Golden rules from gold medalists

Feb 05 2014 by Graham Scrivener Print This Article

On the eve of the Winter Olympics, it's a good moment to remember that achieving your dream is possible whatever your profession. Athletes, who are at the peak of their profession, are continuously and intensely training and developing their talents which they support with a big heap of self-belief, even when faced with what may seem the impossible.

Their intense training enables them to move swiftly which, as in business, is critical to their success. But to achieve speed athletes focus on something other than speed itself. Elite athletes develop their talents to outrun, out-ski or out-skate the competition. However, during a race they do not think "go faster" but "relax." The result is greater speed.

The same technique applies in business as well. To outdo the competition, teams need to focus less on speed and more on clarity, unity, agility and self-belief. Together, these will enable them to operate faster.

So set your sights high and stay focused on your goal. Leading a team to victory often means achieving what others think is unachievable. People may question your judgement or doubt your ability but if you want to be the best, believe in yourself, your team and always play to your potential.

Never lose sight of your goals even when those around you are showing uncertainty, and don't let your team become stagnant or complacent. An Olympic winner doesn't give up once they've won a medal. They push the boundaries so they are always beating the competition.

Being challenged is the way we develop our skills, especially when confronted with situations that test our weaknesses. Top athletes know their strengths and their failings and use this recognition to push themselves to their limits. For example, performing in front of a big crowd is terrifying for some athletes but success is knowing how to embrace this challenge and to enjoy the fear, rather than become overwhelmed by it. Nurture and cultivate any weak spots in your team so they are equipped and confident to confront their anxieties. If you prepare your team, show you believe in them and lend encouragement then they will rise to the challenge.

You need the right chemistry and shared goals for a team to win whether it's beach volleyball, bobsleigh or in business,. Leaders should look for and develop people with the right attitude, self-discipline and team mindedness. Individuals should be selfless in pursuit of the team's aspirations and not working solely for their own ambitions or to be the star of the show. If something goes wrong then the team should take joint responsibility because a strong team breeds success.

Leading your team to the top of the championships is also about 'Strategic Speed.' A skier does not always aim to go as fast as possible but paces themselves; they know when to slow for the bends or obstacles on the course and when to accelerate. They are clear on the standards they need to achieve and the time they need to beat. They know that to achieve this they have to be clear on the journey or route, work as a team, apply their strategy, proactively avoid obstacles and penalties whilst finding opportunities to improve their performance.

Any journey to the top is fraught with challenges and obstacles that could de-rail your team and cause you to fail along the way. But athletes striving for gold use failure to re-enforce their self-believe rather than knock their confidence. If they make a mistake then they learn from it and continue striving forward. It can take time to reach the top but agility, resilience and dedication to your ambitions are key characteristics to help keep you on track. And, like the top athletes, seek some coaching as it can help refine and develop your skills.

You can't control the obstacles but you can manage how you handle them. Assess the circumstances realistically and ask what is the COST - What can I control and influence? How can I take ownership? What is the scope of the impact on the team - it may not be as bad as you first thought? How much time will this change last for? Then 'reframe' change by examining the situation rationally and working with the team to identify opportunities that help move forward from the problem.

Everyone starts at the beginning but it's not always those that get things done the quickest who reach the top first? It's about strategic speed. Those that believe in themselves, work as a team, know how to adapt to change or challenges, and stay focused on their goals at all times are the ones that are more likely to reach the peak of their profession first.


About The Author

Graham Scrivener
Graham Scrivener

Graham Scrivener, Managing Director of Forum EMEA, a UK-based provider of leadership development and sales performance training.