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How To Create True Impact!

spiritual intelligence team effectiveness May 02, 2024

This week I'm inviting you into a theoretical case study to highlight a potent area for us to work on to create a profound impact - way and above any new training modality, treatment or tech.

Are you ready!

I'll start by introducing you to a piece of research that highlights one of the key messages I aim to get across:

Human skills trump technical skills!

Yet many of us still over-focus on the nuances of performance (of course important) at the expense of being truly effective within the team we are part of.

What Makes a Department Effective?

You may be asking right now:

"How do you assess team effectiveness?"

  • Winning?

If that's the sole marker, which is better:

  • A 5th-ranked team that finishes second or an 11th-ranked team that finishes 6th?
    Of course, it's not that simple, and team effectiveness is different to objective outcomes.

This paper defines it as:

“A collaborative effort by team members to effectively carry out the independent and interdependent behaviours that are required to maximize a teams’ likelihood of achieving its purposes.”

Furthermore, it goes onto say:

"Support teams in elite sport can influence team functioning and performance through leadership styles, supportive team behaviour, communication, and performance feedback."

When you dive into the details, the key skills begin to pop out of what truly underpins effectiveness.


Jack Nayler described in his episode of the Untapped Potential Podcast how he was successful in getting his role at Chelsea FC because of who he was as a person, not his technical skills.

I'm more confident than ever now to say that the technical X's & O's mean nothing if you can't apply them with the people you're working with. Pete McKnight and I discussed this in detail in this episode of The Untapped Potential.

And this paper supports that by highlighting the depth of attributes required to be effective. Furthermore, it defines the importance of relating with each other as a team under the title "Social Capital."

  • How much are you supported and nourished in these areas such as psychological safety, perceived value, feeling trusted and general communication?
  • Who is responsible for this?
  • If it's just down to the head of department then are they skilled in that area?
  • Do they have space in their role to truly look at this and develop the people they lead?

Of course, there are exceptions, however, I sense that very few HOP's or PD's have the time, space or key skills to truly do this in a way that progresses themselves or their staff.


  • Why do I think this?


My research over the past few years has allowed me to hear many conversations where the human side aka poor leadership is suffocating individual and department effectiveness.

The successful ones seek guidance to upskill themselves in leadership and a humanistic approach. And this begins with understanding self! No great leader exists without knowing themselves first on a deep level.

We've got to look at and own our shit before we can effectively help anyone else.

Yet as a high-performance culture, we don't value it! Instead, we stick with what we know and over-focus on the technical elements of the role.


Job Description Example

The criteria include 19 attributes that the organisation feel will enable the candidate to be successful. Yet only 2 of these points are in any way linked to what we have already seen contribute to effectiveness as an individual and team.

When looking at the responsibilities the role will entail, of 15 key points, there are only 2 that focus on influencing the environment.

Again, this is out of alignment with what we've seen that the evidence suggests leads to team effectiveness.

Why Does This Matter?

There is growing evidence showing that the disruption from staff changes and poor team dynamics negatively affect the effectiveness of the interventions we provide to the athletes we aim to support.

This example shows why communication is a defining factor when it comes to successful injury prevention strategies. Without those key skills, injuries increase!

Not only between coach to coach but also how athletes are affected by new staff.

In another episode of The Untapped Potential, Callum Walsh and I discuss exactly this in the episode titled "Empowering Sport Environments to Unlock Practitioners Full Potential."

In Summary:

  • The technical nuances are important but not a differentiating factor of the performance picture
  • We focus on developing them to make us "feel" like we know enough and therefore are "good" enough
  • They don't take into account the subjective, human factor of performance
  • The reality is many departments actively disempower practitioners, which drives dysfunction leading to us operating well below the potential we have within us


A Solution

I believe that a cornerstone to the solution is opening up Spiritual Intelligence, which the former Wales Head Coach Kevin Bowring defines as:

"Being aware of your purpose in life and having a higher order purpose beyond winning. It is being self-aware and having a high degree of consciousness, compassion and commitment to humanistic values. It is about having meaning in life and providing a sense of contentedness and psychological well-being."

Departments and organisations need support. It can't all be on the shoulders of the head of performance/medical.

One reason why is because as it currently stands, relational abilities are ranked so low that it's not a focus for many of us to develop.

It's simply not a large enough requirement of the job specifications.

We need to seek development opportunities on a personal and department level aimed at:

  1. Develop an awareness of yourself
  2. Understand your skews and traits that lead you to be defensive rather than open to discussion (a.k.a. being effective rather than right)
  3. To be able to spot and navigate self-preservation in yourself and those you lead to open up a harmonious and trusting department
  4. To understand the drama of human dynamics WE ARE ALL susceptible to, which affects you as much as it affects those you lead limiting how we interact with each other effectively
  5. Understand how to nurture an environment of belonging, connection and trust
  6. To see members of the department as people first with desires, passions, strengths, insecurities, fears and skews in their person - who also happen to have unique skills that contribute to the performance outcome
  7. To understand that our strengths can be expressed fully when we feel supported and nurtured
  8. To freely question assumptions and challenge traditional performance department "norms" to create new ways that allow you all to define and keep to personal boundaries


It is not enough to know this. We are at a time where we need to know how and focus on applying it.


This will then enable:

  • Nurturing a high challenge with high support enabling a rounded staff development based on self-growth (not just technical)
  • This leads to our ability to maximise the staff we hire
  • Empowering psychological safety for coaches and practitioners to be authentic giving them freedom to do their best work
  • Protecting the environment around staff
  • Improving the performance of staff that leads to improvement of athletes
  • Athletes & staff respond to people who care

Looking For Support?

  • As head of department or performance director do you feel comfortable opening up these conversations?
  • As a support staff team (medical, performance etc) are you sitting down together to discuss topics such as self-preservation or values-based culture?


I can help you with these things if you’re looking to optimise the impact and well-being of your department.

  1. Free 30-minute calls 
  2. 1-to-1 Coaching Support 2 Spaces open
  3. MDT Department Coaching Support


Book a call to learn more by clicking here.

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