Sports Performance – Integrating Cognitive Mind Training into Practice

Russell WilsonCredit: Photograph by Peter Yang

Sports performance and elite athlete development can be optimized through cognitive mind training, but the challenge is integrating the training into limited practice time.  Photo from

The cognitive mind training revolution is changing how performance and sports psychologists think about developing elite athletes.  The problem is that practice time is limited, especially in the highly regulated NCAA sports environment.  But in order for athletes to optimize the performance value of mind training it has to be done regularly and integrated into sport specific activities.  So how does a time-limited stressed out coach do this?  Here are five ways you can integrate cognitive mind training into your daily routine and optimize the performance of your elite athletes.

  1. Focused Attention (FA) meditation is a powerful way to increase focus and strengthen the brain’s attentional network.  The object of meditation is not as important as the process of bring attention back to the object when the mind wanders.  Conduct FA meditation during regular weight training workouts and use the barbell or grip on the weight machine as the focal point of attention.  You can also use skill or position drills during practice as a time to practice FA.
  2. Body scan meditation improves an athlete’s awareness of physical states that can impact elite performance.  Practice body scanning during pre-practice stretches.
  3. Open Monitoring (OM) meditation helps develop the ability to recognize novel stimuli in the environment, a significant skill in elite performance.  Athletes can practice OM meditation while walking to class or during lunch breaks.
  4. Distress tolerance training increases poise and mental toughness.  Build cognitive mind training into skill and endurance workouts that stress the physical capacity of the athlete.  Interval or high-intensity strength training are great times to increase poise and mental toughness with cognitive mind training.
  5. Encourage your elite athletes to adopt a 24/7 performance mindset.  Your athletes are away from you more than they are with you; develop a shared vocabulary and philosophy of intentional behavior that supports elite performance.  This intentional behavior includes nutrition, sleep, emotional resilience, and commitment to build cognitive performance skills outside of practice.


For more information about integrating cognitive mind training into your practices or developing a customized cognitive mind training program for your organization, contact dr. dutch at TierOne Performance Consulting or consider taking courses at the TierOne Performance Institute.

Remember – Put your mind on what matters!

Why Wells Fargo is Broken


Wells Fargo is broken and social and cognitive psychology can help you understand why this once respected bank needs a dramatic cultural shift.

Wells Fargo is broken and hemorrhaging public trust so fast that it could lead to a derailment of the banking behemoth.  So how did Wells Fargo get to this point and why is everyone upset?  To understand what is happening with Wells Fargo, one has to understand a little about social and cognitive psychology.

Let’s start with how Wells Fargo could systematically defraud thousands of customers.  Psychologist Albert Bandura, the father of Social Cognitive Theory, argued that there are ways to reduce moral agency through cognitive processes to justify offensive behavior like what we saw at Wells Fargo.  These justifications are often incubated in the culture of the organization and passed on through increasingly egregious behavior.  No one from Wells Fargo decided one day to just go into work and steal millions of dollars from hard working customers.  The behavior started slowly and increased incrementally with cognitive moral justifications.  And the shocker is – the people that did it are probably not bad people; they are more or less, just like you and me.  Here is how it happens.

Bandura highlighted six common cognitive moral agency justifications; (1) sanitizing language, (2) advantageous comparison, (3) removing personal agency through diffusion of responsibility, (4) attributing blame to another, (5) minimizing perceived harm to other, and (6) dehumanize victims.  When hearing the congressional testimony of chief executive John G. Stumpf, it is easy to pick out the moral justifications.  The high pressure to attain unrealistic sales goals for the benefit of managerial bonuses was part of the toxic cultural fabric of the organization that allowed the moral justifications to permeate and persist.  So why are people so upset?  It is not like big banks haven’t scammed us before.

