Interview with Olympian, Performance expert, Coach, Facilitator and Keynote speaker Ben Hunt-Davis
I was very fortunate to get a few minutes of Ben's time to talk about his book Will It Make The Boat Go Faster.  Ben Hunt-Davis is an experienced performance coach, facilitator and keynote speaker. He is also an author having co-written “Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?”, the story of how the men’s eight crew that he was in won the Olympic Gold medal at the Sydney Olympics.

Ben has spent the last 16 years specialising in leadership and team development. He has designed and run training courses and conferences for many organisations. He is a performance expert, and has a very practical approach that is heavily focused on application so that participants can actually apply what they’ve heard and behave differently to achieve greater results.

ben-hunt-davisBen founded Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? Ltd in 2012 with Tom Barry. The business continues to grow quickly and delivers very strong results for their clients.

Ben is still involved in the Olympic movement having been a member of the Team GB staff at the last 3 Summer Olympics. He has also chaired the Organising Committees of two international rowing events in the UK, leading up to 500 people to deliver the events.

Hello Ben, thank you for stopping by Activia's Expert Insights section. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself for our readers?

Hi, I’m Ben. I have 3 beautiful children and a wonderful wife. I run a performance consultancy called Will it make the boat go faster? and have been working as a performance consultant in businesses for the past 16 years since.

I’ve been involved in 6 Olympic Games; 3 times as a competitor and 3 times as part of the headquarters team for Team GB

I am passionate about bringing straight forward performance principles to the forefront to help people achieve what they want to achieve.

You published this book 11 years after winning the gold at Sydney. Was it easy to remember the details and the feelings you experienced in your preparation for the Olympics, and the race itself? Not many of us get to race in an Olympic final, so it may be indelibly stamped on your memory!

Actually it was only 6 years ago! Essentially I must admit, I wrote the bits which I remembered best. For some of the feelings, especially around the final and races, I remembered those incredibly clearly but other details were vague in parts.

In order to write the book I spoke to all of the other guys in the boat about various different incidents and stories and got them to proof read the book before it was published to ensure all my tales were correctly recalled. For a lot of it we had exactly the same memories and for other bits, I got my facts wrong.

Re-living the Olympic Games when writing the book did you learn anything new about the experience?

Yes. There were some interesting conversations I had with some of the guys about the way we remember things.

By the time I came to write the book, I had 8-9 years’ experience of working in the performance mindset field. During this time I’d already tried to work out what we’d done, why and how this applied to other people. I’d thought a lot through during this time, as you can imagine this allowed me to learn a lot of new things.

Who is this book aimed at and how will it help them?

When writing the book Harriet and I wanted to ensure it had a broad a reach as possible.

Of course the sports enthusiasts and business people, but just about everyone else who is interested in improving performance we want to aim to help too. By using analogies which include things like Rice Krispies and Shreddies in the book, the story would even resonate with a typical mother.

You're an Olympic gold medal rower, what made you decided to write a book about personal development?

When I was rowing, the changes we went through were clearly working and that’s when the area of personal development began to resonate. After rowing I wanted to do some kind of work in corporate development, as this field interested me.

We hoped that our book would be a useful tool for people and a way of demonstrating that there is a whole load more that goes behind winning a gold medal than what you may think.

What was your experience writing the book? (You're day-to-day when writing the book).

Day to day, it was pretty tough – when writing I was; working full time for Team GB, delivering motivational speeches, as well as chairing the organising committee for the Olympic rowing test event…oh and a father of 3! I was incredibly busy and I’d never done anything like writing a book before which made it even more of a challenge.

I had tried writing the book alone before but it didn’t work out. When I brought Harriet on board she held me accountable – we met every Tuesday night to discuss and set each other tasks to complete. This kept us going forward and made it happen!

willitaketheboatgofaster-bookThe format of the book is interesting - as you split each chapter into 2 parts: Ben's storyline, and Harriet's analysis. Was this deliberate, or trial-and-error? If you wrote it again, would you do it the same?

This was deliberate. The original plan I had (before having Harriet on board) was exactly this.

I originally thought the book would be much shorter than it is but the depth and analysis Harriet provided brought it to the shape it is now in.

Yes, if I came to write the book again I would do the same. In fact, for the next book I plan to write I will follow a similar approach.

In the 17 years since the Olympics, are there any new insights you would share? Is there anything you would change if you rewrote the book?

I have continued to be involved with Team GB on the last 3 Olympics. Seeing how they and UK Sport are developing a culture across approx. 20 Olympics sports is very insightful.

The stuff we were doing, we thought was rocket science but now I see that what we were doing was not necessarily brand new, we were just doing these things better than other people. People are now taking our approaches to a new level.

What would I change? All sorts of things. Some of the examples I gave, lots of marginal improvements that Harriet and I are tempted to make for future iterations of the book.

What are you planning for the future of 'Will it make the boat go faster'?

I am looking to continue to grow my consulting business and develop the ways that we can help people achieve what they want to achieve. It feels so empowerful to see the differences that the team and I are making to businesses and there are so many more companies that we can help.

Have you been back in a rowing boat since Sydney?

A handful of times yes. However, I prefer to kayak nowadays rather than row.

Finally, is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?

Our 3 basic performance principles, if you follow them, you will be successful:
1)    Focus on what’s important
2)    Focus on performance in order to achieve results
3)    Working together effectively

You can buy Bens book Will it Make the Boat Go Faster at Amazon. For more information go to the website Will It Make the Boat Go Faster.