Ben Hunt Davis Author Of Will It Make The Boat Go Faster

Ben Hunt-Davis, MBE.

Setbacks happen. Often there’s nothing we can do to stop them, and we’ve just got to make sure we get back to making the boat go faster as soon as we can, say Ben Hunt-Davis and Harriet Beveridge in their book, Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?, the story of how the British men’s eight crew that Ben was in won the Olympic Gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. In this excerpt, they share their insights on 'bouncebackability'.

When dealing with setbacks, by controlling the controllables and keeping a positive mindset you’ll be able to re-launch yourself towards your goal and turn the situation around.

Control the controllables

Brian Muller was the sports psychologist in 1992 who first introduced Ben to the idea of controlling the controllables. It is a simple, but powerful, concept. We all have limited time, energy and headspace, so devote these precious resources into dealing with things inside your control and let go of anything you can’t do anything about.

How many people do you know who whinge about things they can’t control – the rain, their boss, global warming, and yet do precious little about it – like carrying an umbrella, flexing their communication style or turning their thermostat down?

Ben: “On the word ‘Go’ we pulled the boat off the start as hard as we could and there was a dull thud as our rudder got ripped off. The rules state that in this situation you are allowed to restart, so all the crews had to hang around while our coach was off hunting for a replacement rudder and we got the boat out of the water.

We had a conversation about it, about how the outcome of the race was going to depend on who dealt with this situation the best. There was absolutely nothing we could do about the rudder being ripped off – it had happened. What we could control was our thoughts and actions from that moment on.”

The British crew were always looking for what they could control, in the everyday situations: what they ate, how they looked after themselves when injured, the beliefs they built, through to when things went wrong as in the story above. The village code of conduct they drew up to guide their behaviour at the Sydney Olympics is all focused around controlling the controllables.

A great way to control the controllables is to simply ask yourself the question: ‘What can I do?’ The beauty of this bouncebackability strategy is that there is always an answer.

The market is tough and I’m struggling to hit my sales target… what can I do?

  • Collaborate with other salespeople
  • Partner with another firm
  • Reach out to my network

There are hundreds of answers. OK, it might not be easy to pick one strategy from the list to try out, but it is an awful lot more fulfilling than wallowing in the mire moaning that ‘there is nothing I can do’. Controlling the controllables not only makes us feel more motivated, it increases our chances of succeeding.

 

Reflect and learn

When the dust has settled, make sure you find the time to reflect on what happened:

  • Might this kind of setback happen again?
  • How can I prevent that happening?
  • Am I happy with the way I dealt with it, or what would I do differently another time?
  • What lessons am I going to take forward – about this specific type of setback and about how I can deal with general setbacks in the future?

It is a recurrent theme in this book that Ben and the crew talked a lot, to the point where other crews commented that they spent less time on the water and more time chatting. The point that keeps emerging however is that this wasn’t just idle banter, it was focused conversation. After every training session, in the crew’s performance review, they would ask themselves what went well and what they would do differently another time to make the boat go faster.

How can you build in time to reflect and learn? Can you make it an agenda item on each team meeting? Or set aside five minutes every day to jot down some thoughts? A small investment in reflection time can create massive savings in terms of mistakes avoided, time saved, and improvements identified.

 

Conclusion

We are all human; if we don’t care when things go wrong then we probably don’t want the goal strongly enough to achieve it, so feeling frustrated or annoyed can be a good sign. Building a bouncebackability muscle just makes that low a bit quicker, easier to get through and – counter-intuitively and wonderfully – extremely useful.

When we prepare in advance, we can avoid obstacles altogether or at least minimise their bad consequences. The next step is accepting setbacks when they do happen – looking for the upside rather than wallowing in the downside.

Finally, we need to take action, control the controllables and learn from the experience. This bouncebackability launchpad speeds us back on course towards our goal.

Excerpt reproduced with permission from Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?

About the authors:

Ben Hunt-Davis

Ben Hunt-Davis, MBE, Olympic Gold medallist, is the co-founder and Director at Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?, a performance and leadership consultancy specialising in high performing senior teams. With 16 years’ experience of specialising in leadership and team development, Ben has worked with clients such as Unilever, HSBC, BP and many others.

An experienced performance coach, facilitator and keynote speaker, Ben is also co-author of best-selling coaching book Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?, the story of how the British men’s eight crew that he was in won the Olympic Gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

 

Harriet Beveridge

Harriet Beveridge is the Head of Performance at Will it Make The Boat Go Faster?, a performance and leadership consultancy specialising in high performing senior teams. She is also a comedian and co-author of the best-selling book Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?, the story of how the British men’s eight crew, that her co-author Ben Hunt-Davis was in, won the Olympic Gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

After starting her career as a management consultant with Ernst and Young, Harriet has been an executive coach for almost 20 years, helping people to unlock their potential. Clients Harriet has worked with include Hiscox, O2, Jewson, just to name a few.

Harriet coaches senior leaders on a 1:1 basis, challenging and supporting them to achieve high performance and navigate change. She is highly experienced at designing company-wide change programmes and does group coaching from the boardroom to the shop floor to help companies achieve their ‘crazy’ goals and a high-performance culture.

Contributed by Ben Hunt-Davis
Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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