Getting the Best out of People; It Took Some Courage for a 22-Year-Old Physical Education Teacher to Tell Britain's Best All-Round Athlete to "Be a Bit More Polite". but in an Interesting Career, Successful Peak Performance Coach Bernie De Souza Hasn't Been Short of Self-Confidence. Ross Reyburn Spoke to Him about His Career
Byline: Ross Reyburn
It was back in his service days with the RAF that Bernie De Souza, who both lives and runs his office in the county town of Warwick, had an entertaining encounter with the great Daley Thompson, decathlon gold medal winner the 1980 Moscow and 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Mr De Souza was looking after competitors at RAF Cosford's indoor arena in Shropshire where he remembers Daley "constantly telling everyone he was the best athlete in the world.
"He wasn't aggressive - he said it in a nice sort of way with a little smile, but he meant it.
"There was just one changing room like a hanger for all the athletes and Daley said: 'How do you expect the best athlete in the world to get changed here?' "I said: 'Daley let me give you a tip - I am the best PTI (physical training instructor) in the world so if you want to use my private dressing room perhaps you ought to be a bit more polite!
'He laughed. I was 22, I suppose."
Mr De Souza also remembers another equally comic interlude when Thompson, while eating, told a young autograph hunter: "I am the best athlete in the world - I won't be if I don't finish this meal".
"This kid then said: 'This other athlete signed last week'. Daley Thompson turned round and said to the kid: 'That's why he's not the best in the world!' "Having said that, after that weekend there was no doubt in my mind he was the best athlete in the world. His self-belief was brilliant."
The eldest of four children, his father was a RAF engineer born in Kenya whose family were originally from the Portuguese colony of Goa in India, while his mother was a South African of Caribbean descent.
His early memories are of living in Singapore riding a tricycle and seeing alligators. By the time he was eight, he was living in Calne in Wiltshire after his father was transferred to RAF Wroughton.
After leaving school at 16 ("I didn't pass any exams - I had chickenpox when I was due to take them"), he gained a PE diploma at Chippenham Technical College and followed his father into the RAF as a physical training instructor.
He owes a great debt to the RAF. Not only did he benefit from the services training that teaches you the value of a well-organised, disciplined existence, but in 1989-90 stationed at RAF Cosford he met Olympic athletes competing at what was then Britain's only indoor athletics track.
"I remember Linford Christie very laid back, very polite, good with a people, a little shy.
When it came to a race, he was in a world of his own - you couldn't talk to him. Steve Cram had the ability to communicate with everybody - that is why he does media work now."
In 1991, Mr De Souza left the RAF using his experience as a PT coach and trainer to provide insights into helping people and companies improve performance and realise their potential. A member of the Professional Speakers Association, he runs his own company, Global Training 4U from his Warwick office and his "profiling" successes include strong links with sport, especially cricket.
A junior cricketer as well as footballer and hockey player with Wiltshire, he played cricket for the RAF and more recently the MCC, and his two eldest sons are both county youth players.
In the summer of 2004, he was invited to spend time with the West Indies team at Edgbaston working with the tail-enders who had a poor record staying at the crease supporting master batsman Brian Lara.
He set out to change the mindset of players to increase their already low averages by a modest 10-15 per cent. Later that summer, West Indies beat England in the ICC Champions Trophy final at The Oval after their tail-enders earned an unlikely two-wicket victory.
Bernie De Souza doesn't come from the "world domination" school of motivation speakers. In his new book Your Success Is ...
Hidden In Your Daily Routine, he views the world with commendable optimism stating: "It is fair to say that 99 per cent of people are 99 per cent successful in one or more aspects of their lives".
But we can't all be winners and belief in these figures might seem a quick route to self-delusion.
But don't be too alarmed, for unlike the brash young bloods in The Apprentice, Mr De Souza in his quietly spoken way is advocating seeking no more than a higher level of personal achievement and satisfaction in the way we work and run our lives.
Once you get past a bizarre cover illustration dominated by an ugly alarm clock fully in keeping with the tradition of truly awful cover designs found on self-help books, Mr De Souza's publication is a clearly-written succession of often entertaining anecdotes and useful advice.
Phrases such as "You can be a mover or a moaner", "mountain or valley person" and "different strokes for different folks" sum up his philosophy of positive thinking and the fact people have different characters that can result in different reactions to the same approach.
