We are just over a week into the 2012 Olympic Games, and if we are to judge from the events of the past few days, the Olympic spirit is alive and well! Not only did the pageantry and majesty of the opening ceremony delight and excite, but the Games remind us that, while there are 204 countries competing this year, all of the athletes, spectators and fans are bound by a common interest and love of healthy competition.
In a recent article in Talent Management magazine, Rick Lash of the Hay Group and I shared some of our reflections on what we can learn from the London Olympics. Our contemplations focused on five lessons that leaders can learn from the world’s biggest sports stage:
1. Go the [planning] distance.
Leadership takes a commitment to the long-term. Ask the planning committee that first put together the bid to host the 2012 Olympics – back in 2003! Successful leadership takes a devotion to thinking strategically and projecting beyond the immediate future, while also managing day-to-day activities which are strung together to become long-term strategic direction.
2. Teem with team spirit.
Being an integral part of a winning team isn’t just about appreciating the strengths of others. It’s also about understanding how one’s own strengths fit into fulfilling the team’s goals. Leaders must help team members focus on the big picture, where they fit into that big picture, and how their contributions will provide the most value.
3. Know the need.
Olympic athletes personify how individual intrinsic needs build internal motivation. In the workplace, leaders can help team members feel appreciated for their expertise, enable collaboration with peers, and foster their desire to be self-driven and self-defined.
4. Understand the individual.
In sports, the wise coach recognizes that each member of the team is different. In business, the wise leader adapts motivation techniques to the needs, strengths and capabilities of each team member. Gone are the days when sweeping generalizations about generational differences or cultural stereotypes had any positive value in the workplace. Today’s leader gets to know how each worker performs best and then creates an environment where that worker is satisfied and productive.
5. Cherish the Competition.
At the root of this point is that competition is healthy. In the Olympics, it is the desire to overcome obstacles, beat existing records, and outperform one’s competitors that drives each athlete. In the world of work, it’s up to us to help team members develop a healthy sense of competition that builds camaraderie among colleagues, while ensuring that mutual respect and trust are not casualties of that competitive spirit.
Over the course of 17 days, the world will witness some memorable moments by gifted, dedicated athletes. All too often we get caught up in the medal count or ignore the accomplishments of those who do not wear our flag. So take a moment to reflect on the bigger picture – these competitors represent all of us by their humanity, humility, and passion.
Sharon Daniels is CEO of AchieveGlobal in Tampa, Florida