Ayo Akinwolere: Hello, I'm Ayo Akinwolere. I'm a broadcaster, changemaker and World Record Swimmer and welcome to this episode of Gowling WLG'S Language of Leadership podcast. In this series, we're exploring the lessons business leaders can learn from sports, what winning behaviour sports leaders show, and how we can use these in the world of business. Working with me will be my co-host, Charlie Unwin, a sports performance psychologist. Gowling WLG has analysed the language used by elite individuals in sports and in business and developed six lessons for business leaders to take from sports leaders. Today, we're going to look at showing confidence at all times. Before we introduce our main guest, Charlie, give us a glimpse as to what you think this means.
Charlie Unwin: Cheers Ayo, so confidence, it's a massive, massive word as we're going to find out in this but fundamentally, I think the reason this came up in the research is because sports leaders see confidence management as being really pivotal to success. It's all very well being able to kind of marvel on the talents of the people that we have around us and their capability. But if they're performing up there one day down there the next, we don't get that consistency that's essential for high performance and it's very often confidence that determines that consistency. And it is one of the greatest predictors, certainly in sports of performance. So, sports leaders are very tuned in to the language of confidence, and what it takes to build and maintain confidence levels.
Ayo: Okay, well, joining us in the studio to share his experiences in this area is Paul McVeigh, ex-Premier League footballer turned performance psychologist. Paul, welcome.
Paul McVeigh: Thank you, Ayo. Thanks very much for having me on and hello, Charlie. But firstly, World Record Swimmer? Woah! Are we gonna brush over that?
Ayo: Casual, casual.
Charlie: He just dropped that one in.
Ayo: Dropped that bad boy in, these things happen, you know, we'll talk about that little later on.
Paul: But congratulations.
Ayo: Well look, I think we're all fitted perfectly to talk about the idea of confidence really, and I'd love to really explore this so much more. Well, let's start with this, then really, how we bring confidence into our everyday language as leaders and why we need to do this. Charlie, do you want to kick us off on this one first?
Charlie: Yeah. So, I think confidence, because it's so important that there's a language around confidence and we're interested in what that language is that comes up in sport all the time, when performance is analysed, what is it? What is it that kind of lends itself to why, you know, someone did something that they, you know, they could do every day in training, but they couldn't do under that sort of point of pressure? So, the language of confidence, I think we need to be able to be much more kind of tuned into, whereas, arguably, in business, it doesn't get spoken about as much, which means that, of course, if you don't have a language for it's difficult to measure it, have any degree of self-awareness around it. So, it's difficult to kind of help people, coach people around confidence. But I mean, Paul, you must find that you know, because you've bridged both, you know, sports and business, you must find the same.
Paul: Yeah, it's fascinating, I love the subject. And so, appreciate you asking me to come in to talk about it and share my feelings and my thoughts and insights. But I think the starting point is really to try and understand what it is, you know, if you were to ask someone, what is confidence? Most people I think would give us such a wide variety of answers, probably wouldn't really be able to define it. And I think even more importantly, where does it come from? So, you're talking about language and if you're just talking about the linguistics that we use, then yes, we can talk in certain ways that makes confidence. But then there's also the behaviours that you display, whether it's in your chosen field, sport, industry, and are you behaving confidently or not. And again, that's more of an observation that maybe the leaders and the coaches that we would have worked with, may be able to tell from that. But I think the starting point is got to understand what is it and where does it come from?
Charlie: And can I just, I heard at a conference run by the Premier League, I heard this fascinating bit of research, I think it came from nowhere, I don't know if you've heard the same about penalty taking. And they found that penalty takers are more likely to be more successful when they place the ball down and walk backwards. So, without turning their back, without turning their back to the goalkeeper now. Now, I'm sure there are all sorts of kind of mechanisms that we can look at that sort of leads us to towards confidence. It's a demonstration of confidence that you stand upright. But of course, it causes many people to ask the question, why don't you just teach people to walk backwards? Because then they're more likely to take, you know, get the penalty. But they've kind of missed the point there, haven't they slightly? It's that it's not just about the behaviour. It's about the felt or the lived experience.