To answer this question we look to social psychology.  Humans are social animals, no matter how much we try to deny our make-up we are driven and motivated by social instincts.  These social instincts and behaviors evolved out of a need to work together to survive.  In modern society, banks have a unique and central niche in our social trust and our sense and ability to survival.  We, as banking customers, believe that our banks share the same values and beliefs as we do.  Since we share the same social goal of survival, when we shake hands with the bank representative and hand over the deposit slip, there is a psychological social bond that is established – we trust them with our future.  Breaking that bond, like Wells Fargo did, undermines the social contract and psychological trust.  As social animals we ostracize and sanction those that break the social trust because that behavior will ultimately destroy the social fabric of shared values and beliefs.  In the case of Wells Fargo, without a fundamental change in organizational culture, these customer sanctions could prove catastrophic.

Let TierOne Performance Consulting help your organization develop a positive culture that engages employees and customers in a supportive trusting way.  Whether it is measuring your organizational engagement, conducting a cultural assessment, developing intrinsic motivational measures for your work team, or conducting emotional intelligence training, TierOne can help you accomplish your goals.

Remember – Put your mind on what matters!


The High-Performance Leader – What Skills do You Need?


The high-performance leader is emotionally intelligent, engages group members, and has developed the mental skills to make wise decisions.  Photo Source:

Last week we talked about why coaching is so important to leader development and performance in today’s dynamic corporate environment.  This week, we look at specific skills identified as critical for high-performance leaders and why women have an advantage in today’s workplace.

According to recent research by Gallop, high-performance leaders share similar talents that underlie a foundation of emotional intelligence.  These talents create a supportive workplace culture and employee engagement while moving the organization forward and making wise situationally-aware decisions.

  1. Motivate. A high-performance leader engages all members of the group with an inspiring vision and mission.  Understands group members and how to activate intrinsic motivational strategies to build engagement, instill a culture of learning, and maximize performance and growth.
  2. Assertiveness and Energy. Leaders have to be advocates for their departments and team members.  Knowing how to be assertive while building relationships across departments is the key to being a high-performance leader.  Leadership requires the energy to overcome obstacles and engage multiple levels of the organization to maximize individual and group performance.
  3. Accountability. A high-performance leader empowers group members to take ownership of the work product and creates an environment of clear accountability.  This accountability embraces honest feedback without blaming and includes the behavior and performance of the leader.  The ability to establish and mentor a culture of accountability requires an emotionally intelligent leader.
  4. Build Relationships. One of the most important talents of a leader is building engagement and trust with group members and within the organization.  Open, insightful, empathic, and skillful communication are the foundation of relationship building.  Group members have to know that the leader cares and is concerned with the development of the group member.  Perspective taking skills and emotional intelligence are critical to a leader’s ability to build these relationships.
  5. Wise Decision Making. High-performance leaders make decisions based on productivity, organizational well-being, and complete situational awareness.  Emotions, stress, and perceptional errors cloud leader thinking and result in poor decisions.  Leaders must be able to control emotions and accurately perceive the environment to make wise decisions.

Why Women Have an Advantage.  The Gallop research found that women leaders tend to engage and be more concerned with employee development than their male counterparts.  Women leaders were found to be more collaborative and more likely to engage in pro-social communication that engenders relationship building.  Supporting research has shown that women are also more likely to identify and be aware of their and others emotional competencies.

The results of the Gallop study show a high-performance leader is rare (about 10% of current leaders) and that the skills needs to be a high-performance leader are not taught and developed in MBA programs.  The study shows the need for organizations and leaders to invest in leadership coaching to develop the skills needed to guide organizations in this dynamic uncertain corporate environment.

Let TierOne Performance Consulting help you develop the skills and confidence you need to be a high-performance leader.

Remember – Put your mind on what matters!

Why Leadership Coaching is Important


Leadership coaching is the #1 performance enhancer in today’s competitive corporate environment.

