Do cricketers need a big ego to perform at the top of their game?

15672684_1810958985844098_8484670838494988549_n-2Do cricketers need a big ego to perform at the top of their game? Steven Sylvester, psychologist of county champions Middlesex, thinks not. If you want to get the best out of yourself, rather than give into selfish drives, simply detox that ego.

Realise that ego is not belief Ego is your natural defence system, triggered when strong emotions such as anxiety and fear sweep through you. It is a concentration on self-interest so it’s thinking about yourself. Am I good at this? Will I do well here? Whereas self belief is a lateral deep understanding that you can choose – a level of confidence that you can do well at what you do just for the sheer desire. Ego or selfishness is more of an arrogance, there is no belief in it, just a desire to do well. It’s about protecting what we think we are good at or not good at.

That ego covers up lack of belief Often, when you scratch the surface, belief in your competence is not as high as it seems. Someone with high levels of belief has high levels of perceived competence, so they relax. Someone with a lower level of belief is more egotistical because they are worried about their performance.

Master your skills From a very early age we are taught that life is about winning and losing, and we focus on results. Something that we cannot control. This creates stress and can lead to poor mental health as well as poor performance. Instead, we should focus on what we can actually do – our skills. Focus on what we can do differently so we can master our craft

Learn from your mistakes Rather than seeing errors as failures, we must learn from them. Do not resist, or try to cover them up. Drill down into that, examine them and work out what they are telling you, rather than covering up mistakes.

Set wider goals When we think about ourselves we tend to get nervous and worry about what could go wrong. But when we play for others, when the focus is outwards rather than inward, we become more creative and resolved, more effective. If you have a reason beyond yourself for performing, you seem to play better. Moeen Ali, who I have worked with, has a deep religious perspective on life. He feels there is something more to his performance than just him, which means he is more selfless in what he’s doing. Playing cricket is how he is serving others, and his God, and as a result, he is much freer as a performer than someone who is quite self-obsessed or quite self-centred about what they do today. What their performance will be tomorrow – that kind of approach.

Be consistent If we feel one thing and do another, it causes problems. To be authentic and have integrity, what you feel and what you say and do, need to be the same.

Have fun If you are having fun, you are free – and if you are free, you will have a far greater sense of well being.

Have clarity in life Are you clear on what your purpose and contribution to the team, the club or the community that you live in or serve? There is more to life than just work or just our play, and we need to ask what the ultimate legacy is that we wish leave behind.

Interview by Crispin Andrews for The Cricketer January 2017 Edition

Steven Sylvester is a Chartered Psychologist working in elite level Sport and Business. He is a sought after key note speaker and the author of the psychology self-help book – ‘DETOX YOUR EGO’ available on Amazon worldwide.

Contact for enquires on keynote addresses/talks or psychology consultations with Steven Sylvester.

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An organisation cannot be more effective than its people



Does your organisation need some help with identifying its DNA ?Are you ready for some dynamic cultural change?



We run a unique organisational audit (the withoutEGO audit for high performance) and tailored assesments for companies looking for real sustainable change in a very short time frame.

Whether you’re a company going through rapid growth, getting ready to sell or merge or simply trying to keep sales on track in a challenging marketplace, your people are your greatest assets and the culture they work in is critical to their well being and ultimate performance.
Creating a work environment that both nurtures and facilitates high performance under pressure is key. It is possible to have both success and wellbeing in the workplace. It’s all about creating the right culture so that your staff feel both valued and motivated and importantly, free to perform. The withoutEGO cultural audit is based on 15 years of research with both World Champions and global leaders of business – on what makes them tick and perform under pressure and what makes the ideal environment for sustained high performance.

This excerpt below is taken from the article ‘How Middlesex won the Championships’.

The story began behind close doors on a rainy April day in Oxford with a frank assessment of Middlesex’s chances. During an abandoned university game the squad talked with psychologist Steven Sylvester.
“We thought people suspected we were a bit soft at times”, Ollie Rayner recalls. “A lot of our focus in pre-season was about how to build a team atmosphere and not think individually. The guys bought into that ethos and we were a really tight unit all year”.