Paul: Yeah, absolutely. And that's such a great point. It's I don't know if you ever heard about how you know, there's more break-ins whenever ice cream sales are on the up. And it's just because it's in the summertime ice cream sales go up, but it's also because people leave their windows open, so many people break into houses. So, are they linked? Whenever someone walks backwards, are they linked? Maybe statistically that's what happens, but actually does that impact whether someone does it or not? I think this is a really interesting point, you're talking about penalties because I have a little exercise I run through when I'm working in the corporate world. And I try and help people understand where performance comes from. So, confidence, interestingly, when I was working as a sports psychologist with those Premier League clubs that we were talking about a little bit earlier, with Norwich City, and Crystal Palace, out of all of the years that I worked with the best players in the world, you know, people who are at the very top of their game, and want to get better. So back to that constant of random improvement, the number one thing they came and spoke to me about was confidence. So, for me, it's that correlation between confidence and performance. Any they said okay, so can you help me with my confidence? And I'd say absolutely not. And then they're like, well why are you here? Why are we paying you?
Ayo: We're paying you to give us confidence. But in that vein, then, you know, leaders will have a team working for them. A football team, for instance, will have a coach, you've got various versions of confidence. Look at Cristiano Ronaldo, right? Abundance of confidence. You've got a young lad who just graduated from the academy got his first team opportunity, probably not the same kind of confidence. How do you manage that as a leader?
Paul: Well, I think that comes back to what is the confidence? What are we trying to achieve here? And really, I think what Charlie said it's not that up and down level of performance, we need consistency. But just to go back to the point of what is the confidence can I give it to him, can I help them? And ultimately, what psychology tells us, I'm not making this up and Charlie will hopefully back this up, that all of our thoughts, all of our thinking, where's the thinking our habitual thinking patterns, drive how we feel. So, if that's your emotional, let's say, consequence of how we think, well then if you start to play this into even something like cognitive behavioural therapy, just as simple as your thoughts drive your feelings, your feelings drive your behaviours. So, when I'm asking players, so where does confidence fit into any of those three areas? Is it a thought? Is it a feeling? Or is it a behaviour? Some people would even say there's a fourth option that it might be all of the above, potentially. But whenever I ask someone, I will follow it up with why think confidence is a feeling? If I'm walking in the Premier League stadium, if I'm walking out in front of 75,000 people at Old Trafford or 50,000 people at Anfield, I will either walk out feeling confident or unconfident now, very simple deduction. So how does how does my feeling come to bear? It comes because of how I'm thinking. So really, when they come in to see me, they're saying, well, can you help me with my confidence? Can you give me confidence, like you joked about earlier? Oh, well, no, I can't, because it's their thoughts that are going to determine how they feel, which is going to determine how they behave, and ultimately their performance on the field. So, I can't give it to them, but what I can do is help them understand that it's everything that they're thinking about themselves, you know, that little, let's call a little devil on the shoulder, your imposter syndrome, your voice or you know, some people have voices in their head. So, but it's, it's making sure that that intrinsic language or psycholinguistics, as we call it, what does that say on a repeated basis? Because the fact that we were speaking to ourselves all day long, while we're while we're awake.
Charlie: And almost inevitably, that voice comes back almost to one question, really, isn't it? Which is can I do it? Can I do it? And then the operative word being it, what is it? And so how important is it that you're able to help people give clarity on what it is, in order to then start to sort of kickstart that cycle of now I'm thinking correctly, positively, that's affects way I think, which affects the way I perform?
Paul: Well, again, it comes back to their expectations. It's like a player, an athlete, someone going in to do the job every single day in an office. What is your expectation for that? Are you going to look for perfection? Because if that's what confidence is for you, well, probably not going to happen. Highly unlikely. I've never played a perfect game. You mentioned Cristiano Ronaldo, he's never played a perfect game. So, the difference is, what is your expectation? And then it's almost like on a sliding scale of do you feel more confident do you feel less confident? And I think the trick is, how do you help people who are less confident, more of the time to start moving more along the spectrum to be more confident more of the time. And again, language, behaviours, if it's a skill, practice in the skill, if it's a closed skill. But then of course, there'll be lots of times when we can't control all these things and then it's a case of doing it, you probably will mess up if you haven't done it many times before. And then keep repeating, repeating, but always looking to improve, which goes back to the other episode when you're talking about the constant never-ending improvement.
