Confidence – and fuelling it – has been a hot topic of conversation this week in the world of elite sport.

Oracle Team USA staged one of the greatest comebacks of all time to beat Emirates Team New Zealand and win the America’s Cup. They came from a position of being 8-1 down to winning the series 9-8 – quite extraordinary.

When Ben Ainslie, who was drafted in as strategist half way through the series, was asked what made the difference, he said they focused on two things –

  • making small tweaks to the boat to make it go faster
  • their team confidence

Sounds simple – but what did they actually do?  Well, they’ll probably have taken a deliberate and systematic approach to this. Here’s our thoughts:

  • they’ll have tuned back into what their picture of success was, made sure that was clear and kept reminding themselves of that
  • they’ll have been very focused on their recipe for success – the things they needed to do – collectively and individually – to ensure the boat was going as fast as possible from start to finish line
  • they’ll have kept talking about these things

As well as the above, confidence building behaviours will have been increased – ways of thinking, doing things and communicating with each other – and they would have been relentless in doing this. If we’d been on that boat, we’d probably have expected to see:

  • people constantly calling out when they’d seen their teammates do something well during races – quick ‘well dones’, ‘good job’, ‘you nailed that’ etc
  • race reviews where they celebrated their success, and spent lots of time knowing what they’d done to win the last race and therefore what they needed to keep doing. In race reviews they’d also be giving feedback to each other individually about what a great job they’d done, drawing from examples of what they’d seen in the race, getting more specific with this.
  • lots of behaviours demonstrating support for each other, and that they were right behind each other – from little comments, to a physical touch on the arm, to connecting before and after the race.

Before races, they’d be reminding themselves and each other of their strengths (quite specifically), telling each other that they’re ready for the challenge ahead and talking through roles.

In the TV coverage of the race, the helmsman and strategist (Sir Ben) were micc’d up – you could hear them talk through their plans before the start as a reminder, and check in with everyone that they were ready.

Confidence is a funny thing.

We all know it’s vital for us to perform well. After all, nothing breeds success like confidence (unless it’s success, but that’s another story). In the world of sport, confidence is very explicitly discussed and then worked on. In the world of business, the mindset and approach is a bit different. So there’s an obvious oversight here and we wonder what might happen if you tried out the approach that Oracle Team USA took this week – for you, your team and your business?

What would the equivalent in your world look like?  How and where would you start with it? And if you did it, what impact might it have? Because we’re pretty sure that if you changed your mindset and behaviours when it came to confidence, you’d start reaping some immediate rewards.