Performance psychology – aligning behaviours with your values and goals

Our very own Performance Psychologist Suzie outlines what her day to day role looks like and the benefits of performance psychology.

Performance psychology – aligning behaviours with your values and goals

Our very own Performance Psychologist Suzie outlines what her day to day role looks like and the benefits of performance psychology.

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Meet the author

Suzie Mossman-Monk

Performance Psychologist

Performance psychology is something we now offer in-house at Clarasys to help our people thrive in the workplace. But what does it mean and how does it work? 

As a Sport and Exercise Psychologist, my role was to help athletes on the international stage perform well under pressure and maintain their wellbeing in often challenging environments. It, therefore, wasn’t such a huge leap to transfer my knowledge to the world of business consultancy.

Performance psychology involves helping people to better understand their own brains, move towards what is important to them, set goals, enhance confidence and improve their leadership skills – which are all applicable to a range of environments.

Working with Clarasys consultants

At any one time, I work with up to 10 Clarasys colleagues at different stages in their careers. Each person has around six sessions; the first four are usually held weekly and the remaining sessions are spread out so that areas we have covered can be put into practice.

During the sessions, I use the ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) Matrix1 to help an individual notice the impact of their thoughts and feelings on their behaviours.

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The matrix helps users to discriminate between external experience of the senses and internal experiences of the mind, which are mapped by the vertical line. We sort behaviour into two categories called Towards and Away moves which are mapped on the horizontal line. It helps people to notice the impact of their thoughts and feelings on their behaviours and to align this with what is important to them.

The sessions tend to start with a focus on values, understanding what’s important to people and why. We look at any values that are not being met and how they interact with the challenge presented. Then, we look at which behaviours would allow us to move towards the person’s values. We consider the challenge and ask what we need to do to make some progress. 

My aim is to get people to have more of a choice over how they behave and how they show up in their working environment. Instead of being led by thoughts, feelings, and emotions, I help consultants to identify the behaviours they want to engage within certain contexts and how they can move towards them consistently.

For instance, a consultant may have a goal to speak up more in meetings or challenge stakeholders more confidently. However, when they think about engaging in these behaviours, their brain might tell them it’s not a good idea and the thought of doing it might make them feel anxious – so they avoid it.  

As human beings, most of us engage in experiential avoidance which essentially means we are programmed to move towards things that make us feel good, and we tend to try to avoid difficult thoughts and feelings. 

I work with people to help them understand that when we do things that matter to us, things we embark on that will make us proud (like running a marathon for example), we often feel uncomfortable, to begin with, and we may well encounter difficult thoughts such as ‘what if I fail’, or ‘I can’t do this’. By acknowledging that our brain is just trying to keep us safe, we can change the relationship we have with those thoughts and move towards our values and goals in spite of any difficult thoughts or feelings. 

How people apply what they’ve learned from performance psychology

Once we have established how a consultant can make practical changes, perhaps it is to speak up three times in a meeting, or voice one idea, they will go away and put them into practice.

The consultants might share their new objectives with their engagement lead or coach so that it becomes part of their development objective. They will then receive feedback on their progress.

After a few weeks, the consultant will have another session with me to discuss how they have felt as they put these objectives into practice. The goal is to continue to move towards things that are important to them, even if sometimes it feels uncomfortable or their brain shows up with an unhelpful thought.

Benefits of performance psychology

You don’t have to be an elite athlete to benefit from performance psychology. By changing the relationship we have with our thoughts, it is possible to alter our behaviour – even if that sometimes feels difficult. 

For example, somebody whose values include honesty, integrity, and empathy, might struggle to give feedback to colleagues or clients because they are concerned it will cause upset. However, if we acknowledge that yes, this might feel difficult in this moment, but actually this is something that is really important for me to do because I care about being honest, we can more willingly accept any difficult thoughts or feelings that show up. This willingness to experience discomfort means our consultants are better able to do the right thing in any given context and are better able to help our clients. 

Our performance psychology resource is open to everyone in the business, no matter how experienced they are. It’s part of Clarasys’s commitment to its people. It also hugely benefits clients because our consultants understand themselves and their own challenges, and this gives them an edge. We rest our consultants between clients, during which time they deepen their own knowledge, continue to mentor newer members of the team, work with their coaches and sometimes me, and concentrate on sharpening our business. Our people have already seen huge benefits, and we believe our clients have too.

 

To find out how we can help you improve your employee experience, get in touch today!

References

  1. Polk, K. L., Schoendorff, B., Webster, M., & Olaz, F. O. (2016). The Essential Guide to the ACT Matrix: A Step-by-Step Approach to Using the ACT Matrix Model in Clinical Practice. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

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