Note: Our posts can sometimes be a bit long and flowery, filled with stories and musings. In a hurry? The main points are bolded in three single sentences. That will give you all you need to know and you can come back for a leisurely read later.
I once sat in the office of a wise university athletic director in Indiana, USA. Included in the wisdom that athletic director shared was the idea that success breeds confidence. It was in the context of a conversation that wasn’t all together pleasant or helpful – in fact, it was one of the more difficult conversations I’d had in a long time. However, that statement rang true and cut through the circumstances surrounding it. It’s still a mantra I lean on and has served me well as a coach, a sport professional and now a change advocate.
I’ll cut my memory-lane story short here and answer the question that might be etched in your mind right now: What does that statement (or that story) have to do with measurement, evaluation and impact?
Imagine coaching a child in a sport they’ve played for a season or two. As they progress towards intermediate and advanced skills, things might not come quite as easily as when they first started. As the difficulty level increases, those new skills don’t always come effortlessly.
Imagine what you felt the first time you didn’t master something right away. A participant’s confidence can suffer when they don’t experience success, and a lack of confidence can greatly decrease the likelihood of (or in some cases, even prevent) remaining involved.
Point One: A participant’s confidence can be a huge determinant of their performance, enjoyment and sustained involvement in your programme.
Memories of previous successes can provide powerful motivators that combat nervousness or fear of failure. Emotions and cognitive state can profoundly affect performance, and experiencing performance success contributes plenty of positive vibes to the participant’s overall enjoyment and perception of the activity.
Achievement increases the likelihood that someone will achieve again and achieve more. You may have experienced these truths personally or observed them in your organisation or work. For more evidence, stacks of academic papers and research await if that’s your cup of tea. The point is this: to increase the positivity of your participants’ experience and the likelihood that they’ll continue progressing and achieving, help them experience success.
Of course, experiencing “success” is not always as simple as that. It often takes intentionality and creativity to help your participants recognise success and structure your programming in a way that builds success into the experience.
Point Two: Helping your participants identify their successes will increase their confidence.
Here are a few practical ways to help your participants experience more success through your programme, which will increase their confidence and encourage them to remain involved:
- Break big skills into sub-goals: Instead of teaching a new skill all at once, how can you break it into manageable chunks that you could teach one at a time? This will help your participants master each element and elevate their confidence when it’s time to try putting it all together.
- Define skills clearly: It’s easy as a coach or facilitator to under-explain, forgetting that though you have executed the skill a thousand times, this is often the very first time your participants are being exposed to it. Where can you add definition to the elements of a new skill so that your participants can better grasp it and succeed at each part?
- Make goals ACHIEVABLE and scale slowly: New skills take time. When teaching something new, give your participants an extremely achievable first milestone to give them a quick win and increase their confidence for when you move forward and introduce harder elements.
- Let your participants choose their own goals: Are they hesitant or struggling to grasp a new skill? Have you asked your participants how they feel about a new skill you’re trying to teach? Having a conversation to gauge how they perceive the feasibility of a goal you’ve instituted or define what a win would look like for them can sometimes help break through confusion, incongruence, or lack of confidence.
- Help your participants track their successes: Seeing their success can sometimes make all the difference. Keeping observable stats and taking measurements or reassessing at appropriate intervals can reveal just how much progress your participants are making, especially in circumstances when it’s difficult to see forward motion. Teaching how to shoot a free throw? Have your participants write down how many they make out of 10 once a week. Executing a fitness programme for a football team? Choose a metric and keep track over time. Whatever your programme type, think about the goals or achievements you’re helping your participants pursue and pick a simple way to measure how they are moving towards that over time. FULL DISCLOSURE: We’re biased here because our company creates a tool that helps do this. But we started that company because of how powerful we believe this can be. Just use some notepaper if you want – and watch what a difference it can make over time.
Point Three: Apply one of the above tips to your programme and watch how it affects your participants’ confidence. Just try it.