Belief, belonging and high performance: lessons from Wimbledon Centre Court

A succinct comment earlier today on the link between belonging and performance, from Andrew Castle at Wimbledon.

Talking about British tennis player Marcus Willis, who, after first-round success, faces Roger Federer in the second round on Centre Court today, Andrew Castle said:

“Success is about believing and belonging”

How often we have seen that played out, at Wimbledon especially, with famous scenes of the unexpected star performance from an apparent underdog cheered-on heartily by a crowd sharing that belief and belonging with the player.

In an interview in the Telegraph he attributes his success to a mix of love – “I met a girl” – and self-belief:

“Three or four years ago, he said after the match, he had been “overweight, seeing off pints. I was a loser.” What changed? “I looked at myself in a mirror and thought, I’m better than this.”

Andrew Castle is right: belonging is as essential as belief for high performance. We’ve seen this over and again with clients: in the best companies, belonging is a strong marker of culture that helps businesses succeed. Whereas we’ve also seen a low sense of belonging harm organisations, cultures in which people feel they belong only to their small local silo, or where isolationism gets in the way of collaboration.

You’ve got to feel for the England lads who went onto the pitch on Monday at a point when our national sense of belonging had been dislocated. By compare that with the Icelanders: my word, you couldn’t hold back that Viking force – they were powered by a sense of belonging, and a palpable please in sharing belief within the team. That’s when camaraderie in a culture really helps.

In an individual sport, like singles tennis, the belief has to be so resilient: the belonging has to be intuitive and secure.

Andy Murray (in his column for BBC Sport) has shown his camaraderie in rather touching, and very British, terms of endearment:

“If he was an absolute prat I’m sure some people would just think, ‘He’s an idiot, I’m not interested’, but he’s definitely the kind of person who deserves this moment. It’s just a great story that’s happened to a really good fun guy, and it’s nice that the public seem to have taken to him.”

Andy Murray reminds us of the unifying force of sport, to help us all life our spirits and performance:

“Sport can play a role in taking people’s minds off more serious matters and Marcus Willis’ story would make anyone feel good.”

What a week then for Marcus Willis to have all that opportunity – and many of his compatriots yearning for a reassurance of belonging and success – on his shoulders

No pressure Marcus: play well and enjoy.