The Inner Game of the Boardroom


I’ve recently been reading the excellent book The Inner Game of Tennis; it is ostensibly about how to play tennis, but it is really about how to perform under pressure.

[T]he inner game. This is the game that takes place in the mind of the player, and it is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, nervousness, self-doubt and self-condemnation. In short, it is played to overcome all habits of mind which inhibit excellence in performance.

The book talks about how we each have two selves, conveniently titled Self 1 and Self 2 in the book. Self 1 is our conscious self, the ego; Self 2 is our unconscious mind that does most of the work in sports.

Trust the body to learn and to play, as you would trust another person to do a job, and in a short time it will perform beyond your expectations.

The book devotes a lot of time discussing how Self 1 talks to Self 2. If you’ve played a sport like Tennis or Golf then you’ve probably caught yourself saying things like “Play better.” At least I know that I often say things like “Come on Lucas, get it together.” That is Self 1 berating Self 2. What interests me most about this form of talking to myself is that I’d never speak to another person that way. If one of my teammates  in soccer made a bad pass I’d never say that to them, instead I’d offer positive encouragement. So why do I treat myself worse than I’d treat teammates or strangers?

I believe this isn’t just applicable to sports or physical activities, I think this same sort of internal dialogue happens in many pressure situations: giving a speech, pitching an investor, or running a difficult board meeting. Getting down on oneself and thinking: “Well that was a stupid thing to say.” isn’t going to help the situation.

Letting go of the judging process is a basic key to the Inner Game;

Instead, calmly acknowledge to yourself that whatever action didn’t have the desired outcome and then let go of the recrimination. This action will allow your natural coarse correction to take over which should get you back on track. Being calm and composed, either in sports or in the boardroom, gives you mind the ability to perform at it peak which will repair situations that have begun to go off the rails.


  1. Sure love that boadroom! 😛

  2. Love that Boadroom 😛

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