Why leadership coaching? It used to be that you only had to worry about the kid in the next cubical, not so much in today’s global talent market.  Now you have to worry about the kid in the next city, state, and country.  Have a weakness?  Your company will find someone half-a-world away that doesn’t.  Not ready to work 14-hour days and be on call day and night?  Your company will find someone who is…and pay them less.  Your MBA program did not prepare you for everything that is expected of you now that you are in a leadership role, what is worse, as you stress out at work from your lack of preparedness, you will suffer physically, gain weight, and you will transfer that stress into every other relationship in your life.

The solution?  Professional leadership coaching.  A Gallop study found that less than 10% of current managers have the skills necessary to be effective in their roles.  The same study reported that this lack of leadership skills costs companies between $319 billion to $398 billion annually.  What is more concerning for you, your lack of leadership performance will result in the loss of your job.

depressed leader

Lacking the skills to perform in your new leadership role will create stress at work and at home and ultimately lead to professional derailment.

Unfortunately, developing the skills needed to be successful takes time and your MBA program has not served you well.  Your one or two leadership classes and class team projects didn’t teach YOU how to LEAD people and thrive in a competitive dynamic environment.  A good coaching program should use science-based methods and be tailored to your specific needs to develop your hard and soft leadership skills over time.  And more importantly, your program should give you a chance to practice the skills repeatedly in a supportive non-threatening environment until you are proficient and confident.

Let TierOne Performance Consulting help you develop the skills and confidence you need to be successful and happy.

Next week we will look at what skills are most needed by today’s leaders, and why women may just have the advantage.

Remember – Put your mind on what matters!


Predicting Work Team Performance


Predicting work team performance is big business – can you do it?

A recent Gallup report shows that work team performance is influenced significantly by the engagement level and culture of the team.  The study attempted to quantify individual and group characteristics in order to predict work team performance.  In a massive meta-analysis, the study included over 82,000 teams in 230 organizations and over 1.8 million employees.

Such a large sample size allowed the researchers to drill down on individual characteristics in a “Moneyball” type analysis.  The research found that aspects of workplace culture identified as employee engagement led to a four times greater chance of success over teams that were less engaged.  Employee engagement was measured by a self-report survey that according to Gallop included, “role clarity, having an opportunity to do what you do best, opportunities to develop, opinions counting, strong coworker relationships, and a common mission or purpose.”

The research is particularly important to businesses because it shows that organizational culture and engagement has a direct effect on work team performance and the business’s bottom line.  In addition, the research is significant because it shows the motivational power of autonomy, relatedness, competence – the three areas of intrinsic motivation identified in Self-Determination Theory.  The study also shows the importance of developing individual and team emotional intelligence in order to form more cohesive, intuitive, and respectful team relationships.

Let TierOne Performance Consulting help your organization develop the team culture and engagement that drives performance and profits.  Whether it is measuring your organizational engagement, conducting a cultural assessment, developing intrinsic motivational measures for your work team, or conducting emotional intelligence training, TierOne can help you accomplish your goals.

Remember – Put your mind on what matters!

How to Motivate Millennials – New Skills in Talent Management


It can be challenging for managers to motivate millennials and keep talented employees from jumping ship to the competition.  Photo source:

Millennials are now the largest demographic in the U.S. population surpassing baby boomers for population primacy.  While each generation is different from the other, motivating millennials requires a different approach from what has been successful with Gen Xers and boomers.  Managers and organizations must learn how to lead, inspire, and motivate millennials in order to keep this highly mobile workforce.  Transactional managerial methods will no longer work; organizations must engage millennials at the psychological level where they make decisions.

Recent Gallup research found that just 29% of millennials are engaged at work and that millennial turnover due to lack of engagement costs the U.S. economy over $30 billion annually.  Gallup also found four common themes that talent managers should be aware of when designing programs to engage and motivate millennials.

