Mind Gains - Spear's Magazine

Mind Gains

Performance psychologist Martin Jenkins can help you reprogramme your business brain for profit and arctic swims, says Penelope Bennett

Performance psychologist Martin Jenkins can help you reprogramme your business brain for profit — and arctic swims, says Penelope Bennett
 
 
ARE YOU PRECISELY aware of how you make your every day, business decisions? According to ground-breaking research, you are, but only just — a mere 5 per cent aware, to be precise. Ergo, you are unconscious of an enormous 95 per cent of your decisions, assumptions and actions, which might explain why every now and again you can’t for the life of you remember where you put your keys or parked the car.

This rather poignant fact begs the question, what if you could access — and control — your unconscious in order to, say, drive increased profitability from your business?

A number of people have done just that, including Nick Varney, CEO of Merlin Entertainments, whose attractions and theme-park venture grew from €150 million to €2.5 billion in four years (maintaining double-digit profitability each year), and John Boyle, CEO of one of Ireland’s largest leisure business, the profits of which enjoyed an increase of 137 per cent in just 6 months.

The numbers from this cutting-edge approach used by top entrepreneurs and financiers are often staggering. A global buyout firm also managed to deliver €11.4 billion on a fundraise that aimed to raise just €8.5 billion. It made the headlines as the biggest ever fundraise in European PE history.

Impressive. There’s just the small matter of how, which brings us to the man a third of the world’s top hedge funds and investments banks have on speed dial, the unseen asset that never appears in the media, and who one billionaire entrepreneur who wished to remain anonymous describes as, ‘Just deadly — the best kept secret in my business.’

Martin Jenkins has a big hand in the quiet revolution occurring within the business world today. As a result of   science letting us in on the brain’s deep, dark secret (the Brown Foundation for Human Neuroimaging being just one leading institution at the forefront of explaining precisely how the brain is wired for success or failure) and man crying out for fine-tuning and perfecting, the science of performance psychology has arrived on the scene like a grand, wise warrior on horseback riding to the rescue — it’s not about the techie gadgets, it’s about the mastery of consciousness.

A former banker with JPMorgan, Jenkins has spent the past ten years working closely with advisory boards, entire executive teams and individual entrepreneurs such as Varney and Boyle to make every brain cell available work to its optimum potential.

‘In simple terms the human mind can be considered to function like a computer’, says Jenkins. ‘We’re all running programmes which are like the equivalent of Word or Excel. It’s simply a question of supporting people in putting in the right programme to get the result they want.’
 
 
INTIMIDATING, BELITTLING PERHAPS (are you more PowerPoint or Excel?) but ultimately, winning. So much so that Goldman Sachs enlisted Jenkins and his team at Oxford Place, the performance consultancy firm of which Jenkins is CEO, to develop the MDLAI course (Managing Director Leadership Acceleration Initiative) to make its top performers perform even better. It isn’t quite as simple as uploading software (which, depending on your technical abilities, is or isn’t that easy) but it is definitely made accessible for businesspeople to reap the full rewards.

‘We help people to understand negative reactive patterns that are subconsciously driving poor performance,’ explains Jenkins, who looks suitably positive, as cool as the proverbial cucumber in a well-cut suit, a slim figure that hints at a healthy work/life balance, and what can best be described as an intelligent, reassuring and trustworthy face.

And you would need to trust this man, because while he doesn’t get uncomfortably close (no sessions on the couch or, God forbid, visits back to childhood memories) he does need to examine your mindset, beliefs and attitude, which is done to help you get the superior results you’ve called him up for and which demands what he describes as ‘rigorous honesty’. Your coaching is bespoke and tailored according to your objectives, taking as little or as long as it takes to transform your old reactive patterns and dramatically increase your performance.

When talking about the mind, Jenkins mentions ‘habitual frames of reference’ and ‘reactive patterns’. This may not mean much to the layman, but Jenkins’ advantage in lecturing on Performance Psychology at Cambridge and Harvard (‘a hobby,’ he says modestly) means that where some bright sparks might fail to get their wisdom across in academia-speak, Jenkins has a tried and tested knack for breaking it down to you plain and simple. ‘A few little corrections with management teams often remove blocks and a variety of impediments,’ says Jenkins, ‘leaving a clear channel for optimum performance.’ There. How simple did that sound?