Skipper James Franklin cites Sylvester as an unsung hero: “It was about trying to buy into a culture where we have each other’s backs when times are tough. Middlesex has maybe been perceived as a club that’s had a lot of talented individuals, but there’s always been an underlying ambition to play for England. We’re trying to change that. Playing for Middlesex and doing well for Middlesex will result in those other things just happening

To read the full article on ‘How Middlesex won the Championship’ after a long 23 year wait in front of a packed crowd at Lords, log onto The Cricketer Magazine’s website for the full issue

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Performing for the benefit of others.

Being self-absorbed and selfish at work not only leads to unhappiness & stress but also poor performance in both yourself and your team. When you are able to align your personal & professional mastery you become freer and much happier even under pressure.
Your new found joy for work is like a magnet as you’ll inspire others around you to achieve more. You’ll go from a transactional style of operating to a transformational style.
High performance is a natural by-product of adopting a more selfless way of working17039426_1845693929037270_3690968119950822218_o

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Neal Ardley has transformed AFC Wimbledon.


“We had a proper process before we appointed Neil – we had a lot of applications,” said chief executive Erik Samuelson. “The interview panel was the football club board, Dave Bassett and Steve Sylvester, a psychologist who is still working with the team.

“Steve gave us a rundown of the candidates and when Neil got the job he told us what challenges he would face and how he could help him”.

“Neil has transformed the club on the football side. I’m sure his vision has evolved a bit – but we have improved every year. Sometimes that is backstage stuff that people don’t see on the pitch. Sometimes it has been gradual improvement, but we’ve always been comfortable that we’re heading in the right direction”.

To read the full article:

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Jose Mourinho must create joy not fear: says leading Psychologist

According to Steven Sylvester, Jose Mourinho has repeatedly criticised his team in public and should think about changing his approach.

Manchester United manager Jose MourinhoJose Mourinho’s sombre countenance on the touchline and failure to win the “hearts and minds” of his players since arriving at Manchester United could prove his downfall, believes a leading British sports psychologist.

The United manager has repeatedly criticised his team in public this season and the 53-year-old should think carefully about changing his approach, according to Steven Sylvester who works with Premier League players as well as world champions from other sports.

“It’s very strange. In my experience I haven’t seen him [Jose Mourinho] constantly criticise players in the media, this is a new style from him,” Sylvester, who is also psychologist to the cricket county championship winners Middlesex, said in an interview with Reuters.

“Although they must have done something to make him question if these players are at standard he wants, I think it is a way to mask his frustration that he can’t get the team delivering according to his mandate.

“The whole point of good leadership is to win the hearts and minds and if you criticise players in the press you’re going against that.

“The players will sit there in the dressing room thinking, ‘who’s next, what happens if this goes wrong today?’ It creates more fear within the culture than joy.”

Mourinho, who has made an underwhelming start at United, recently said his living arrangements in Manchester have been a “bit of a disaster”.

He painted a miserable picture of himself holed up in his hotel, alone without his family and unable to venture out to local restaurants because of the prospect of being hassled by fans and photographers.

“There’s a lot going on there and if you listen to the content you can be distracted from the main theme,” explained Sylvester, author of the book ‘Detox Your Ego’ (

“For me Mourinho is in major transition as how to build a new culture at Manchester United.

Steven Sylvester - Chartered Psychologist“He is not going to go to the media and talk about what he is doing to get the culture changed and to get the performance right or how he is assessing the players, so he has to talk about something else.

“He has been one of the best at being able to take people away from the scent of what he is really doing. I think it’s probably tactical.

“Having said that, he has looked really unhappy and I think being unhappy transmits to the players when you’re in transition.

“This means it is harder to get them to play with the rhythm that he wants. It takes time for a group of players to assimilate.”

On the eve of United hosting Arsenal at Old Trafford, Mourinho claimed on Friday that rival manager Arsene Wenger received the respect that was not shown to him, even though “my last title was 18 months ago, not 18 years ago.”

