Earlier this week, as part of The Chief Officers’ Breakfast Club I run in partnership with SportsAid, I hosted a discussion led by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson on people-centred performance.

As you will probably know, Tanni is one of the UK’s all-time great athletes. During her career as a wheelchair racer, she secured 11 gold medals at the Paralympic Games, won the London Marathon six times and broke 30 world records. By any measure, Tanni was successful!

During the discussion with the Breakfast Club members, however, two things struck me. First, Tanni stated that, over the course of her career, she lost more races than she won. Second, the key question her mum and dad asked her after each race was not, “Did you win?” but “How well did you compete?

Finding the sweet spot that balances pressure and peak performance can be frustratingly elusive. Each individual and each team is different. We all need a certain amount of pressure to be at our best, but many people can quickly be overcome by fear if they feel too much stress.

Over the course of her career, Tanni was able to find a point that balanced pressure and performance, giving her the drive and willingness to compete, even if that meant losing.

All leaders and teams need to find that place, too, where they are able to maximise the energy, motivation and willingness needed to take prudent risks, drive change and perform at their best. You can’t base your own career or your organisation’s success on avoiding failure and setbacks at all costs. We all need to play to win, rather than play not-to-lose.

What steps are you taking to find the right level of pressure, stress and risk that enables you to play to win and positively respond to the question that Tanni’s parents posed, “How well did you compete?

Off The Record: Love Minus Zero/No Limit by Bob Dylan

In the dime stores and bus stations

People talk of situations,

Read books, repeat quotations,

Draw conclusions on the wall.

Some speak of the future,

My love she speaks softly,

She knows that there’s no success like failure

And that failure’s no success at all.