Building Trust in the Performance Environment: Silent Lightning & Dark Thunder

Can lightning ever be separated from thunder?

Storm Chaser Australia
Dramatic lightning strikes over Perth Harbor in Australia. (Caters News/Oliver Kay)

Lightning is the flashing brilliance, and the thunder is the reverberating sound that echo’s in our chest cavity. They come to our senses as separate things, first the lightning then the thunder.

Hear in lies the paradox; it is just the one act of an electrical discharge causing the plasma flash (lightning), this electrical discharge also causes the sound (thunder) and thirdly it also gives of in excess of 30,000 degrees of heat which we don’t have a specific name for.

This natural phenomenon therefore affects three of our senses (sight, hearing and feeling).

The question that pondered my head  tonight is why we have a word for the flash (lightning) and the bang (thunder) but not the heat.  From a psychological perspective the human instrument is flawed, we only experience and interpret the world through our own perspectives.  The thunder and lightning is easily perceived, yet it is not the entire phenomenon.

We don’t tend to notice that which we don’t experience, and this makes sense as  most people don’t ever get to feel the heat from a lightning strike.

This is a great analogy to help us understand the experience of “performance environments” (or any environment). One of my current roles is working for the English Institute of Sport in the provision of Performance Psychology support to British Weightlifting. The many other EIS staff influence my environment; I get to learn informally through “corridor chats”.   Often these providing the missing jigsaw piece to a puzzle. This is a story of how being close to the heat of the “Performance Environment”  has benefited my understanding.

Four weeks ago I noticed the writing left on a white board, I had seen it before, but I had never noticed it, nor taken the time to read it. I distinctly remember thinking “I wonder what that is, I don’t understand it”, and with that the thought left my mind, as I went back to the meeting.


A few days later I was in the same room and the writing was still on the board. I looked at it and then remembered I had previously been intrigued. Then my eyes drifted to the left and I suddenly became aware that the person had also written up the words for each letter. It was obvious yet I didn’t perceive it originally.  It was a simple formula for trust.


Trust or quality of relationship is one of the key factors when trying to increase performance of an athlete or an employee and here on the board was  a brilliant, logical and effective formula which provided a useful insight. (Maister, D. H., Green, C. H., & Galford, R. M. 2000).

Credibility x Reliability x Intimacy =TRUST
Self Interest

The performance environment of working with the EIS for British Weightlifting has been an amazing phenomenon full of the easily perceived, Lightning and Thunder moments of learning, but the unperceived moments to those outside of the environment I feel are probably the most important aspects for enhancing my performance and ultimately the performance of the of the athletes.

One of my current side projects will be passing down or giving back this knowledge gained from my experience in the elite performance environment to coaches of Northern Ireland Weightlifting.  If you are a weightlifting coach in Northern Ireland and are interested in getting on the National Coaching Development Program please check out these posts. There is no cost for coaches selected onto the program. The deadline for applications is  31/7/2016


Or have a look at a few of the videos of talks From Podium Psychology.

Easy ways to get into the right mental state before training

Managing Work Life Balance