Ayo: Yeah, but that I mean, that's something I'm interested in, especially from a leader's perspective, you've got various people with different levels of confidence. How do you create an environment where everyone feels worthy, everyone feels like they can put their best foot forward and come forward as confident as Cristiano Ronaldo, who has played a million games and has operated at the highest stage, and he relishes that?
Paul: Well, I'll tell you about Cristiano Ronaldo, just as a simple through the football and the grapevine, a story Rio Ferdinand actually tells and I think it's actually in Alex Ferguson's book that Cristiano Ronaldo, the one year I had in the Premier League with Norwich City and managed to play against Ronaldo when he was a kid, in his first spell and his first year at Manchester United. And I was playing right hand side of midfield, he come on left hand side. Now, on that day, he was pretty average, didn't really do well looked like he was confident, but his performance was terrible. Now, at the same time, he's going in to speak to the coaching staff at Manchester United and saying, I want to be the best player in the world. So, he's not the best player in the world, he's not performing at that level but in here, in his mind, his confidence levels was how do I do that. So, to answer your question, I'm not sure if you can create the environment so everyone's always confident, but you can see what other people are doing that allows that behaviour to be replicated. And I had the same thing when I first met Craig Bellamy when I was at Norwich City. Now if you see a Craig Bellamy on the field, you know, really impudent, really aggressive, really tenacious, but actually, when you see him off the field, it's because his drive and determination is to be the best of the best. So again, that's something coming from him. And all I did was, I didn't have that when I first met Craig Bellamy, but I mimicked him, I copied him, I tried to replicate what he's doing. I never got to his level, but I probably got more out of my ability, purely because I was around someone who was super confident like Craig Bellamy.
Ayo: Yeah, it's interesting, because when we're looking at leaders, and it's something we've touched on in the previous podcast is how much does the individual have to do for their worth, their confidence? What are your thoughts on that?
Charlie: I mean, it's because we've spoken about the sort of, knowing our skill being confident in our skills, our ability. What we focus on, obviously dictates then how we feel, but Paul's nicely kind of highlighted in someone like Ronaldo the importance of self-confidence, right? It's an underlying sense of self-esteem. Which means I will back myself in any situation, I'll back myself and that's a fundamental belief of all parts of confidence. A lot of people don't have that ability to back yourself in that situation, even if it's just doing simple things really well. And I've suffered from this myself as an athlete I remember in modern pentathlon, fencing is one of the five disciplines and it was the one I took up last, so the narrative I had inside my head was always, I'm the most junior at this in the British team. Therefore, I'm not going to win many bouts. That was true. But after three months, I still wasn't beating fellow members of the British team. In training, I was getting quicker, I was getting more precise, my repertoire of moves was growing, but I still wasn't getting the results. And I suddenly realised, talking to my own psychologists at the time, I'm still telling the same story that I told myself as a junior athlete, which is, I'm new to this, I'm not as experienced, and I'd never updated that narrative. I'd never updated that story, which meant, at no point was I kind of wiring up or showing up and telling a different story to get a different outcome and helping people with that narrative, is such a kind of fundamental part of confidence, isn't that?
Paul: Well, I think it's a great point that you're talking about, and we touched on it earlier to say it's really, it's what's going on in your head, that voice in your head, and you probably didn't challenge your current narrative. And all of this, whether it's confidence, whether it's whatever we decide we are capable of. And this ultimately, just, if we keep going deeper and deeper in this, this ultimately just highlights what our beliefs are. So, it's our beliefs about ourselves of what we're capable of or not. I'll give a quick example. So, when I stopped playing professional football, so I know, I look, I know, I look 14…
Ayo: I was like when was that?
