Skills. These must be relevant to the role, function or task required. Furthermore, they

are best developed and tested in a safe environment to attain.....

5. Competence. All about doing whatever it is where it matters; that could be in the

workplace, or sports field, even concert hall or stadium.

By way of explanation, appropriate is the absolute key. One of the main imperatives is to

ensure the required skills, must be supported by the right learning, knowledge and


In many ways, it’s where the relationship between education and industry fails dismally.

There is no serious dialogue or even notice taken of either position. Check out Sir Ken

Robinson’s YouTube presentation “Changing Education Paradigms”, the best 12 minutes

you’ll see on how wrong we’ve got education!!!


Talent has to be acquired, effort needs to be applied.

Again, other models will have similar aspects. The five included here are underpinned by

academic research and also tested against the desired success factors of the individual or


6. Passion. No need to go any further if you don’t have passion, forget it!! It is so

fundamental to the pursuit of your goals, without it you’ll will lose the drive and desire to

carry on. There is a fundamental difference between a passion for success, or its benefits,

and the passion for what you want to succeed in.

7. Persistence. The Americans call it Grit. Regardless, it is all about getting up and carrying

on when others quit or it really hurts. Think of ice skating- is it possible to learn a triple

Salchow without your pert derrière hitting the hard cold stuff, more times than you would


8. Commitment. Training, practice and the development of your skills and competence is

the easy bit. You have to do the ‘10.000 hours’ to be world class or expert and still manage

your way through life’s magic and sometime’s challenging journey. You can’t do it from the


9. Motivation. The essence of this is Why? If your why isn’t strong enough, the three above

are not enough. Furthermore, it’s primarily about you, even more than others you may want

the success for. Brutal honesty with yourself is indispensable.

10. Discipline. There has to be structure, plus you must take full responsibility for all your

actions. Without discipline, it all can be wasted or misapplied. At the foundation is hard

work. All the greatest in the world at whatever they do are the hardest


View Talent and Effort as two sides, the next three aspects relate and join them all together.

All are independent, but also interdependent; there is cause and effect, but more

importantly any one weakness will compromise the whole model.


Mindset is the first all rounder. Simply, it’s the choices you make, particularly in relation to

your attitude and actions. You always have a choice.

Many performance models include mindset in some form. This one relies heavily on the

fantastic work by Stanford Professor Carol Dweck, who’s seminal book Mindset is highly


Essentially, one has either a growth or fixed mindset.

Main characteristics of fixed, is a reluctance to learn with a precious need to protect status

and ego. Feedback is unwelcome and mistakes are to be avoided at all costs. Greater

cognisance is taken of peer opinion and approval.

Interestingly, this answered a question that I couldn’t shake from a very early age-why did

some talented sportspeople succeed, when others faded away or wasted their incredible

opportunities? All down to a fixed mindset!

The other is growth.

Those who have made that choice take every chance to learn. They thrive on mistakes, to

use as invaluable information to grow and develop. Equally, they will rise up to the

challenge, welcome the experience and embrace adversity. They probably have Nietzsche’s

motto “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

Deliberate Practice

Deliberate or perfect practice is the main fundamental of the 10.000 hour rule. It explains

the misnomer of child prodigies such as Mozart or Tiger Woods; they did their 10.000 hours

at a very young age.

Surprisingly, it is not any old practice-you can’t just do the practice and expect

improvement. It must be targeted at those key areas, which form the basis of the necessary

skills and competence. Every single action, drill technique must be applied with the utmost

diligence against exacting standards.

Golf gives a good example of how process can seduce one into the illusion of improvement.

An amateur dedicates themselves to some diligent practice and resists the temptation to

just play. Allocates an hour and then basks in the virtuous afterglow of having ‘practised’.

But what has really happened? Hits a few balls, some good but many bad. The bad ones are

forgotten, as one searches for the good one, by quickly hitting another shot. Most probably,

all that’s happened is the bad habits have been inculcated.

 No account has been taken of real conditions, weaknesses, development needs or even

what they need the most to be effective and successful... but they’ve practiced!!!


Deliberate or perfect practice is the main fundamental of the 10.000 hour rule. It explains

the misnomer of child prodigies such as Mozart or Tiger Woods; they did their 10.000 hours

at a very young age.

As a coach, I can hear the often misquoted words of Mandy Rice Davies “well he would say

that, wouldn’t he?”

Regardless of how strong your conviction or confidence, without independent feedback,

whether it be video or coaching, all you have is what’s going on in your head-good or bad.

Whatever you receive about your performance must be understood internally; otherwise

the value is limited.

Rapport and trust is essential to accept that external opinion, but it has to stick and

resonate with what you want to achieve. Unless you can make sense of what is presented, it

will be very difficult to apply those lessons and benefit from that valuable information.

Simple question - can you think of anyone world class, in any discipline that doesn’t have a


A fantastic quote from Charles Darwin says it all:

“I have maintained that excepting fools, men did not differ much in intellect, only in zeal and hard work”. 

Talent, is not natural, it has to be acquired with diligence. Should results not meet your

expectations, there will probably be gaps in your Knowledge. Do you have sufficient

learning, to develop the right Skills for your role or function? If you haven’t, there is little

chance you will gain Competence and be successful.  

Not rocket science, but many like the term- 

Talent has to be acquired... Effort has to be applied.

Without Effort, whatever Talent you possess will be wasted.

We’ve all seen those who have frustratingly not taken the opportunities for success, their

talent suggests may be possible.

Passion is the foundation of Effort. If you don’t love what you do with a deep passion, you

really are wasting your time.

Persistence is everything. You can only get better at anything by doing the hard stuff...again

and again, which requires Commitment. Drive comes from Motivation, but it must be

accompanied by Discipline.

Every single aspect is interrelated. You won’t acquire the right skill, without discipline and

persistence. It will be your passion that keeps you wanting to learn. Competence can only be

retained with persistence and motivation.

Well that’s the easy bit... as promised, apply the model and you will improve your


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