He is not afraid to blow his own trumpet. For example in the book, we find 15-year-old De Souza "scraping" into the Wiltshire Under-15s side arriving at Cheltenham College to face "arguably the fastest bowler in the UK for his age" in a Gloucestershire youth side.
While his fellow team members were "terrified" facing David 'Syd' Lawrence, a future England fast bower, De Souza scored a 50, the highest of the game, to win the match.
Later we find his personality profile of Ernie Shavers giving the American boxer a new level of confidence that had him making the interesting assertion: "If I had this information in 1977, I would have beaten Mohammad Ali at Madison Square Garden."
But don't reach overmuch into these anecdotes.
Mr De Souza comes across as a likeable character wary of being too in your face - "I don't offer advice unless I am asked".
Reared on discipline, Mr De Souza rates one of the ills of Britain as the yobbish behaviour of Premier League footballers who set an awful example as so-called role models.
"I think it is disgusting the way Premiership footballers treat referees," says De Souza.
"Referees should stand their ground. They are not standing their ground - one because money talks, two because their bosses aren't being supportive enough and three they are not strong enough characters.
"Premiership footballers have no respect. It is childish, teenage-type behaviour - they are spoilt brats."
Mr De Souza also had first-hand experience of what happens at the top being repeated at youth level two years ago when he coached a Kenilworth Wardens Under-13 side to promotion after they had finished bottom of their league the previous season.
"At first they thought I was having a laugh when I said there was to be no swearing on the pitch. It was the parents who were the problem.
When we were beating sides we had previously lost 7-0, 8-0 to, parents were constantly abusing their own players, the referee, our players and coming onto the pitch."
Although he is a level three cricket coach and much of his work has been linked to the world of sport, the majority of Mr De Souza's work is in the world of business.
"When you get to businesses, it is about making money or being more efficient. If you can raise the performance of everyone down to the receptionist being more cheerful, it can make a huge difference.
"Many people judge a company on first impressions. A good receptionist or an outstanding secretary handling clients can make a huge difference.
"The way staff are treated is important. You don't need a pay rise to improve staff performance.
If you praise someone's work, you will make their day better and it will have a knock-on effect.
"It is all about communication. It is different strokes for different folks. I help a lot of teachers who have the same approach with kids. But everyone's different. Some people want detailed answers, others don't need things explained."
Mr De Souza can provide companies with detailed staff profiles without ever meeting personnel. Simple questions such as "Would you rather be on your own or with people? and "Would you say you are more outgoing than reserved" he finds provide an instant insight into a person's character.
"Recruitment companies email me profiles - they are very accurate," he points out. "They can help ensure businesses are making the best use of people's attributes.
"I help reshape people ... this person has more skills to do telephone calls, this person here is a potential leader.
"What I can do is help you with your approach and I guarantee you I will improve your performance. That is what I can do. I have never failed yet, I always succeed mainly because the magic's in every person."
Cynical souls might question whether staff profiles do anything more than point out the obvious. Mr De Souza's answer for the benefit of all non-believers has the ring of authenticity.
"If it is was obvious," he asks, "why are we getting better results for people?"
Your Success Is ... Hidden In Your Daily Routine, by Bernie De Souza (Global Training 4U, pounds 9.99)
Born: RAF Wroughton, Wiltshire, January 10, 1964
Education: John Bentley Comprehensive School, Calne, Wilts, Chippenham Technical College, PE diploma.
First full-time job: 1984-1991 RAF physical training instructor
Present post: Peak performance coach
Favourite holiday destination: Bermuda
Marital status: Second marriage, three sons and a daughter
Car: Land Rover
Authors: Motivational experts Robert Kiyosaki & Allan Pease
Idea dinner party guests: Mohammed Ali and Richard Branson
Interests: Cricket, travel and family…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Getting the Best out of People; It Took Some Courage for a 22-Year-Old Physical Education Teacher to Tell Britain's Best All-Round Athlete to "Be a Bit More Polite". but in an Interesting Career, Successful Peak Performance Coach Bernie De Souza Hasn't Been Short of Self-Confidence. Ross Reyburn Spoke to Him about His Career. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: The Birmingham Post (England). Publication date: April 19, 2008. Page number: 19. © 2009 Birmingham Post & Mail Ltd. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.
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