Paul: …but I'm actually 44, right? So, I stopped, I stopped 12 years. Yeah, and when I come out of professional football, I'd never spoken in public, so even though we're around a table now with microphones, since then, I've worked 10 years in the media. But I'd never spoken in public, I'd never done anything like this. Because I was so acutely aware that I was terrified of speaking in public that I wasn't very good at it that actually just made me so nervous and sweaty, and all the rest of it. But I also knew the power, it's really hard to say in the Belfast accent, the power of affirmations, and essentially, that's just the statement that I want to say repeatedly to myself, because I'm trying to create a new neural pathway of what I believe essentially what I believe about myself. And so, I came up with this affirmation of, I enjoy every possibility of speaking in front of an audience. Like in 2010, I was delivering my first keynote for Aviva and suddenly, I'm standing in front of 150 people. And in my head beforehand, I'm saying, I enjoy every possibility to speak in front of an audience, little voice in the back of my mind was going, no, you don't. And then I did that, then I'd go through the next one, and another week later. And I'm saying this constantly to myself, like, we go through the timeline, come to 2012, I've probably done enough times, we're starting to be less afraid. Till eventually, I got more enjoyment out of it. And let's just say in 2022 it is the single greatest buzz I have in my professional career is standing up to speak in front of an audience. Now, is that because I'm rewiring my brain, or I just know, with the understanding of how helpful and beneficial affirmations are, but ultimately, it's the belief that I have about myself.
Ayo: Yeah, it's so interesting, you talk about that, because one of the things I was talking to Charlie about earlier on this morning is that as a broadcaster finding my voice is really important, how you start off, I've been trying to mimic other broadcasters that I like, blah, blah, blah, but you don't sound like yourself. But also, I did acting classes because I used to get really nervous on-stage right, and you wouldn't think it now, but because this takes a lot of work to get to this point. But what I also fundamentally realised through acting is that it allows you to think of it as a story, right? And I was focusing on the little, tiny bits that were going to trip me up and that took over my mental space, but also my acting coach, at the time said something to me, which really switched my perception it's what you're talking about changing the way your brain thinks he goes, no one knows what your speech is and who ever goes to a theatre waiting for the actor to fail? Why have you paid all that money to go mmmm they didn't say to be or not to be? That's not what I know. No, I want to I want a refund. No one does that. Because they're there to see you shine. So, the audience has not come to see you fail, so why don't you just enjoy being you? And if you do make a mistake, they don't know.
Paul: So, and again, this comes back to the psychological principle, I would have come across around focus theory of when you are going into a task or a presentation or an interview or job, whatever you're going to do. It's going in and you have different ways that you can focus essentially. Now one, probably not a lot of people do this was essentially focusing on everything going wrong. What's the point in doing this I'm probably gonna mess it up? Not a lot of people are like that, but there is a small percentage, I would say culturally, in this part of the world most people go in, trying not to mess it up. They go in thinking hope I don't go wrong. I hope I don't make this mistake. I hope I didn't I forget that last bit when I was practising, but actually the best performers, the, you know, the best footballers in the world that I've had the fortune and privilege to play with people like, you know, Juergen Klinsmann, Teddy Sheringham, David Ginola, Sol Campbell, all these outstanding players, their mindset, and their focus, which helps them with their confidence is all about whatever they're gonna do, they're going to do it to the best of their ability, and they're gonna knock it out of the park, they don't go in thinking I hope I don't mess this up. Because that's not what top performers feel like, and they don't think like that. And also, people around them, they won't let them get away. Really, really interesting.
Charlie: You can't focus on not making mistakes, or as I said, don't think of a yellow car, don't think of a yellow car. How do you not think of yellow car or think of a blue car? And then the more detail, you think of that blue car, you know, alloy wheels, tinted windows, what type of blue, the more the yellow car just becomes less relevant, I suppose is the best way of putting it. And so yeah, being able to deal with that is difficult, isn't it? We are negatively bias something like five times negatively bias.
Paul: Absolutely. So again, that's a human instinct, that's probably part of our DNA, you could have a whole conversation on that separately. But what you're really trying to do is you're trying to get this front part of your brain to be less, as Charlie said, negative bias, and pretty much everything we do, and more have the, this is what I want to achieve, because our rational part of our brain can then help us move forward and do what we want to do.
Ayo: Yeah, Charlie I'm interested, are there different areas of confidence? And if anyone's listening to this podcast, are there ways of harnessing that as well?
