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The Secret to Gold Medal Leadership

The Secret to Gold Medal Leadership

Like professional athletes and actors use visualization to improve their performance, senior executives can also benefit from visualization to sharpen their leadership skills.

To be clear, visualization is not to be confused with manifestation. I’m not talking about the ability to make your dreams come true by envisioning them. Visualization is the act of rehearsing a forthcoming performance in your mind.

Legend has it that visualization started to gain global awareness when Russian Olympic athletes used the technique in the 1984 Olympics. Since, neuroscientists and sports psychologists swear by its power.

Jerry West, who was nicknamed Mr. Clutch for his ability to hit shots at the buzzer, said he rehearsed making those shots countless times in his mind. Emily Cook, veteran American freestyle skier and three-time Olympian, says the more vivid her visualizations, the better.

But, visualization isn’t just for athletes. As executive coach, I see my clients benefit from the practice of visualization to improve their leadership skills on a regular basis.

Clients who feel uneasy in situations such as performing in a big meeting or breaking bad news to an employee experience immediate results by employing visualization.

Studies show that the brain ultimately can’t tell the difference between imagining and doing, so imagining is effective preparation for an important event. Rehearsing how to respond and anticipating whatever circumstances might arise is an effective means for executives to gain control over situations to arrive at the outcomes they want.

I advise clients to write down how they would like events to unfold. Not on a laptop, but with pen and paper. The act of writing down in long-form how you see yourself behaving makes a mind/body connection integral to results.

The more detail you can provide the better. Make the image of the room, the people, and your actions, etc. as vivid as possible and walk through the events in your mind at least three times before your event.

Visualization is preparation. It gives executives pathways to higher performance in high stakes situations. It’s a powerful tool for executives who want to perform at their best. It helps empower executives to think more clearly in the moment because they have a plan of action they can see in their mind’s eye.