Blog · Nov 6, 2016

A Measure of Performance – in Sport, Business & Everyday Life

How do we understand our own performance?

As in sport, in business and in our everyday lives, when we set out to achieve something our own measure of how well we’re doing is important. In order to truly understand our performance, both what we choose to focus on and what we decide to deem a success are key factors in accurately monitoring progress. If we consider setting ourselves goals around what our performance should look, rather than only measuring success around achieving the results themselves; we find ourselves with a true measure of how well we’re doing.

A measure of performance in snow sports

In professional snow sports, slopestyle ski and snowboard athletes land big tricks off jumps and rails. And in slopestyle competition the margin for error on landing these tricks is next to none. Taking off the jump a fraction to early, jumping a little to big or flying passed a jump landing are deal breakers in a sport judged on a tricks, style and execution.

The Crazy goal

At the beginning of last winter, Olympic slopestyle snowboarder, Jamie Nicholls returned to snowboard training following a knee operation. His goal for the coming winter was to win more spots on the podium and top 10 finishes than ever before, not an easy task following a stretch of time out with injury. But, before he could even think about standing on the podium and competing, his training goals and process were going to be far more important.

A performance focused process

The Team GB snowboard coach developed a process for achieving snowboard training goals, tagged ‘The Traffic Light System’. With a list of tricks to progress, those marked red Jamie still needed to learn. Those that were orange he could do, but weren’t consistent or clean enough to guarantee success in competition. Finally, those that were green were tricks Jamie could land over and over again, they were competition winning tricks. Obviously, there were other variables to consider that could and would affect Jamie’s results during a competition, but Jamie’s coach had considered what a winning performance would look like and constructed a process for him to work towards achieving this performance. Jamie’s focus became about achieving this performance rather than achieving a competition result.

The results

Initially, with two below top ten finishes at the start of the competition season, those looking in on Jamie’s performance may have considered his results a failure. In fact, people even commented on how ‘Jamie Nicholls needed to step up his game.’ However, Jamie had already turned a number of tricks on his ‘Traffic Light System’ from red to orange and others from orange to green. While Jamie didn’t have the winning run yet, his measure of performance reassured him he was on track.

By the end of the winter, things had really turned around. Having turned most of the tricks on his ‘Traffic Light System’ to green, Jamie brought home a number of top 10 finishes and succeeded in his aim to stand on the podium with a first place at an international World Cup… making Jamie the first British male to win a World Cup on snow.

Understanding our own performance

Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? co-founder, Ben Hunt-Davis credits winning his rowing eight, Olympic gold in Sydney 2000 to three performance principles that encouraged his team to work differently. The second of those principles, focus on performance, is the principle we need to understand to help us measure our own day to day success.

In the Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? book, the value of focusing on the process and allowing success to take care of itself is explained in detail. The concept is brought to life with the story of the day of the British rowing Eight’s win – where some of Ben’s team were so focused on rowing in rhythm they didn’t even realise they had won a medal.

Don’t focus on the result; focus on the process that will get you the result

Ben Hunt-Davis MBE

Like Jamie, Ben’s team had considered their focus, the key variables and constructed their own measures of success. In summary, in whatever you’re looking to achieve, focus on performance in order to get results;

  • Get curious about the recipe or process
  • Focus your attention on a key variable
  • Measure success


When you measure your success on how well you’ve achieved your chosen recipe or process and focused your attention as you intended, your perception of your own performance can change completely. Measuring performance in terms of understanding the process, and how you achieve the key variables within it, will give you the best chance of coming out on top.

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