Yet rather than opting for that typical swipe at Wenger, Sylvester felt it was about time Mourinho turned on his old “charm” instead.

“I think he should go on the charm offensive, focus on what he can do to win the hearts and minds not only of his players and staff, but of the fans, too,” Sylvester said.

“He needs the support of the media and the goodwill factor needs to come across in his leadership style.

“Mourinho talks more about individual errors than collective errors. I believe in the collective. You win together and you lose together.”

Source: Reuters Published:November 19, 2016 8:58 am

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Steven Sylvester goes to Buckingham Palace with Middlesex CCC

DETOX YOUR EGO Author of DETOX YOUR EGO, Steven Sylvester was a guest at Buckingham Palace on Thursday with the Middlesex Cricket Champions to receive their trophy from HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

Prince Philip is Patron and ‘Twelfth Man’ of the Lord’s Taverners – and he presented the team with the Lord’s Taverners ECB Trophy. It is the 43rd year that the winners of the County Championships have enjoyed a special Royal engagement since the trophy was first introduced by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in 1973

As Patron and ‘Twelfth Man’ Prince Philip asked the Lord’s Taverners to organise a ceremony which he hosts at Buckingham Palace every year to honour the winners of this coveted trophy.

Whilst unable to attend the presentation reception at the Palace himself, Middlesex’s County Championship winning captain James Franklin said:

“Lifting the County Championship trophy at Lord’s this year as Captain of this great and historic club ranks as one of the proudest achievements of my career to date. To have won it in such exceptional circumstances, in the final minutes of a long and testing season, made the entire experience one that I and everyone involved at the club will simply never forget.

For Steven Sylvester who is the Team Psychologist at Middlesex CCC this was an extra special occasion as he was reunited with his old boss and teammate and ex England Captain Mike Gatting who he talks about making his professional cricketing debut with in his book DETOX YOUR EGO.

When asked what Steven thought of the occasion, he said “I’ve supported Middlesex since I was a small boy and had always dreamt of playing at Lords. Whilst I went on to achieve that dream and play with and against some of my cricketing hero’s, this experience today and being a part of these guys achieving their dreams is by far the best feeling. They’re a great team, all of them and they thoroughly deserve this”.

Have a great day

Claudia – Publicity for DETOX YOUR EGO. All enquires to

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Middlesex CCC Psychologist reflects on their success as County Champions

Great to see Steven Sylvester the Team Psychologist celebrate with the club he played for himself in the early 1990′s – Middlesex County Cricket Club as they become the County Champions 2016.CgAdTL6XEAAcUEF

For Steven, helping and supporting other people achieve their dreams and goals is his lifelong passion. He always knew from a young age that he wanted to make a difference in people’s life and he tells the intimate and honest story well in his book DETOX YOUR EGO.

Having not succeeded as much as he would have liked in his own professional cricketing career, he retired from the sport and went back to University to finish a second degree in Psychology. After completion of his Masters he spend several years working for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) where he helped shape the pathway for young cricketers as one of their first Development Officers. He was specifically tasked in 2005 with the grassroots cricket, which had a tagline of ‘from playground to test arena’
Many of the young recruits in that system have gone on to have a wonderful England career.

SS_PB13786After several years in cricket administration and working closely with up and coming athletes and cricketers, Steven set about starting his own Psychology practice as a result of being approached by various sportsmen wanting help with their performance.

That was over 15 years ago and since then Steven has consulting with 7 World Champions and within many different sports including being the team psychologist for the British Orienteering Squad for 4 years that took him all over the world. His emphasis these days is Football and Cricket at both National and International Levels.

Being a part of the Middlesex CCC team goes way beyond a job, it’s his passion. The thrill of seeing the team achieve the ultimate success in winning the County Championships far outweighed any joy he felt at achieving for himself in his career ever. His focus is always on getting people to let go of the need to win and concentrate instead on using their well honed skills for the benefit of others, be it their team or their community. This releases the pressure to perform and allows athletes the chance to reconnect to the sport they love and develop better mental health.IMG_7586

When you spend a lot of time, one on one with individuals within a team, you get to know them intensely and the journey becomes so meaningful as you work through the ups and downs.

