How well are your key relationships working for you?


With Valentines Day looming, it’s time to talk about love….Well, actually, it’s time to talk about key relationships and how important they are to performing to your full potential. So we asked Adrian O’Connor, senior lecturer in sport psychology at the University of Roehampton and an expert in coach-athlete relationships to share his thoughts about how to make sure your relationships are working well for you.

Behind every great athlete…

In the world of elite sport, when it comes to gold medals, world records or top class performers, it’s really easy to draw the conclusion that it’s the super talented, the most highly skilled, the hardest working or the genetically blessed that sit at the top of the pile. As simple and as convenient as that might be, it really does overlook and understate the role that relationships play in converting the talent, the skills and the work rate into elite performance.

Take Jess Ennis-Hill, one of the most successful GB athletes of all time, for example. Jess has repeatedly and publically stated how important her long-standing coach, Toni Minichello is to her success. And both have talked about how they have had to work hard at their coach-athlete relationship through the years.

So what exactly is a ‘high quality performance relationship’? And do your key relationships fit this description?

Quality Control

From my 15 years of research in the area, combined with insight from having worked with and alongside athletes, coaches and scientific support staff, great quality relationships boil down to 3 things:

1. Feeling it! Liking, respecting, trusting and caring are pretty important foundations. Trust and respect are the most vital of these.

2. Thinking it! Shared goal clarity – what we’re trying to achieve here, and how we’re best doing that is also fundamental. When that exists, there’s commitment to the purpose and alignment of plans. Without it, there’s potential for misunderstanding and conflict.

3. Doing it! Once there’s respect, trust, shared goals and alignment of plans, it comes down to taking action. This is about both people not just saying they’ll do it, but actually doing it. It’s consistent demonstration of the behaviours that support the relationship and the development of elite performance.

Your Valentine’s challenge

What‘s clear is that higher quality relationships are genuinely about ‘being human’ to each other. This is the bit that brings everything else together, gets the best out of people and makes it work. And just as this is true of elite sports performance, it’s also true of performance in the work place.

Think about your top 5 key relationships at work. Are they “high quality performance relationships”? Do they stack up on the Feeling it, Thinking it and Doing it scale?

And if there’s room for improvement, take our Valentine’s Day Challenge. Make a plan for how you can start working on them so they become high(er) quality relationships to help you perform better and deliver more at work.

And start acting on those plans. After all, there’s no time like the present!