  1. Millennials are Unattached: Millennials are less attached to traditional memberships than previous generations. Millennials are more skeptical of institutions like corporations, religion, politics, brands, and community than previous generations.
  2. Millennials are Connected at a Global Level: Millennials are wired and connected to culture, friends, and the world around them. Gallup says 91% of millennials own a smart phone and rely on the internet for news and information.  This connection points to millennial engagement in social and environmental issues that transcend traditional ethnic and geographic boundaries.  This transcendence enters into workplace behavior and motivation as well.
  3. Change Agents: Driven by the experience of instant social connection and the power of crowd sourcing and big data, millennials see themselves as change agents striving for a more socially and economically conscious and just world.  This change agent perspective applies to business systems and relationships at the workplace.
  4. Work/Life Integration: Millennials see integration between work life and social life and expect to be engaged and developed in a way that supports both areas. Millennials also expect leaders to care about them personally and see emotional engagement as an important aspect of the workplace.

How to Motivate Millennials

Talent management of millennials requires authentic and thoughtful engagement.  Motivational programs must include approaches that include personal development, organizational relatedness, ideological congruence, and autonomy.  These areas are encompassed in the psychological concept of intrinsic motivation found in social cognitive theory and self-determination theory.  Organizations and managers need to understand and use intrinsic motivation to develop millennials in new ways to increase engagement and performance.  TierOne Performance Consulting can help you build talent management programs that put the mind on what matters and engages millennials in meaningful ways.

Remember – Put your mind on what matters!

The Psychology of Talent Management


With the hype of the NFL combine in the news, I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about talent management.  Whether you are looking for a backcourt general or social media wizard, the psychological aspects of managing talent is all the same.  Here are some things to consider.

The gold standard of talent management is intrinsic motivation.  Intrinsic motivation spells a win-win for the talent and the organization.  The talent enjoys working at the company and feels valued and the company feels that the talent brings value the organization.  Self-Determination Theory tells us that intrinsic motivation is achieved when a state of competence, relatedness, and autonomy is experienced.  While this may seem pretty straight forward, social and cultural considerations also enter the mix to make things a little more complicated.

Ego, the sense of self-worth, and the feelings of empowerment all help muddy the intrinsic motivation waters.  Look at one of the most disastrous personnel management situations in the history of the NBA.  In the mid-90s, Superstar Shaquille O’Neal (Shaq) was arguably the best player in the league and a free agent with the Orlando Magic.  Shaq wanted to stay at Orlando and the Magic clearly wanted to keep the best player in the league, but Shaq ended-up signing with the L.A. Lakers…so what happened?  Orlando didn’t apply the principles of competence, relatedness, and autonomy and failed to appreciate the social and cultural influences that affected the decisions of their best player.  It wasn’t the money, trust me, it was the psychology.


Talent management is not about your organization’s salary cap, it is about the psychology of your employees.

The missing element in the Shaq scenario and in many organization’s that struggle with managing talent is the lack of appreciation for the psychological aspects of happiness and motivation.  Emotional intelligence is the key aspect of this equation and one that can be developed.  Emotional intelligence can help both the employee and organization recognize areas of friction and poor communication the impact ego and self-worth.  Once talent management is approached from a position of wisdom and insight, the aspects of self-determination theory can be used to find a win-win for the talent and the organization.

TierOne Performance Consulting can help organizations manage talent through the application of evidence-based psychological approaches.  Develop emotional intelligence within employees and build the wisdom and insight that increases performance with mindfulness training.


Become the Jedi CEO that will make a difference in your organization with evidence-based coaching in emotional intelligence and mindful-insight at TierOne Performance Consulting.

Remember – Put your mind on what matters!

Three Popular Personality Assessments for the Workplace


Last week we considered workplace assessments.  To add some clarity to this issue, I thought I would cover three popular personality tests and talk about the psychometric properties and how best to use the assessments in your organization or as part of a comprehensive coaching program.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

The MBTI is based on Jungian psychological theory and is one of the most widely used personality assessments.  Carl Jung was born in Switzerland in 1875 and was a contemporary of Freud.  Because of the time he lived, many of his theories of personality are colored by themes of the times like; the collective unconscious, dream analysis, and psyche archetypes.  Many of Jung’s theories have fallen out of favor in modern psychology.