Middlesex CCC have a fantastic team that have displayed incredible collective excellence, no one member is greater than the team. Each player within the Middlesex team (both first and second teams) have stepped up and served their team well. Steven highlights their skill at supporting one another at all times no matter what the outcome, environment, result or situation – they work as one.

There was never a better display of this selfless cohesion than at the end of the season when they beat Yorkshire at Lords to become the 2016 County Champions.

ss_PB13837-2That’s a great job well done – all round.

Congratulations to Middlesex, the players, the staff, the coaches, the groundsmen, scorers, administrators, board and all the backroom staff and fans. Everyone played their part.
From everyone here at DETOX YOUR EGO

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Euros 2016. Wales v Portugal – Will collective excellence triumph over individual expertise?

Today decides whether or not Wales can reach a first major tournament final with victory over Portugal. Real Madrid stars Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo will enter opposing dressing rooms in Lyon and their tussle has been much the topic of conversation. Portugal are yet to win in 90 minutes at the France finals, while Wales brushed aside world No 2 side Belgium and also recorded wins against Northern Ireland, Russia and Slovakia earlier in the tournament.

Football_Association_of_Wales.svgWales have truly shocked the world with their entertaining team performances against some of the best international sides. The motto of Welsh football and perhaps the greatest reason behind their success can be found beneath the rising red dragon on the Football Association of Wales crest. ‘Gorau chwarae, cyd chwarae’ can be loosely translated as ‘the best play is team play’. The national association, formed in 1876 and is the third-oldest in the world and truly epitomises the collective excellence and wellbeing of the team as the key focus for their football. It is evident that under Chris Coleman the Welsh team have been able to cultivate an undoubted team spirit, a strong sense of loyalty and belief in one another and their nation which unites each and every player, regardless of individual capabilities and achievements.

This deep sense of team purpose and motivation to do it for one another is no more emphasised by Bale himself. “It’s not just about two players, it’s about two nations in a semi-final, 11 men against 11 men,” Bale told reporters on Monday. “At the crucial times we’ve come up with the goods. We’re still joking around and having a laugh. We’re not feeling the pressure. There’s no fear in the group.” He added. Asked whether he was better than Ronaldo, Bale said: “It’s not for me to decide. For me it’s not important. It’s just important how I perform for my team. If I can help my team win a game, that’s all I need.” It is clear that his focus is not on the individual.

Steven Sylvester - Chartered PsychologistChartered Psychologist Steven Sylvester believes Wales have an extremely strong chance in today’s fixture. “We can truly see their togetherness and conviction as a band of brothers. They are clearly paying attention to being the best team they can be. Their unity throughout the tournament has been an amazing thing to watch.” Sylvester said. “What I think is vital to their success is how they react to adversity. They are so excited in being on a major international stage that they view everything that happens to be a bonus. Consequently losing matches only serves to enable learning.” Sylvester pinpoints their 2-1 defeat to England in the group stages as a prime example of this. “The team looked resilient after the defeat with an expressed desire to build on the performance for the following match. Sylvester believes this readiness to generate new learning will help Wales perform freely even without the influential presence of top player, Ramsey. “We came here to do a job. I think we’ve grown throughout the tournament.” Bale said, reflecting on his experience at the Euros, highlighting both his and his teammates belief that they are developing as a force to be reckoned with. Clearly, they feel momentum going into this semi-final clash.

images-71What is more, Sylvester believes that Coleman’s leadership has inspired players, especially Bale, to focus on the collective excellence of the team in order to play fearless football. “They are open vessels engaging with one another and taking time to look at themselves as a group. Such a way of being means they are not afraid of calling each other out and working collaboratively to achieve the best performance they can as a team.” In addition to this, Sylvester thinks that the consistency of the Welsh team is another key factor. Having the positive emotion of excitement enables an attacking team spirit, which helped them deal with the likes of Belgium. “We have seen a consistent pattern of play. The team move the ball fluidly and this is testament to thorough preparation and a desire to play to the best of their ability.” The perfect example of this was Robson-Kanu stand out goal-of-the-tournament against Belgium and was so special for the team and the nation.

