Quite often when I play golf I am in the company of players who are more accomplished than I am. It’s amazing how often this helps me ‘raise my game’ rather than feel intimidated. This is partly down to their mind-set and attitude being one which works positively as opposed to negatively on others and partly my own response to the situation.
The phenomenon of ‘raising one’s game’ is a familiar one. Certainly in the field of sport it is quite common for minnow teams to slay giants in cup fixtures and for lowly teams to play out of their skins against an opposition considered far superior on paper. However, the phenomenon is not confined to sport and occurs in both situations of competition and collaboration. In sport, at home and at work, attitudes can be contagious.
A particular curmudgeonly individual does seem to be able to kill the mood of any party, and a particularly happy individual cheer up a miserable crowd. However, these are exceptions. In general people will adapt their attitudes and emotional response to suit the prevailing attitude of a group. An uninspired and unhappy team will tend to drag down the morale of anyone who joins them. The attitude of a team performing exceptionally and with high morale will rub off on new additions.
This infectiousness is not confined to emotions, but extends to behaviour and skills as well. Much of the research into mirror neurons is theoretical, but the presence of these relics from a time before language in our brains means that we subconsciously mimic and adopt behaviours we see. At the most basic level, these neurons allow us to learn a new action by watching someone else perform it. At a higher level, they subconsciously alter how we go about tasks in relation to what we experience around us.
In short, playing golf with more accomplished players allows you to iron out some of the problems in your own game without you even realising it. Beyond the golf course, this response is a very strong argument for surrounding yourself with exceptional people at work, rather than being intimidated by and avoiding them.
As with the golfing group, this form of subconscious improvement is dependent on the mind-sets of both parties involved. Though the mirror neurons should act automatically, the learning effect can be actively blocked from either direction. Successful groups can choose to act as removed and elitist cliques and individuals entering a group environment can stubbornly refuse to interact.
Wherever you see yourself in this scenario, it’s important to be positive and open. Golf is a mixture of sporting competition and social collaboration, but whether you are working in a team environment or in a competitive market, the lessons remain the same. There is no need to be overly intimidated by other people. Encountering accomplished individuals will help you ‘raise your game’ and by keeping your own standards high and attitude positive you will have a beneficial effect on those less accomplished individuals around you.