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Harness the performance mindset of an athlete to succeed like a boss

Perform at the top of your game with these tips to drive performance and business success.

Performance Psychologist Jamil Qureshi

The key to success, whether in sports or business, is all in your head. At least that’s what world-leading Performance Psychologist and expert in high performance Jamil Qureshi says.

As the co-founder of several change agencies, Jamil has helped elite athletes like Sergio García and Lee Westwood win major golf tournaments. He’s led change management programs at NASA, Microsoft, American Express and Coca-Cola. And while his audience is as diverse as it gets, Jamil says the one constant tying them all together is mindset.

“I have always believed that anyone can be better. The way we act is determined by how we think,” he explains. “If we change our thinking, then we can change our doing. Whether you’re a CEO or professional golfer, the route to better performance is determined by what goes on behind the eyes.”

How is that possible? Well, to Jamil, “psychology is psychology” and as human beings, fears and aspirations are pretty much identical across the board. “I simply try to understand what people do and want, and then help them construct mental models for performance,” he shares. “Their career choice makes no difference. Ultimately, we’re all the same.”

So, when it comes to business performance, Jamil says organisations don’t have to waste so much time and energy on training. Instead, a simpler approach is often much more effective.

“Whether you’re a CEO or professional golfer, the route to better performance is determined by what goes on behind the eyes.” – Jamil Qureshi

“I believe teams don’t need to upskill,” he says. “We are too quick to train people, rather than fix their environment. It’s more about understanding their existing skills and applying them differently.”

And that’s where he comes in. As a Mindset Coach, Jamil helps people from all walks of life, with all interests and abilities, see the world through a different lens. “Coaching is not about giving people new skills, it’s about helping people understand their existing skills,” he explains. “The way to create new possibilities and opportunities is by creating new perspectives. I try to help people see their world differently.”

Valuable lessons for successful performance

  1. Purpose is never achieved, it’s attained on a daily basis. Understand what truly drives you, and it will be easier to stay motivated and fulfilled, turning ambition into achievement.
  2. Human leadership over business leadership. Rebuild working structures and relationships, factoring in priorities like health and family. The future of leadership is empathetic.
  3. Energy management over time management. There will be moments when you can’t perform certain tasks and that’s OK. Instead of beating yourself up, remember that this will pass and try to divert your attention to some quick wins like chipping away at admin or firing off some emails.
  4. Seek to create, not do. Consider why you’re doing something, not just how you’re going to do it. It can be helpful to define to-do lists in accordance with how you’re feeling. This maximises productivity while keeping energy reserves intact.
  5. Infinite patience for immediate rewards. It’s possible to hold two opposing thoughts or thoughts that contradict each other, and have both be true. It’s imperative to challenge the assumptions our world is built on.

In a world stricken by a pandemic, it can be argued that Jamil’s work is more essential now than ever before. It’s a messy time in history and the future has never been more uncertain. For many, it’s a hard truth to swallow.

A recent survey by FlexJobs and Mental Health America found that 75% of people have experienced burnout at work, with almost half citing they’ve felt it during the pandemic specifically.

“The world has changed significantly, and we need to challenge the assumptions our world has been built upon,” Jamil shares. “There has never been a better time to challenge what we believe to be true than now.”

For many businesses, that means a shift in focus. “The issues a company will face are unimportant, but the ability to form teams that can deal with those issues, no matter what they are, is essential,” he stresses. “This requires diverse arguments and contrarian thinking.”

A firm believer in Jamil’s work, GoCardless ANZ General Manager Carolyn Breeze has witnessed firsthand the power of his training. During COVID-19, the global fintech unicorn has leveraged his teachings in each of the company’s international regions. And Carolyn says Jamil’s insights, especially those related to purpose, have been priceless.

Carolyn Breeze, GoCardless ANZ General Manager
GoCardless ANZ General Manager Carolyn Breeze

“As a young team – GoCardless has only been in Australia and New Zealand for a little more than two years – purpose has been fundamental to the culture we’ve created, as well as our growth as a brand in the region,” Carolyn shares. “While many companies have struggled during this time, for us, it’s only created an even bigger drive to help companies create strong foundations around cashflow, accessing new revenue streams and driving customer growth.”

One of Jamil’s key teachings, which states “purpose is never achieved, it’s attained on a daily basis”, has remained at the forefront of her mind. “It serves as a regular reminder that the work we are doing is making a difference to the lives of business owners, and that’s powerful,” Carolyn says.

“During COVID-19, everyone has faced unique challenges, both professionally and personally. However, ensuring ‘purpose’ stays at the heart of everything we do – and will continue to do – has kept us engaged and motivated to reach more businesses and find innovative ways to help them going forward.”

Additionally, Carolyn says that Jamil’s theory around energy management over time management has become an essential practice not only for her team, but also for her. “I recognised early on that I wanted to use the time spent in lockdown and working from home to re-evaluate and build on my leadership style,” she shares. “My focus has been on strengthening our brand community, and internally, evaluating outcomes over activity.
“Jamil has discussed the importance of ‘human leadership’ over ‘business leadership’ and that distinction has never been more relevant than now.

“The future of leadership is empathetic. Now is the time to rebuild working structures and relationships, factoring in priorities like health and family. To achieve this, we need to let ourselves be vulnerable within our professional community and extend the invitation for others to be vulnerable too.”

While nobody has the perfect solution to the pandemic, its effects and uncertainties, Jamil’s insights offer a practical method to navigate them. “Jamil’s insights have been invaluable to GoCardless’ success throughout COVID-19,” Carolyn says. “His performance management techniques and lessons will continue to serve us well in a post-COVID future and whatever challenges it presents.”

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