I am often asked for my opinion regarding how an athlete’s ‘persona’ will affect his or her performance. Your persona is your reputation, how others perceive you — not necessarily your true character or personality. It may be a source of pride or (thanks to some recent lapses in judgement) it may currently be hanging like an albatross around your neck.
Your persona is an identity that you create and is directly related to the behaviours you demonstrate. Notice that I said ‘behaviours’ – it is not your words, but your actions that create your persona. The fact is, a person’s personality can’t be changed, but his or her behaviour can be.
Athletes are known for having a ‘split personality’: the focused intensity of performance mode vs. the wild impulsiveness of cutting loose. Having been part of many average-to-great rowing teams, I have experienced firsthand what competition does to one’s behaviour. When challenged or stressed, the resulting reckless demeanour of an athlete can quickly destroy a solid reputation.
So how do we advise a young athlete or co-worker about delivering their best performance while shaping their true persona?
1) Be true to yourself in what you say and do.
2) Don’t think that there is a competitive edge to be gained by creating a false persona or emulating someone else’s personality.
3) Let your best effort speak for itself in how others describe you.
4) Find the silver lining or lesson learned in defeat.
5) Be gracious in victory.
6) Appreciate the different personality types within a team and support the diversity.
7) Understand that your image is sometimes driven from things that are out of your control, i.e. other people’s opinions.
8) Stop, think and think again before you act out of emotion.
As leaders and mentors we need to be skilled in managing a wide variety of personality types in our teams. Only when you’re helping a person to cultivate their true persona will you be rewarded with their best performance.
Chip McKibben is a co-owner and director of Bulletproof People. He combines his experience gained as an elite athlete with his corporate experience in both the USA and Australia to provide support for business managers and leaders functioning within a high performance environment. Chip is a 1992 USA Olympian and World Champion oarsman.