Coaching Andy Murray to Success

Thinking will be predicated on assumptions and attitudes that were forged in the furnace of experience.

What can quality professionals learn from the Andy Murray success story?

The UK recently celebrated a fantastic Lions win in the rugby and an even more sensational win at Wimbledon with Andy Murray taking home the top prize, making him the first British male to do so in 77 years. Following the event, I was pleased to see the media praised not only Murray but also his coach Ivan Lendl. It was only 18 months ago that Murray and Lendl came together and in that time Andy, who had always demonstrated a high level of capability, became a Gold Medal Olympian, won a major in the US, made it to the Wimbledon Final on two occasions and has promoted himself to within a whisker of being the world number one.

What changed in those 18 months?

Murray had the innate ability, strength, and attitude to become a top-four player, but needed an extra something to get past three of the all-time greats. That extra something, I suggest, was the adjustment of Andy’s mindset and beliefs. Andy started to see the world through a different lens. And it is to Ivan Lendl the credit must go for achieving this.

Lendl worked with Andy to get him to recognise that his results were a function of how he played the game, and that how he played the game was predicated on the decisions he made during the game. Those decisions were in themselves a function of the way he was thinking and his thinking found its genesis in the assumptions and attitudes he had of himself and things around him. So, if he changed old assumptions and attitudes everything else would change as a result. This way of thinking changed small, but crucial, elements of Andy’s game and transformed Andy from a good to great player.

How is this relevant to quality?

In my view, the quality professional has a unique role to play in helping improve the performance of organisations. But to do this, they need to recognise that the role is more of a coach and adviser than it is an officer of compliance. I feel dejected when I talk to some quality leaders whose default attitude is “if the managers would only listen and do as I say, the world would be OK.”

Instead quality leaders of the future must recognise that organisational outputs are a function of processes and systems created and implemented as a direct result of decisions made by managers and supervisors, and that these decisions are informed by the way those managers were thinking at the time. And, as with Andy, that thinking will be predicated on assumptions and attitudes that were forged in the furnace of experience. The role of the modern quality leader therefore should be to help leaders change their attitudes and assumptions, and to see the world through different lenses. Ivan Lendl would never tell Murray, “You must hit the ball this way, move to here when this happens, do this when that happens”. He trusted in Andy’s innate ability, and guided him to a better place, by helping him see the world through different lenses. He made clear the opportunities that presented themselves to Andy. He became a trusted and valued adviser. As quality professionals we have to believe in the innate ability of the organisations’ leaders (in my experience organisations rarely hire stupid managers) and then understand how to guide them and allow them to see the world through different lenses.

This is not the world of compliance, but the world of opportunity.