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Lessons in excellence from Serena

At the 2014 French Open, Serena Williams was defeated by the world No.20 player, Garbine Muguruza.  Williams described that loss as ‘eye opening’.

A year later, after beating Muguruza to claim her sixth Wimbledon crown and achieving the “Serena Slam” for the second time (4 successive Grand Slam titles) Serena is a role model, not just for aspiring tennis champions but for anyone striving for performance excellence.

Serena Williams knows that winning has got everything to do with hard work and very little to do with luck. Talent is only one factor, it’s attitude that counts. And brutal honesty, mental toughness and an incredible work ethic.

Organisational leaders can learn a lot from athletes like Serena Williams.

1. She is focused on her goals: she takes setbacks in her stride and doesn’t waste time wondering what could have been but keeps working on what will be.

Commenting on her loss in 2014, she said “I got so much better after that loss. I was able to improve a lot. I worked on things. I didn’t see the results straightaway. But months later I started seeing the results more and more. I don’t want to lose to anyone at a grand slam.”

Treating successes and failures as building blocks towards a future goal can keep you moving in the right direction.

2. She practises positive self-talk: last year at Wimbledon, after losing in the third round, Williams said: “I know I can do better.” And she has.

The reality is, most people focus on what’s not working, rather than what is. People (like Serena) who are confident and successful don’t do this.

3. She takes care of herself physically: one of the keys to her longevity is freshening up her workouts. “Right now I’m dancing a lot,” she says.

To be at your best you must allow yourself time to rebuild your energy and mental stores. Taking exercise is one way of doing this.

4. And finally, Williams refuses to give in.

Her coach: “She refuses defeat. She refuses to lose.  When she feels the taste of losing, she finds so much strength, and then she can raise her level.”

We learn to bounce back from setbacks through greater self-awareness and emotional control. By managing our behaviours, thoughts, and actions we learn how to mentally move on and, in Williams case, claim yet another Grand Slam title.

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