Charlie: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, so I think summarising what we've already spoken about, so far, we've got confidence in our skills and ability, and, and you know, sometimes you can get two people who look just as able as one another, but they could suffer very different or one could suffer confidence crisis, and another could be a very, very confident person, and they will, they will show up differently. So, imagine walking on the edge of a pavement, right, we could all do that, we've been walking with our life. But if the edge of that pavement wasn't three inches, but three miles, how would you walk, you know? It would completely change the way that you're doing one of the most fundamental skills in life. Of course, that drop is psychological for a lot of people. So, a lot of people focus on what's to lose. So, I think there's confidence and skills and being able to, as Paul says, to focus on what you are trying to do, not unnecessarily what you're not trying to do. But then we've already spoken about the sort of idea of identity as well as who you are, have confidence in yourself as a person, what's the story you tell yourself about yourself? Do leaders really check in with that? Or is it something they try and shy away from because, of course, it's not a way you don't know what's going to come up if you start going down that route. And that's perfect reason for a lot of people just to push it to one side, and focus on our product, focus on our service, focus on our process. What I would say is, you know, confidence is and does relate to the lived experience of what we're trying to achieve. And so, businesses are brilliant at coming up with strategies aren't they and they're brilliant at coming up with plans, some better than others at coming up with plans. But then we don't always have that conversation that goes one step beyond, is what's this going to feel like to do this? What's it going to be like? What's the point that's going to put most pressure on us? What's the point where we might lose a bit of confidence? What do we need from each other to encourage us to keep the energy maintain the momentum? It's that lived experience that doesn't get spoken about as much in business, as it probably does in sport, where it's part of the narrative along with tactics.
Paul: I think, I think to follow up on that, I think it's, it's the, you talked about earlier about creating an environment. And I think it's creating an environment for people to feel. And that's where I think the differences between the sort of the corporate world and more of the sporting world that I've had a foot in each camp over the last kind of 25 years, and it's in sport, you are allowed to fail. Obviously, they want you to do every pass, every shot, every tackle, they want you to do it correctly and perfectly. But actually, it doesn't happen all the time, so they probably give you a lot more leeway, you know what, that you can go and practice that. And in the corporate world, if someone doesn't hit a target, you know, if someone isn't kind of let's say pulling their weight or performing at whatever level, they've decided performance looks like it only has to happen a couple of times before they're suddenly out the door. Now, that's not creating that environment for learning, for growing, and this was the final point on that is just really the confidence for me is so specific. Quick example, I've very fortunately had nearly 20 years playing professional football and managed to play for my country and win a couple of titles and all these other things playing in the Premier League. I was, along with nine or 10 other players so people like Paul Scholes, Michael Owen, Andy Cole, Marcel Desailly who won the World Cup for France, Michel Salgado, who was Spain, part of the Galaticgos and Real Madrid. We all went off to China a number of years ago to play in a Futsal tournament. Well, Futsal very similar to football. Brazilian, we got pumped. Recently, you know why? Because it's not like football at all, because we were trying to play it the way we play football. But even though it looks like football…
Ayo:: Close ball control, smaller ball, heavier ball.
Paul: …so, it's everything that we would do that we've honed these skills over 20 years to get to the best in the world. And listen, just to play in the Premier just to walk into that door. I feel my career was down here because I scored like two goals in the Premier League. Michael Owens scored hundreds. These guys were the best, like Marcel Desailly won a World Cup you are at the top of what I would consider possibly the most competitive and ruthless industry in the world, because people would literally give their right arm just to get to that level. And some of the best players in the world went to China, we got literally battered, I'm going how does this happen? But interestingly, because of the psychology angle, I'm going, well, why should we do because we're playing with completely different sport might as well have played badminton, for sure. Probably would have given us a better chance
Ayo: Bit of a reality check, really?
Paul: And unfortunately, it was back to the fact that confidence is so task specific. And we hadn't been practicing futsal for 20 years.
Charlie: Can I, firstly can I ask what's it like to score a goal in the Premier League? Is there an easy answer to that?