“The Welsh players are simply having fun, relishing the opportunity to play alongside one another for their country. As Bale happily pointed out, “the team is the star. We are all together. We all work as one. We all run, tackle and fight for each other.” It has been obvious throughout the Euros the teams who look more individual and don’t appear to be having the same level of fun. Perhaps the extreme focus on the need to win inhibits high quality players to express themselves freely.” Sylvester believes Portugal may also carry such a mindset and it may prove costly when they face a side such as Wales.

“Finally, the Welsh team appears to be drawing on a deeper personal meaning following the tragic death of their former Manager Gary Speed. They certainly come across as the team wanting to doing something special”.

“Our fate is in our own hands and if you’d given us this at the start of the tournament, we would have taken it,” said Bale. “The nation is behind us. We’ll try to embrace the occasion.”

baleronaldosplit-large_trans++qVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8The tale of the Portuguese side tells a very different story. They have reached the semi finals without winning a game in 90 minutes while Ronaldo has also struggled to capture his best form. Manger Fernando Santos maintains a very different mindset to that of Coleman. “Of course, Wales and Iceland are the teams everyone likes, because nobody expected them to get this far.” Santos recently told reporters. “I’m not worried about being the ugly duckling or someone who feels sorry for himself. I’m interested about getting to the final and winning it,” he continued. “It doesn’t bother me or the players at all. Would I like us to be pretty? Yes. But, in between being pretty and being at home, or being ugly and being here, I prefer to be ugly.”

“The Portuguese side seems more centered around winning and avoiding losing – this reflects a win-lose mindset and leads to greater expectations and stress, especially when you are not showing your full potential.” Sylvester adds. For example, this may have been evident in the opening game against Iceland when he appeared to laugh at some poor play when really he was feeling angry. He looked distressed and non-accepting of his errors during this game. Another example, was his penalty miss against Austria – what are the chances of seeing Ronaldo miss a penalty for Real Madrid? Probably never. Maybe the high expectations of a nation are weighing heavily on this individual star.

Ronaldo’s post match interview was also revealing. After the Iceland match he showed his images-72frustration by saying, “Iceland didn’t try anything” and “I thought they’d won the Euros the way they celebrated at the end”. They have a “small mentality and they are not going to do anything in the competition”. These are disappointing comments considering this tiny nation’s achievements throughout the tournament. In addition, perhaps his recent throwing of a journalist’s microphone into a lake is clear indication of his irritation at not dominating the Euros so far. Such closed behaviour shows signs of a degree of self-criticism as well as a total dislike for his errors.

Unfortunately, such closed behaviour as a leader only serves to trigger closed play as a team. As a result their rhythm of play is down. They are being more inconsistent, no more demonstrated by the fact they haven’t won within 90 minutes throughout their whole tournament.” Further, relying on one star player means others don’t feel as valued. “They don’t look like they’re enjoying themselves as a team. The team appears to be waiting for that moment of individual brilliance – something that will spark them into life. To date, Ronaldo has not been able to transfer his club form to his international efforts.” Tonight’s game will give us an insight into whether he can inspire his team to increase their togetherness, purpose and put on a united performance. It remains to be seen which team will take the victory in tonight’s contest.

Will the collective play from Wales prevail or will a moment of individual expertise from Ronaldo make the difference?


Steven Sylvester

image001 (1)Over the past twenty years Sylvester has worked with a number of world champions and elite athletes and found that being selfless was more effective in sustaining high-level performances. His conclusion was that the ‘pursuit of winning for one’s self significantly increases our likelihood that we become selfish as we seek to protect, boost our self-esteem and avoid fear through winning’.

This is outlined in his book DETOX YOUR EGO, which focuses on helping people understand their ego (a sense of self importance) through the withoutEGO philosophy – seven-step process.





