I love the Olympics.
I love the athleticism and the story lines and the preparation and the inspiring moments and the psychology and the history … and so much more.
As I’ve talked with people during the Games, I’ve found that even people who generally aren’t sports fans usually can find something to be interested in during the Olympics (winter and/or summer).
However, whether you’re a sports fan or not, there are valuable lessons to be learned when you view the efforts and results of these amazing athletes from the perspective of leadership and peak performance.
And so, that is my focus in this article – viewing the efforts of these athletes through the lens of leadership. They are achieving and performing at the peak of their potential. Isn’t that what you want for yourself and your team?
Here are five important lessons you can take from the Olympics and apply immediately (and for the rest of your life) to your work as a leader.
They keep score. In recent blog post I wrote about how the Olympics reminds me of the importance of measuring and keeping track, but let me keep it simple here. Olympic athletes know how they are doing all the time. They have ways to measure both actual results and measurable progress throughout the process. They can correlate their progress and success because they keep score in precise and strategic ways. If you want greater performance, you must follow their lead. How do you keep score? How happy are with your recent results?
They have clear goals. Every Olympian has different goals. For some, their goal was reached by making it to the Games, and everything on site is a bonus. Some are chasing their first medal – no matter the color, for others nothing short of Gold may satisfy them. Regardless, all have a focus on achieving their personal best effort when it matters most. This isn’t a comment about which is the best goal – I can’t judge theirs any more than I could or would judge yours. The point here is the clarity of the goal. Are your goals as clear as theirs?
They practice. And practice. And practice. They don’t expect world class performance after only putting in occasional efforts in training. They know to be their best they must practice in focused and strategic ways to reach their goals. I’m guessing you are shaking your head in agreement right now, perhaps even wondering why I would make such an obvious point. The point isn’t so obvious if you are using these athletes as your mentor for your own peak performance. Do you practice like a champion? Are you as diligent and consistent in learning the skills that will help you succeed as they are?
They play to the end. World class athletes know where the finish line is, and they play until they get to it. If they fall during their skating program, they get back up. If they are injured, they keep going (if at all possible). Even if their chance of reaching their goal is lost, they continue. How often do you hear them in interviews blaming others, the judges or the conditions? Not nearly as often as you probably hear people in your office talking about that problem being “Engineering’s fault”, or because of “the economy” or some other exterior factor. Olympic athletes play to the end, remaining singularly focused on their endeavor. Do you?
They have coaches. Have you ever heard of a world class athlete not having a coach? Even if you’ve never played a sport, you likely recognize the importance of coaching at all levels of athletic performance – even when the athletes are the best in the world. Is there something that makes our work as leader so different that we don’t need coaching? If you want to improve and haven’t made the progress you need or hope for, do you have a coach? If not, this is the single thing you can do (and provide for those you lead) to create significant improvement. Do you have a coach?
Your work likely doesn’t include skis, skates, snowboards or brooms, but these lessons should speak clearly to you. If you are serious in creating greater performance for yourself and those you lead, read this list again, asking yourself, how will I apply these starting today?
There are immediate actions you can take, and taking them is important. It is however your dedication to these principles and their application over time that will help you make Olympic-sized improvements in your results.
Potential Pointer: Leaders and high performers can learn a great deal from Olympic athletes. Choose to watch the Olympics (and all world class events) for more than their results, but also for the lessons you can apply to your own work and life.
Remarkable leaders strive to be the best – for themselves, those they lead, and the organizations and communities they serve. They know they must move towards that ideal with the zeal of an Olympic athlete. Many leaders from around the world are consciously learning and building their skills through participating in The Remarkable Leadership Learning System – a one skill at a time, one month at a time approach to becoming a more confident and successful leader. Get $748.25 worth of leadership development materials including two months of that unique system today as part of Kevin Eikenberry’s Most Remarkable Free Leadership Gift Ever.