Paul: One of the one of the best feelings you can ever have, but also very surreal. And unless you're you know, I was fortunate I got to score 40 goals in my career. So, I managed to score in the championship over, you know, multiple seasons, but to score in the Premier League, one was on my home debut for Spurs, and it was a header from three yards out with an open goal. So, it's like score the header, now my next question is not, this is the best feeling ever, but how do I celebrate because I've never celebrated in front of 40,000 people? And then secondly, my goal was when we played against Ronaldo at Old Trafford. And then I scored but unfortunately, we're two-one down so like, you can't really go and celebrate sliding on your knees.
Ayo: Anytime you score against Manchester United would be wonderful, if you're an Arsenal fan it would be fantastic. I'm interested in this next point in terms of the humanity within confidence, because I also think there's like, there's a fine line between cockiness and confidence, right? And someone who I think, from the sport world, in particular, wears that humanity and confidence and also delivers and can be cocky, but justifiably, someone like Usain Bolt. You see this guy turn up, relaxed, you see him playing to the camera, this, honestly, he might as well have a bit of a stretch and a yawn at the side of the field. And he loves the audience, he loves the fans. And then he goes out and sets a world record and then he goes out and delivers like you've never seen before. And that confidence and I guess, the level of cockiness that he is the best on this field, he looks left and right and he's thinking, there's no one better than me here. Is there a fine line between confidence and cockiness?
Paul: I would say there's there's probably two schools of thought on this. One is, Usain Bolt wasn't always like that. Because you've seen different footage of him over the years. And even if you see the documentary about him, it was and you know, funny enough, I know his agent he's actually from Northern Ireland, and you have this conversation say, what you see in front of a camera, Beijing and all these world records and gold medals, that's a performance. It's like, let's say, Chris Eubank walking in and Tyson Fury walking in, it's all a performance. So, what does he need to do to heighten his performance? And scare the life out of all his competitors when he's walking into the stadium? So, you'll have that. So essentially, the two schools are, do you have the belief before you happen, have that confidence before you do it? Or because he was gradually getting better, that his confidence was growing until eventually he won, let's say a world title, and then his confidence was there and almost it was there for the rest of his career. Now, I don't know him well enough, or don't know him at all to be able to say which one it was. But for me, the only way to do that is to believe it before it actually happens.
Charlie: Well, that's interesting, because there has been research for decades, I think sports psychologists and they've been trying to work out what comes first, performance or confidence. In other words, do you have to be confident to perform well? Or do you have to perform well to feel confidence? And I've asked that question to elite special forces, I've asked that question to Olympic gold medallists to, you know, CEOs of FTSE 100 companies and very often most of, 90% of the time, they say we need to perform well to feel confident, now the difference is how they measure what their what their reference point for performing well is. Because I think every day it gives us the opportunity to do little things well. So, if we're tuned into that sort of, either kind of progression of where we're going doing little things, well, we will anchor small amounts of confidence all the time rather than wait for the big occasion. Martina Navratilova said that the moment of victory is far too short to live for that and nothing else and so confidence, I think requires us to perform well, to anchor and build upon that. But the question there is, how are you defining performance?
Paul: Which is probably the hardest question.
Ayo: The hardest one. My God, where do we start with that one?
Paul: Well, well, so again, two examples if you try and understand what performance looks like in the footballing world. A friend of mine used to be the European head of scouting for Man City. Now he would go and look at people like David Silva before they came to Man City and literally produce a big 300-page dossier on this guy. Everything he's ever done in his life, at every aspect of his life, all of his stats, all of everything else. But then of course they give it to the manager or head coach at the time and go what do you think? And then he's going to have a subjective opinion of we should buy him, or we shouldn't buy him. They don't go he's made this many passes, he's had this many shots, etc. etc. It's so difficult, so even in people we think there's, you know, a plethora of statistics. It still comes back to an individual subjective opinion. Do we want to spend fifty million pounds on this person or not? It's even harder in the corporate world. Because you're saying, well, what does performance look like? Because if you have, you can have different matrixes for to be able to put them into certain sections, you can have different metrics, but ultimately, it's going to come back to how are they behaving? Are they essentially doing what we're asking them to do? Like and that's so.
Charlie: What impact are they having?
