What’s your Interference?



Identifying talent like Usain Bolt was simple.  Right from the get-go his ability to run fast was obvious.  At age 15 he was the youngest junior champion ever.  He had, what is referred to by George Anders as “talent that shouts”.

Others, like Asafa Powell had “talent that whispers”.  Powell was a relatively unknown runner who specialised in the 100 metre sprint.  From the year 2000 up to 2005 his record was hit and miss, more fails than wins and he had the misfortune of being disqualified from the World Championships in 2003 for a false start.  He trains in Kingston, Jamaica on a relatively humble training ground with olympic coach Stephen Francis.  In June 2005 at the Olympics in Athens, Asafa Powell crossed the line in 9.77 seconds – a record that made him the fastest man on earth!  No one had seen that coming.  He wasn’t rated.  So how come his coach saw it!

“I love to work with people who are hungry for a second chance.  I stay clear of those “can’t miss” athletes as a matter of principle.  Instead I look for those with the greatest development potential” Francis states.

As a leader, it is often easy to work with and develop those who are obviously talented and have “star” quality.  It makes your own life easier!  However, looking out for “talent that whispers” in your team, can be much more rewarding, and will yield benefits to everyone concerned.  Widening your vision of what potential is and understanding that potential is not perfection, will open up the well of potential in your team.

Timothy Gallwey, author of The Inner Game of Tennis offers us this simple equation to understand potential talent.

Performance = Potential – Interference

So, if there was no interference, our performance would be at our highest potential.  Interference can take many guises – lack of knowledge, low confidence, low level of experience, a poor leader, personal biases and so on.  What I do notice is that the more technical elements of interference (education and experience) are often dealt with by more training and work practice, what is rarely dealt with is the behavioural interference.

In the world of leadership, it is assumed that you have all the necessary education and experience to do your job.  You can be a good enough leader and not invest much time or energy in developing yourself or those who work with you.  The results can often be delivered reasonably well.   However, studies show that this level of mediocre performance cannot be sustained over a long time.  Eventually, people begin to feel disgruntled, demotivated and start to lose interest or not even care anymore.  Productivity and quality start to slide, and bit by bit results begin to diminish.

What I’ve noticed over my many years of experience, is that the potential to move from good enough to great is in everyone, and the leap is not that dramatic.  It rests in the limiting beliefs people hold, the interference.  “I could never do that, she’s so much better than me, what would people think, I want everyone to like me, I don’t want to sound stupid, I hate conflict,…..” the list is endless.  How we manage these emotional blockages is critical to becoming the leader, or indeed the person, we have the ability to be.

Developing Emotional Intelligence competencies does not require massive dramatic efforts.  What it does require are small consistent actions, repeated in the correct situation, until the new behaviour is embedded.  Sustainable high performance is built on the willingness to change oneself.   Goleman’s studies show that people learn a new skill more effectively if they have repeated chances to practice it over an extended period of time.  And so it is with developing your EQ.

What is YOUR interference?  Perhaps you have a few.  But identify the key limiting belief or behaviour you have, and choose to work specifically on that.  Over a week, a month, a quarter, six months ….you WILL see the changes.  They will be hit or miss at the start, then subtle but noticeable and ultimately impactful.  When you reflect back you will see that you have released a measure of your higher potential – the ability to do something you didn’t think you could.

Jeremy Darroch, CEO of Sky speaks about the EQ journey in his organisation.

“The reason that we talk about “Believe in Better” is because it allows anybody in our organisation, wherever they are, to say this can be better… from that, innovation  flourishes.”

  “I think Emotional Intelligence skills are the bedrock of our process of working and  the core skills of optimism and empathy, and the ability to listen hard, are things that have really flowed from the work we’ve done on emotional intelligence”. “Better self, better leaders, better business”.

Your ability to realise your potential as a leader, and develop the potential of those who work with you, to create an Emotionally Intelligent culture within your business  will deliver performance, innovation, fulfilment and ultimately results at a far higher level than ever before.




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