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EGO at the heart of England’s defeat

Former Professional Cricketer, Chartered psychologist and Author Steven Steven Sylvester - Chartered PsychologistSylvester feels some sympathy for the England players, manager and staff. He suggests the nations high expectation to win triggered an extreme level of ego in our unbelievably young and wealthy players. Such a toxic mix created too many self-centered players, which in turn, stopped them playing as a team. Sylvester believes, instead of the players and management getting flak from all quarters they should get a leadership structure that helps them develop a way of dealing with their ego’s under such immense pressure so that they can in the future play as one.

Iceland truly shocked the world with their victory over England who gave, as former captain Alan Shearer described, the “worst performance” he has ever seen from the national team. Immediately after the game, Manager Roy Hodgson resigned in abject embarrassment of losing to a nation ranked 34th in the world reflecting the catastrophe that was his teams performance.

Over the past twenty years Sylvester has worked with a number of world champions and elite athletes and found that being selfless was more effective in sustaining high-level performances. His conclusion was that the ‘pursuit of winning for one’s self significantly increases our likelihood that we become selfish as we seek to protect, boost our self-esteem and avoid fear through winning’. This is outlined in his book DETOX YOUR EGO, which focuses on helping people understand their ego (a sense of self importance) and how to understand it through the withoutEGO philosophy – a seven-step detox process.

“I believe a way to solve the problem with English football is to increase our general 2985understanding of the toxic mix of money, fame and power. All three are responsible for triggering Ego, which in turn, inhibits the collective excellence of our national team over many years. In contrast, massive credit must go to the Icelandic players, coming from a country of just 323,000 people, they paid complete attention to what the team needed for success, working as one, communicating as one to deliver a collective performance.”

“On the other hand the culture of greed, power and control within English Football has bred such a level of individualism that our players were unable to unite under the intense pressure, epitomised by their inability to make a string of complete passes in the second half let alone capitalise on any chances. England’s leadership or lack of it has cultivated an environment that does not allow for the players to freely express themselves, whether that be discussing team problems openly or expressing their skill during the game.”

“Watching the match, I’m sure everyone will agree that our players under stress chose self-IcelandSlowHandClapVEnglandJune16_largeinterest over team-interest as they went about trying to show how they could individually solve our performance challenges. We saw countless shots far off target and no structured attempt on goal. What is more, no one took control and led the team following Iceland’s early goal. The fact this couldn’t be resolved by the end of the game demonstrates a complete lack of unity.”

“We have the quality and passion in the side in order to be successful on an international stage, however we need a deep sense of leadership and cultural change to bring about the togetherness and clarity needed to win on the global stage. The uncomfortable truths about issues such as: team selection, team roles and team clarity need to be thoroughly discussed. In this way the elephant in the room will not be avoided. The FA needs to urgently seek someone who can minimise ego and maximise the team ethos, such as Eddie Jones has done within English Rugby. In my book I discuss how we can become transformational leaders than inspire collective excellence through operating selflessly and bring about a value based approach to performance which is exactly what the nation needs.”

Sylvester discusses his Seven Step process to DETOX YOUR EGO below and how this could be applied to English Football.

Conclusion: How the England team can detox their ego

 1. Believe in ‘mastery’

Young players are nurtured and taught to win. Losing is often unacceptable, as the results become everything regardless of level. An expectation of “I am a winner” or “I am a loser” (win-lose mindset) creates stress and anxiety and can lead to poor ways of thinking. Instead, helping players to focus on deeply mastering their contribution to the game leads to a better way of thinking. So, encouraging players to think about how they can master their relationships, teamwork, skills and craft is essential. A player’s enthusiasm and joy at doing this often gives an indication how far they want to go in football.

It was fascinating to observe the win-lose mindset of our England players when the pressure to score became paramount. Our players immediately got stopped by their thinking (ego’s) and were unable to express themselves freely. Instead, they needed to be calm and get immersed in the mastery of their skills to the best of their ability. Sounds simple but under stress this is a very difficult task. We would have been far less disappointed if we had come away with the same result but knowing the players had tried and played to their best capability, but in this tournament this was definitely not the case.