Paul: That's so subjective when it comes to performance in the corporate world. Like unless you talk about how many sales or how many widgets you sold that month or whatever it is. But if you're not doing that, everything else is then subjective, which again is incredibly difficult and I'm fortunate to work across different industries. So, I see how financial services do it, I see how technology does it, I see how utilities, etcetera. Every single one of them struggles.
Ayo: Can overconfidence be an issue? Is there such a thing as over confidence?
Paul: Do you mean like, as in being complacent?
Ayo: Yeah, exactly.
Paul: But that's different, is over confidence, complacent?
Ayo:: Because I'm looking at the positivities and potential negativities of being overly confident if the results don't match right, and I think it's something you touched on and you're like they'll be out the door, is that the right thing to do, to put them out the door, can we nurture that in, in, in in a different way?
Paul: Yeah, it also doesn't help their potential as well.
Charlie: I see, I think people confuse the notion of arrogance thinking it's the same as overconfidence. I think it's subtly but profoundly different idea. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this Paul, but I'm not sure arrogance is on the same scale as confidence, it's a different concept. The reason I say that is because someone who's arrogant is likely to be projecting confidence in order to have some kind of effect, so they probably doesn't come from the inside out. They're projecting something because they know they should, they know they ought to, or they're trying to protect their reputation of some kind. Whereas true confidence is about knowing yourself and what you're trying to do in that situation and believing in yourself in your skills to be able to do that. Which means that you can't really be too confident on that scale, because it just means nothing can shake you, so I think it's just a case of maybe differentiating the kind of, the notion of arrogance with confidence.
Paul: Yeah, it's nuanced, but I think it's perception. If you look at someone, you're probably going to put them into different categories. Are they confident? Are they overconfident? Or are they arrogant? And loads of people think Cristiano Ronaldo is in a certain one of those three categories? That's fine, but he's doing alright for himself. Let him crack on with whatever he's doing.
Ayo: Those those goals, passes assists, trophies will probably say so. World records right yeah?
Paul: Although I think I feel when we played against him that day in 2004. I've had similar career paths.
Ayo: He remembered you, he remembered you.
Paul: I don't know why that's the funniest thing you've laughed at all day.
Charlie: I did hear him talk about Paul McVeigh the other day.
Ayo:: Did anyone ever inspire you? Aw yeah, I played this game with Paul McVeigh.
Paul: I'm sure, I'm sure I wanted him to clean my boots before he left. Anyway, so the whole point is I was very, very fortunate, so my kind of education, footballing education was at Tottenham Hotspur in 94 to 2000 and so unbelievably blessed to play with and make my debut with and train alongside Teddy Sheringham every day for a number of years. I would look at that guy and let's just say he was already the Golden Boot winner in the Premier League. Euro 96 he obviously became a national hero, him and Shearer. Then of course he scored the winning goal in the European Cup final for Manchester United. When I saw him and everything that he did, I was just like this guy is so supremely confident, he's got so much inner belief that what he's going to do when he's going out to play football, he's going to achieve it because the confidence was there, but people who don't know him think he's really arrogant. Now again, it's because they don't realise that he would be the type of player we'd come in on a Monday morning sitting there with the youth team, 16-year-old lads and I'm sitting there with my Welsh mate, my Scottish mate and other Irish guys and he would come in and say right guys how do you get on the weekend? Did you have a night out? What did youse do? I'm going, this guy is just like being a national hero with him and Shearer up front and he's coming in asking me a 16-year-old kid who has nothing to do with his life or career and that's the kind of person he was. But even when you're out on the field he's helping you and educating you. So, I think it really comes back to how do people perceive you and actually probably a better question is, does it matter? Who cares? Because once you get into the public eye, people gotta have an opinion and does it really matter?
Ayo: That's really fascinating, because that in itself is a confidence to be able to shake off any sort of negativity that comes towards you know, I find that in in in the world of business, I find it in the world of sport. Those people that are fundamentally still themselves, regardless of what the circumstances may be. How do you give someone that? Or can you give someone that?