Using Jungian Theory, the MBTI measures four dichotomies and 20 facets:


  1. Extraversion vs. Introversion
  2. Sensing vs. Intuition
  3. Thinking vs. Feeling
  4. Judging vs. Perceiving


5 Extraversion-Introversion facets (Initiating-Receiving, Expressive-Contained, Gregarious-Intimate, Active-Reflective, Enthusiastic-Quiet)

5 Sensing-Intuition facets (Concrete-Abstract, Realistic-Imaginative, Practical-Conceptual, Experiential-Theoretical, Traditional-Original)

5 Thinking-Feeling facets (Logical-Empathetic, Reasonable-Compassionate, Questioning-Accommodating, Critical-Accepting, Tough-Tender)

5 Judging-Perceiving facets (Systematic-Casual, Planful-Open-Ended, Early Starting-Pressure-Prompted, Scheduled-Spontaneous, Methodical-Emergent

Evaluation and Use

The Mental Measures Handbook (the gold standard for psychological assessments) gives the MBTI decent reliability scores, but questions the test’s validity in several areas.  In addition, the Handbook cautions that the sample population used to norm the test was skewed towards Caucasian women.  The Handbook stresses that because of the basis of the assessment in Jungian Theory, it is important to have someone well-versed in Jungian Theory and practice to interpret the results (your basic MBTI certification might not be what is really needed to be useful).  While the predictive qualities of the test are questionable, it has been used successfully as a stimulus to start conversations in coaching.  However, is it cautioned by the Handbook that using the test in making clinical, employment, or forensic decisions is not recommended and could be perilous.

The Five-Factor Model (FFM or Big Five Dimensions)

The FFM originally used lexical factor analysis to identify important universal personality domains from language.  The theory for this approach argued that important dimensions of personality were embedded in the natural and emergent language of a culture.  This process of using personality terms embedded in language was initially researched by Allport who used an unabridged English dictionary to identify and factor terms.  The terms and factor process was later used by Cattell to develop the 16-Personality Factor Inventory (16-PFI).  Further factor analysis and research using self-assessment and peer observation resulted in the five-factor model and the development of the NEO Personality Inventory.

The five personality dispositions identified in the FFM are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism/Stability.  The model has recently become popular as an assessment to evaluate and predict workplace performance, particularly in leadership. Critics of the model argue that the factor analysis method and the lexicon approach could be flawed and reduce the validity of the model.

Evaluation and Use

The Mental Measures Handbook gives the NEO Personality Inventory -3 (based on the FFM) an excellent validity rating and that the FFM is integral in many recent dimensional personality models. Unfortunately, the norming population was predominately Caucasian and the test-retest information is also lacking, but existing evidence suggests it is adequate.  The FFM has been shown to be valuable in predicting workplace and academic performance.  The model has also been valuable in coaching relationships to show how personality influences thinking and behavior and to develop performance action plans.

Strength Finders 2.0

Strength Finders was developed by the Gallup Organization to identify personal talent and potential.  The assessment was developed through semi-structured interviews of Gallup clients over a 30-year period and synthesized through empirical processes and is based in Positive Psychological Theory. The CSF measures the presence of talent in 34 different themes.

Evaluation and Use

The Mental Measures Handbook has not evaluated this assessment.  According to the test manual, the internal consistency and test-retest reliability are adequate to good, depending on the theme.  However, validity of the measurement is questionable given inadequate data to assess.  Criterion validity was shown to be significantly related to the five-factor model of personality.  The primary purpose of Strength Finders is to identify possible employee strengths and weaknesses to assist in employee development.  The makers caution that the assessment, “is not designed or validated for use in employee selection or mental health screening.  Given that CSF feedback is provided to foster intrapersonal development, comparisons across profiles of individuals are discouraged.”  This disclaimer significantly limits the usefulness in an organizational setting and should be considered as appropriate only for individual and team coaching.

