Back in the early 80s a tennis player emerged from Czechoslovakia (that’s what it was called back then) called Ivan Lendl.

Lendl fulfilled every stereotype that the British media had about East Europeans.

Big, strong, emotion free and with eyes set so far back that it looked like you were peering into a cave when you looked at him.

His meticulous attention to detail was legendary even employing the same workers who laid the courts for the US Open at his practice facilities so that the court was identical.

Lendl worked his way up the rankings overtaking seemingly more talented and engaging players. Soon he had broken into the cosy triumvirate of superstars (Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors) and was winning tournaments regularly.

His consistency was phenomenal including a 44-match winning streak in 1982. By February 1983 he was World number 1.

But rankings are not the most important thing in tennis. Grand Slams are. Wimbledon, The US Open, The French Open and The Australian Open eluded him. And that’s what counts.

Lendl had managed to lose all four of the Grand Slam finals he’d reached.

But in 1984 he crossed that line. Against McEnroe in Paris, despite being two sets down at one point and 4-2 down in the 4th set, Lendl came back to win. He’d found a way to go the whole way.

He went on to win another seven Grand Slam titles and is joint 8th on the all-time list of Grand Slam winners.

Despite doing everything possible he never managed to win Wimbledon, even not entering his beloved French Open to prepare one year. But he ended his career with no regrets because he knew he had done everything it was possible to do to maximise his potential.

When his back stopped him playing high level tennis he retired to the golf course where he became a scratch golfer. Obviously.

And that was probably the last we thought we would hear about Ivan Lendl.

Until in 2012, when our own Andy Murray hired him as a coach. None of us even knew he was a coach.

At that point Murray had also broken into a “cosy triumvirate” (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic) but had also lost four grand slam finals without winning one. The similarities were obvious.

And then Murray won the Olympics. And then the US Open and a year later Wimbledon.

Lendl took the plaudits from the press. Suddenly the scary East European was a British hero.

Personally, I think Lendl got given a bit too much credit for Murray’s success. Murray was 95% of the way there and all his previous coaches (including his Mum of course) had helped him get there. Those coaches who had done all that hard work over many years received little press coverage.

But what Lendl had done was to identify the missing piece of the jigsaw and help Murray fix it.

That’s what winners do. That’s what’s defines a winning mindset.

The alternative is to do everything you can possibly do to avoid fixing that one thing that prevents you from winning.

It is much easier to be highly motivated when you are starting out but much harder after years of doing whatever it is that you do. The importance of staying highly motivated was the subject of conversation on the in this week’s video with Steve Backley and Roger Black. 

Somewhere along the way most of us lose our way temporarily or worse permanently. How you get that motivation back is harder than how you got it in the first place.

Ultimately everyone is motivated by the gaining of pleasure or the avoidance of pain.

And in either case some people are motivated in the short-term (avoid short-term pain or gain short-term pleasure) or in the long-term.

If you run a successful business, you are probably motivated by the avoiding of long-term pain (pay off the mortgage) or the gaining of long-term pleasure (comfortable retirement with lots of holidays) but that may be a bit of a generalisation. Perhaps the avoidance of short-term pain (having assets repossessed or ex-spouse demanding money) might be your driving factor. Perhaps you’re more focussed on short-term pleasure (new car, holiday etc).

But that’s just what gets you up and running.

Maybe you’re like Andy Murray was and are 95% of the way there. Maybe if you’re honest you’re more like a Wimbledon quarter-finalist who was only seeded to get to the third round so is congratulating themselves on out-performing what was expected. And in that moment of self-congratulation lies the seeds of hubris. That failure to go to the next level. To get to the quarter-finals every time so that it becomes what’s expected of you. And then to the semis, then the final and then…

So, what can you do about it?

If you don’t find your weaknesses your weaknesses will find you.

This time last year, most of us felt like we had a fire extinguisher under our arms being called to the latest crisis that we had to deal with. Those adrenalin filled days that rushed past in a blur of activity. In difficult economic times, weaknesses will find you more regularly.

In normal times, you can sit very still for a while and listen carefully for the sound of metaphorical alarm bells. Wherever the alarm bell is ringing the loudest, you can charge off in your fire truck, call in the fire crew and go and put out the fire. Slightly less panic-stricken but reactive all the same.

If that’s you’re only way of finding your weaknesses, then that method can prove costly……

The trouble is that the fire may have been slowly simmering away for some time. A lot of damage may have been done already. A lot of money lost, or customers gone elsewhere.

But you can learn from the causes of those fires and change processes, change people or just provide better training. Black box thinking as we call it.

But of course, missed opportunities don’t cause alarm bells to ring. No-one calls the fire brigade to report someone doing ok when they were capable of so much more. So better still, try and find the weaknesses yourself. “Turning over stones” as the book “From Good to Great” describes it.

One way of doing this is to do a walkthrough exercise. This is how you do it:

  • Pick one of your key processes
  • Identify where it all begins e.g., an enquiry from your website
  • Look at who starts the process in your business; in this example the person who deals with the leads
  • Look at what their process is and the standard documents that they use
  • Identify how that information is communicated to the next person in the process
  • Keep doing the above through each step in the process looking at where it can be improved
  • Regularly re-visit earlier steps in the process as you start to understand the impact further down the line. Are you getting all the information at the outset that you need? Are you explaining things properly to your customer?

Another way is to re-visit every job description in your business and ensure that each one is a comprehensive summary of the priorities and responsibilities of that role.

Or even better do both!

There will always be weaknesses that find you. That’s life unfortunately.

But if you’re highly motivated enough, you can balance that with your way of finding weaknesses and then get on and do something about them. Whatever you need to do to reach that next level.

I think it’s what Ivan would do.

Interview with Steve Backley and Roger Black

Deeper thinking ~ Highly Motivated

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Malcolm Palmer


Managing Partner

01474 853856

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