2. Love your errors

If you attend a Sunday morning youth football match you will often see the coach, parents or both getting emotional and shouting instructions to their young team as the need to win increases. Often there is a clear atmosphere of “getting it right” – but we hear the mantra: “you must learn from your errors”. However, I have regularly witnessed, from youth to Premier League where mistakes are not really accepted and criticism takes over. Such criticism from others only leads to an increase in self-criticism. This is very unhealthy and dangerous. For example, look at Joe Hart thumping his forehead with his fist and in the moments that followed paced up and down the edge of his area. His teammates also looked defeated and devastated at conceding a goal by Kolbeinn Sigthorsson which gave Iceland their early lead. The trick is to recover quickly from this ‘ego reaction’. This requires a different mindset. One that is accepting of errors and able to truly refocused on what they needed to do to get back on top rather than let the goal affect them. We must teach our young stars not to resist or ignore errors, but drill down into them, examine them, and in due course, learn to love them.

3. Be open

“However we cannot love our errors if we are closed to hearing criticism and negative feedback from others. The players needed to be open to each other and self manage the challenge provided by Iceland. This required a more intense level of communication between players as well as coaching staff. We should have seen more elaborate communication and leadership between the players in the same way as David Beckham did against Greece in 2001 when we faced exit from the World Cup (2002). Here he led by example through being open to the situation that he and his team faced. He didn’t avoid the thoughts of going out of the World Cup. Instead, he openly accepted that it was his responsibility to ensure it didn’t happen by pulling his sleeves up and reversing our fortunes. Against Iceland not one player led by example. Only when Rashford came on did we see a player work with total freedom and joy. Regardless of how difficult the match situation was, here was a young man totally open to facing the challenge – he led by example. His heart and mind were aligned and he was ready to impact the match coming off the bench. We must continue to encourage this free spirit in the face of adversity through paying attention to player’s levels of openness. Such openness enables players to lead by example.

4. Be consistent

From the very start of the Euro’s we didn’t consistently play well. We constantly chased the game in most of the group matches and our performances were up and down. Such inconsistency in our play, shows us that our players were thinking inconsistently – feeling one thing but doing another. This was an early warning sign of the impending failure to come. We needed players to align how they feel with what they do. For example, Harry Kane’s performances at the Euro’s were totally different to the levels he achieved during the Premier League. Why? Whilst there may be various arguments for this, one thing stands true that his body language between playing in the Premier League and the Euro’s were totally different. In the Premier League you witnessed a player totally connected and engaged. He appeared to be at one with no inner conflict for much of the time. However, in the Euro’s he appeared panicked and eager to close the gap between how he was feeling and what he was doing. He had separation between his heart and mind and as a result found it very difficult to get into any kind of rhythm and flow. We must enable players to explore how they can bring their emotions, mind and performance together so that they can have greater authenticity and integrity when under the intense pressure of a tournament. This was most definitely not the case against Iceland.

5. Have fun

The fun seems to have gone out of the game. Where are the characters that played with a good sense of freedom? Our players looked like that were being forced to go to work. Where did the love of just playing football go? How has wealth, fame and power impacted our players ability to perform? We must get our stars to reignite their childlike enthusiasm for the game so that they are just eager to show how much they love playing. You could see that the Icelandic players played with a spirit of selflessness. It was as if they were programmed to have fun by executing their play in unity. The Icelanders loved showing what they could do and in return their three thousand or so fans responded accordingly with various chants and lots of laughter. You only have to listen to the Icelandic commentator’s boisterous reaction to their goals to realise how much fun they were having as a nation. If you’re having fun, you’re freer – and if you’re freer, you’ll perform. We must engender our players to have more fun with their football and do whatever it takes to stop them looking down and miserable.

6. Be a giver – not just a taker

Heimir Hallgrimsson, joint Iceland team manager, emphasised how giving is a part of their team culture. He highlighted several important factors in building the team relationships by stating that “everyone had a part to play, everybody is friends, everybody is willing to work with each other. That’s a mentality you need for a small country to achieve things. You can’t do it with individuals. We are a family”. This is where being without ego is essential for success. Another example of such togetherness is the way they celebrated at the end of the match. It was amazing to watch the Iceland players doing the Seal Clap together in perfect synchronicity and unity with their fans. Such community spirit suggests money, fame and position aren’t differentiating the Icelanders in relational terms. What could our players learn from this level of togetherness? What can our players do to unconditionally give in the future? We understand intellectually about ‘unconditional’ giving, but our selfishness, our ego, means we often end up ‘taking’ more than giving.