Find out more about using assessments in your development and your organization at TierOne Performance Consulting.

Remember – Put your mind on what matters!


The Question of Workplace Psychological Assessments


Know what you are getting and why when you give a psychological assessment in the workplace.  Photo Source:

Odds are that at some point in your career you have had to take a personality assessment.  If you work in Human Resources Management or are an organizational leader you have probably used or considered using personality assessments to hire personnel or put work-teams together.  There are a lot of assessments out there with varying degrees of reliability and validity and if you are not a trained psychologist you may not be using these tools to the full potential, or worse, misusing the assessment all together.  Consider these four areas before using a psychological assessment in the workplace.

  1. Why Test

The first question you have to ask yourself is what are your goals for using a psychological assessment?  You should have a purpose for the assessment beyond being used as an icebreaking exercise.  Psychological assessments can be useful in coaching situations to identify personal orientations that can assist in coaching plan development.  Assessments can also be useful in putting together project teams and predicting how the team will function.

  1. Understand the Psychological Theory

People use assessments because of the product’s quantitative (measurable) qualities and the science behind the assessment.  Each assessment is grounded in a researched psychological theory and is designed to be used with and reflect the thinking of its unique theory.  Before giving and using these tools you must know and understand the theory.  Ideally, your purpose for giving the assessment and your intervention should match foundational aspects of the theory.

  1. Understand the Science    

Assessments are considered reliable and valid based on the product’s psychometric properties.  If you don’t know what psychometric properties are you should before you give the test and you should be able to explain the concept and the properties of the test to your client.  If the assessment is a scientifically based “real” assessment, it will publish reliability, validity, and norming statistics.  You should be able understand and critique these statistical values.  Don’t believe the marketing hype published on the assessments website; find scientifically based independent reviews of the assessment.  Try checking out the Mental Measures Handbook for objective reviews and the psychometric properties of most popular psychological tests on the market.  If you are using these assessments for hiring you really need to understand the limitations of the test.  Many psychological assessments are not recommended for hiring purposes.

  1. Put it all Together

You have the results now what?  A psychological assessment should be just one part of an overall development plan.  Since you expended the effort and money to give an assessment, make sure it is integrated into the development plan and is consistent with the development model you (or your organization) are using.  In addition, the assessment, model, and psychological theory should be aligned.  Knowing that you have a particular personality orientation means nothing if the knowledge doesn’t lead to the attainment of your personal goals.  Also, personality orientations tend to be fairly stable in adulthood, while our attention spans are pretty short.  Revisit the assessment with your clients and/or team regularly so they can see the patterns of thinking and behavior influenced by their unique personality orientation.

Go to TierOne Performance Consulting to learn more about science-based integrated coaching and development ideas. Put your mind on what matters!

Remember – Put your mind on what matters!


Mindfulness in Performance Coaching

Workplace mindfulness training has been shown to improve performance and well-being

Workplace mindfulness training has been shown to improve performance and well-being

Every manager and organization is concerned with employee engagement and well-being.  The problem is that few organizational programs or performance coaching practices have been successful building these emotional and motivational states.  However, recent research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has shown that online mindfulness training may be a cost effective way to improve both performance and well-being.

The study found that daily stress was decreased significantly while resiliency, awareness, emotional energy, and cognitive strength all increased.  The mindfulness training research has important implications for human performance both at the organizational level and in individual coaching.  The method of mindfulness training used in the study was a combination of group organizational training and individual coaching.  The researchers admit that it is hard to place a return on investment for such a mindfulness training intervention, but argued the “widespread application has the potential to result in significant employer competitive advantage through a combination of improved employee well-being, enhanced human performance, and decreased health care costs.”

Find out more about how to bring mindfulness to your organization or performance coaching at TierOne Performance Consulting.

Remember – Put your mind on what matters!