Charlie: It's like a deep congruence isn't with knowing who you are and what I do is congruent with who I am, how I see myself and what we're trying to do as a business as well. You know, I don't, there's nothing greater that a business leader could do with their teams and then to build confidence from the inside out, to help people believe in themselves first and foremost and in a weird way it sometimes gets knocked out of them because we're worried that if they get too confident they'll think they should get promoted earlier than they should do, whereas actually we kind of want to be channelling that. If we have honest conversations, they're not going to go down that route really, and that only happens when you do a kind of performance review process once a year and you realise that your expectations are massively worlds apart, but if you have regular performance conversations, I think people, you can have more honest conversations that build people's sort of confidence from the inside out. I think giving people value, the sort of metaphor of how do you introduce an Academy player into a senior team? Because I've seen it done really badly where so, you know, our star player has got injured, they're out for the weekend therefore we're introducing this player and you know it's all about overcoming the shortcomings rather than celebrating, you know the value of that individual. They're in the Academy for a reason. They've got this far for a reason. Let's promote that. So, I think business leaders can be much more conscious about promoting people's value and making that part of you know OK, it sounds like a bit of a pat on the back type thing, but if a team cannot promote each other then who else is gonna do it for them? I think if you can engender that, it builds confidence every day. It means that the kind of results will go up and down. We know they do, but our confidence doesn't have to be sort of knocked by that.
Ayo: That yeah, I mean you basically summarised my next bit…
Ayo: No no, I love it, it's just…
Paul: He's stopped looking at his notes.
Ayo: Yeah, yeah, he's that far ahead of me, but because, yeah, that's your takeout, really, I feel like that's the one takeout from your perspective. You would probably like people to take away from this podcast in terms of confidence, right? In building confidence.
Charlie: Yeah. And Paul, you know and just to clarify a point in that. Paul mentioned about sort of the importance of positive thinking, I suppose for want of a better phrase. But again, I think the other thing business leaders can do is to frame things, what do we want to do, not what don't we want to do to? To yes, by all means have the strategy, have the plan, but to have that conversation, what's the lived experience of this going to be like? How are we going to know we've been successful? And almost kind of get them to feel that experience of it as if they've been there, as if they've done it familiarise themselves. prime them with the positive components of that. Our brain thinks in positives, you know, not negatives. We've got to engender that I think as a leader.
Ayo: Yeah Paul, if we could sort of, think about all the areas we've covered, right? We've covered a lot, I mean, and there's definitely a lot more we can cover. What's the one takeout you'd love people to take from this conversation we just had?
Paul: Confidence is intrinsic. Going back to the example I use with the the top-quality players, international players coming in and and trying to help them with their confidence and simple analogy that I would use is, to touch on your previous question, why do you have this ability to not care what people think? Well, because if we did care what people thought I'd be crying in some room in a dark place for a long, long time because the amount of times I've played at Elland Road and 45,000 Leeds fans, especially when I had my ponytail. Didn't really go down well.
Ayo:: Now you're showing your age, now you're showing your age.
Paul: And when I wore my gloves anyway. So, the whole point was when you listen to other people to have that inner confidence. But a simple analogy is if a player came in and saw me after a game on the Monday and said Paul, how did you think I played and let's just say or he went and saw the coach. I go to the coach how do you think I played? And the coach was like, well thought you did this brilliant, brilliant first on the teamsheet next week, brilliant carry on. And imagine like your phone or your mobile whatever it is, it's almost like a little remote control for your confidence. But after that meeting, I'm coming out buzzing, my confidence is through the roof. And then let's say I go and speak to partner my brother, my dad, how do you think I played? Well, actually you didn't do this, so you give the ball away loads, you slipped over here, you had this. And again, it's the same thing, confidence probably will go down and then of course some people go on social media, yeah? Let's just say that's not the most conducive way for high performance, and ultimately what I sadly see and observe, people not just in sport, but business leaders, members of teams all over the corporate world it's like they're giving the remote control for the confidence to pretty much everyone they come across. I'm saying no no, no, keep it, don't find it, it's yours. Keep it. Stop giving it to everyone else because we keep it, that's conducive to high performance.
Ayo: Goodness me, what a way to end that was so good, really good. Look Charlie thank you, Paul, thank you so much for your time. Another really insightful podcast episode and I hope you enjoy this one and the next one to come 'cause that one is also going to be brilliant.