Bright reflections playfully explore contemporary topics and aim to make you think. They are always teasing, sometimes provoking, but never judging. 

With a flirt to sport…

Wait, wouldn’t it be; think smart, train hard? Or even harder or smarter? You probably would know someone, that have been working with a great coach or leader. What coaches and leaders all have in common is the passion for their sport or business. They live and breathe it. However, only a few have the ability to be truly inspired leaders or coaches and achieving KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Before sharing ‘how’ to think hardtrain smart, I would like to define ‘what’ its connection with KPIs is.

Ever been asked to give it 110% or 200%? If anyone in life can give 100%, that 100% will reach a new level. In simple words, you can never give more than 100%, it is all together a different 100% that comes in to play every time you progress.

Research by S. Shmanske^ in the NBA refers to defining what counts as 100% effort. Every physicalemotional and social-affective component can reach a new dimension. By challenges set by a coach or leader, yourself or someone else. By continuous learning, professional development and experience. Impacted by internal or external influences. Whether ‘performance’ as a team or as an individual, you will interact with these dimensions as soon a challenge comes into play. A set challenge would be a KPI to reach a certain goal. The learning from this is that there is more involved than just team or business KPIs.

It’s key to understand that performance indicates success. For example, a team can win with 1-0, a business can achieve the monthly target, but both could have underperformed. To sustain and perform a coach or leader must look into the KPI(s) of the individual. Two simplified ways to think hard, train smart:

  1. Understanding what is going on in a team member’s life. When a team member right before a presentation is still worrying about how to pay a massive bill by the next day, could impact performance. An athlete still stressed out about a big exam right before the game starts, could affect the performance. As a coach or leader knowing what drives them outside of work or sport. Providing support to streamline other commitments or interests. Wouldn’t you agree that this will have an impact on team KPIs?
  2. As a team member you want to stay focussed, what inspires you? As a leader or coach, what is it that you want, what makes you unique and want to become the best in? In this case it is a shared responsibility. There has to be ownership and sacrifices made or overcoming them. Sharing what’s going on means balance and a clear pathway for improvement, development and could lead to a better indication of performance to success. Communication and timing of it is key, in addition; it has to be frequent.

Very recently at the Leaders in Sport Performance Summit in London the topic was team cohesion, collaboration and leadership. Five steps that came out the summit were:

  1. Park ego and never criticise an idea;
  2. What you see under pressure is the default position;
  3. Reflect on the choreograph of your pit stops (team critical moments) – no finger pointing, but dissect it, discuss it, map it and practice it;
  4. When you stop learning, you stop evolving;
  5. Cohesion doesn’t mean that you have no leadership, it means you have shared leadership.

Think hard is focussing on an easier way to take away obstacles or overcome them to achieve a certain goal. Team cohesion requires to adapt your leadership style. Personal KPIs can affect team KPIs positively. Think about creating a plan or framework together, how and when to communicate, what the goal is for the team members, the team and yourself. This mean that as a leader or coach you have to open up, but subsequently allow team members to open up.

Train smart is fitting this process into the plan that has been developed and work with it. Improving individuals, measure the vitality in the team and create an environment where everyone feels accountable or responsible for their part they play in the team.

^S. Shmanske (Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports) titled “Dynamic Effort, Sustainability, Myopia, and 110% Effort” 2010.


Björn is director of i4bright ( He leads teams from Grass Roots to (High) Performance. Björn is a coach and content master with a flirt to business and sport. His passions include water polo and development of the sport.

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