The One Percent: How to create sustainable habit change Posted on 20 Aug 07:18 , 0 comments

The 1%- Lessons from Team Sky about continuous improvement and habit change

I always love hearing stories about people who have achieved greatness in their chosen field.  

Given the Olympic Games are currently being held in Rio, I have been inspired to tell you about the Aggregation of Marginal Gains, a coaching method developed and used by Great Britain's cycling team, Team Sky.

Sir David Brailsford was appointed to the role of Performance Director of Team Sky (Great Britain’s cycling team) in 2010.  His remit was to help Team Sky win the Tour de France within five years.

Brailsford, of course did the usual things that all performance directors would have done.  He improved rider nutrition, training schedules etc.  

His point of difference though was honing in on what he calls the aggregation of marginal gains, or as I’ve come to understand it, “the 1% improvement we can make in everything we do.”

Brailsford encouraged all team members, coaches and engineers etc. to identify the little things that could be improved in every aspect of the sport. 

There were no sacred cows.  Everything was up for consideration: 

  • Tyre width. 
  • Having hand sanitizer constantly on hand.  
  • The bedding the team slept on whilst on tour. 

It worked.  Team Sky rider Sir Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France in 2012, and Chris Froome won silver.  Froome went on to win the Tour de France again in 2013, 2015 and 2016. 

Brailsford's work inspires me to ask myself each day, "what’s the 1% improvement that I can make today?"

What small action, if repeated over and over again will lead to your success?

The aggregation of marginal gains tells us that achievements are made one good action at a time.  Brailsford teaches that consistency is key and that we should never miss a good habit twice.  If I miss the gym on Monday, I have to go on Tuesday or I will end up missing the whole week.  

He also teaches us to never repeat a bad habit twice.  If I make a mistake today, it's not a big deal.  But if I do it again tomorrow it's becoming a career limiting habit.    

Along with developing a collaborative culture that is constantly looking for marginal gains, Brailsford also applies what he calls the CORE principle to Team Sky's performance.

The CORE Principle and 1% marginal gain theory work hand in hand to achieve optimal performance across the team.  

The C stands for Commitment

Motivation changes but commitment and attitude provides consistency. Commitment is about having an intrinsic drive towards achieving a goal and taking ownership of your performance. 

How to apply this:

Be clear on why you do what you do, and why you work where you work.  

As individuals motivation waxes and wanes.  When we are clear on what we want and why we want it, then we're are more likely to commit to great actions even when it's hard.  

As managers, we need to understand that the most important decision we can make is who we have on our team.  Look for intrinsic commitment.  

When interviewing ask the person "what do you love most about your profession?" "What do you love least?" and look for alignment with the role on offer.  Don't let someone convince you that they'll be great doing something they dislike. 

O stands for Ownership

Brailsford encourages everyone to take initiative and share your ideas.  Brailsford says ownership is about having an opinion and a say in what you are doing.  

"No one likes to be micromanaged" 

How to apply this:

As individuals, this is about being transparent and taking ownership of your performance.  Find the best way for you to communicate to your manager and your team and speak up.  

As leaders, we need to create open and transparent cultures to empower everyone to have their say.

R stands for Responsibility 

Brailsford encourages everyone to be clear about accountability.  What are you accountable for and what are you not accountable for?  What is and isn’t expected of your attitude and performance?  

How to apply this:

Success is as much about what we don't do, as what we do do. Let's not get distracted by minor things. Have a look at your "to do" list today.  What's on it that you really shouldn't be doing?  

Write yourself a "stop doing" list.  

If you're a leader remember that you can be responsible for a task without actually having to action that task.

I often hear from managers that their staff will come to them with issues that they then take on as their own.  This is often unnecessary, your team want your feedback and coaching. 

Remember, Brailsford created a world leading team in a role that was essentially "hands off".  He wasn't a rider.  He wasn't a coach.  He was the Performance Director and created a monster by setting the strategy, holding the vision and coaching the coaches.  

E stands for Excellence 

This is about being the best you can be.  What is your standard of excellence?

How to apply this:

Define what excellence means for you.  Your vision guides your behaviour, and creates your brand.  Likewise, find out what excellence means for your customers and (where relevant) your manager.  

I often see people running around doing 100 things to impress, without first asking the right questions to understand what is truly important.  

Make sure you're clear on what is expected of you.  

If you're a leader, are you truly providing clarity to your team on what success looks like?  

Do you repeat this message at everyone opportunity.  (Team meetings, emails, etc.)  Clarity is key.  

I would add one element to Brailsford work (which I'm sure he does)...

Celebrate wins

One of the things that I love about the environment I work in is that we celebrate each other’s wins.  It’s not rare to hear the slap of a high five between my colleagues as they celebrate good news.

It may sound cheesy but I say “bring it on.” 

Success is a series of small wins.  Celebrating wins leads to big wins.  

Here are some recent wins:

  • Tom Brown the Head of Banking and Wealth Services, was promoted to Director level.  If you know Tom this is well deserved.  He’s amazing and has also recently grown his family with the arrival of his second child. 

  • Kim Wenn was promoted to Senior Consultant, one of the many great achievements she has made this year along with winning third prize in the INBA Novice Fitness competition earlier this year.

  • Sam Holliday was promoted to Associate Director and he married his soul mate so he’s having a good year.  Sam's one of those people who is always looking for the 1% improvement he can make in everything he does.

So... What's your 1%?  

What action can you take today to move yourself forward in a way you've never done before? 

If your personal and professional success is important to you, let’s start working together.  Reply to this email and we can talk through your goals.

In the meantime, keep moving forward. 

Keep looking for new ways to pursue your personal and professional growth.

I believe in you.  



Additional Resources

Check out this video of Sir Dave Brailsford, and if you like that one, you’ll love this one.