7. Have clarity in Football

Having clarity of purpose is essential for success in anything, especially international football on a global stage. BBC pundit Jermaine Jenas said Hodgson “didn’t know” what he was doing, suggesting: He didn’t know his best team or system. It is impossible for players to serve our nation if there isn’t a clear vision of how we should play. Some other pundits have suggested that the manager’s thinking may have been muddled even before England arrived in France, due to frequent changes of personnel and approach – highlighted by the sudden re-introduction of Sterling. A lack of clarity resulted in England being shown up by the clear direction, hunger and togetherness of the Icelanders. If we look at English rugby we can clearly see the differences in how the players go about their work. How can essentially the same team work so differently under Jones compared to Lancaster? Today, the same players are looking more purposeful than they did at the World Cup because Jones’s leadership creates freedom for everyone in the system. In addition players can clearly see his thinking and decision-making – reducing ambiguity and uncertainty. Here players have greater alignment and personal meaning to perform with each other and for a leader who has transformed their hearts and minds.

It remains to be seen if the FA will follow suit and appoint a similar leader who will reduce the impact of fear and ego whilst cultivating the abundant talent of our players.

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Humility is the key to effective leadership

I’m a slow reader so it took about two weeks for me to complete Steven Sylvester’s ground-breaking book, ‘Detox Your Ego’.

But during that time no less than six total strangers sought to engage me in conversation having seen the book’s provocative title. The most amusing and touching came from a young black woman working in a Vodafone store in central London.

I watched her deal brilliantly with an incredibly rude woman who had just bought a new images-9phone.  When I arrived at the counter I placed the book on the desk. The Vodafone assistant looked at me, then at the woman who had been rude, then turned to me and said; “Tell me more about that book, please”.

And after I have her my take she said, “I’ll write to the Vodafone bosses and ask them to give every new customer Sylvester’s book for free. My life would be a whole lot easier” she laughed. She’s right of course, not least because as Sylvester shows in his step-by-step book, detoxing your ego actually helps you become a happier person.


At its core Detox Your Ego is about realigning who we are, which then enables the reader to move away from the ‘it’s all, or mostly about me’, to actually help us become more effective, more successful and even happier when it’s less about a rampant ego and more to do with what we do, especially for others.

Steven Sylvester, who was a successful County cricket player and now is a sport and image001 (1)business psychologist, helping top sportsmen and women realise their goals by getting them not to focus on the winning, or even the glory, but rather the freedom to do.

He illustrates this well whilst describing a client – a world class snooker player – who nearly imploded as he got to the winning line. Sylvester’s coaching had helped him to refocus on the doing – potting balls – rather than becoming a world champion. As a result success was assured.

Now re-reading the book, I saw huge benefits of this approach for politics. After all, some of our political legislators have the largest egos imaginable.

Self-belief is one thing, but the true essence of an elected representative is to serve others. I instantly though, therefore ‘what if our political class could focus not on being in the limelight or how quickly they could become a government minister, but rather how could they best serve the people who elected them?

Furthermore, those who embrace humility could find themselves becoming more productive politicians, not least because the focus is driven by public service rather than political ambition.

Having read the book, I tracked down Steven Sylvester and told him that on so many levels his book was more than a good informative read. It is an extremely important piece of work.

For me, whether you’re a campaigner seeking to eradicate race inequality, a politician, a footballer, banker, surgeon or student, Detox Your Ego gives you the tools to swim against the cultural tide of ‘me, me, me’, which in turn enables you to be more effective, achieve greater success and be free from your ego’s worse traits.

Steven Sylvester has pioneered a new leadership style though his book                         DETOX YOUR EGO.

Written by Simon Woolley, Director of Operation Black Vote.

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