With any one client, Jenkins will start by asking them what they want out of their performance — we don’t all want the same thing, let’s not forget — before taking ‘a really deep and powerful look at all the areas of cognitive dissonance’, such as where major obstacles and any performance gaps might exist, whether they’re in the market, in your executive team’s approach, in the competition, or in the CEO’s own mindset.

In John Boyle’s case, Jenkins’ focus was on working with the senior team of one of Boyle’s €1 billion-turnover companies over a six-month period, which led to increased profits of 137 per cent over natural growth (the performance was measured by PriceWaterhouseCoopers). Boyle, who single-handedly built his business from scratch into one of the largest independent leisure businesses in Europe, sings Jenkins’ praise. ‘Simply put, Martin helped increase our profits dramatically and my executive team’s performance was transformed in the process.’

‘Martin provides an environment and approach which allows senior executives to gain insight into a wide variety of management issues. It is a valuable service,’ says Varney of Merlin, whose remarkable rise in profits made it one of Blackstone’s ‘trophy’ investments in its European portfolio.

 
THERE IS ALSO the small fact that Jenkins happens to occupy the number one spot in the sport psychologist rankings: Oxford Place trains a number of athletes, including Lewis Gordon Pugh, better known as the man who swam with icebergs in nothing but Speedos. An environmentalist and former maritime lawyer, Gordon Pugh sought out Jenkins to ‘condition’ his mind prior to becoming, in 2005, the first person to complete a long distance swim in the frozen waters of both the Arctic and Antarctic.

No fewer than 23 world records have been broken in three years by elite athletes who Jenkins has trained, contributing to numerous PhD theses which have documented the latest, cutting-edge performance techniques to the academic world. ‘We understand that elite athletes use hi-tech performance psychology to attain superior performance, and the same principles apply in business,’ he notes. Boxer Muhammad Ali, for one, had a mindset coach, Bundini Brown, who coined many of his most famous and intimidating lines, including the lengenday ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.’

Nevertheless, it is Jenkins’ growing entrepreneurial client base — it reads like a Who’s Who of of global billionaire entrepreneurs, not to mention Sovereign Wealth Funds and investment managers — and their ever-louder praise of his work that is responsible for boosting the kudos of Oxford Place. The firm is hard at work in America, Europe, the UAE and Asia and, since the dislocation in the global financial markets in 2008, Oxford Place now finds itself supporting people in redefining their edge in the market and driving increased profitability in difficult market conditions.

‘The markets are traumatic experiences to be involved in,’ says Jenkins. ‘Whenever a human being experiences a trauma they develop a coping strategy to deal with that trauma, and coping strategies usually become unconscious decisions that people make about the nature of the market. Most people trading or investing in the market, whether they’re short or long, have made an unconscious decision that they’re operating from which is usually impeding their professional performance.’

But again, this is easily fixed. ‘We help people to get a very clear understanding of what their edge is, what their areas of certainty or uncertainty are. We help people look at their emotional style, where they react to circumstances in the market, and their cognitive style, how they arrived at their decisions. We help people organise their minds efficiently for superior performance.’
 
 
‘MARTIN JENKINS IS one of the leading thinkers in performance psychology today and has a track record that is unrivalled across a range of human endeavours,’ says Dr Jo Cook of Cambridge University. ‘His work with super-successful entrepreneurs stands out from an academic perspective, not least because dealing with tricky, powerful, successful individuals is in itself both an art form and a science.’

An art form indeed. Jenkins has an extraordinary gift of making the complex very simple, going so far as speaking about ‘painting a masterpiece with one’s attention’. Thanks to him, sharp-minded financiers over time enjoy vastly healthier returns on the hours they put in at work. How far we’ve come from the days, a hundred years ago, when Freud first posited our being ‘a puppet in the hands of our unconscious’. 

Illustration by Jeremy Leasor



 

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