Bringing our Olympic Spirit to work

The contrast between the paranoid atmosphere around the England football team at major championships and the inclusive, positive ethos of the 366-strong Olympic Team is obvious.

After the humiliation in Atlanta in 1996, when we took 36th place in the medals table with only one gold, British sport took a long hard look at itself and came up with a plan. It’s clearly a strategy that’s paying off - with 16 golds and counting at the half-way point. 

The fact that Team GB overtook the mighty China this weekend to seize second place in the medals table is testament to the power of team spirit and of talent being identified and nurtured from within. 

While raw talent is a prerequisite, the influx of funding has allowed those in charge to create a pathway to make the most out of it. What organisers sought to achieve was a situation where the maverick geniuses who might land you a gold medal on talent and application alone were replaced by a system that constantly regenerated talent.

Our Organisations

A lot of our organisations are still performing as our Olympians did in Atlanta. Sure, there are pockets of golden brilliance - people who get it and organisations that fly - but on average, productivity in the UK is the lowest out of all G7 nations. Output per hour worked in the UK was 18 percentage points below the average for the remaining six members of the G7 group of industrial nations in 2014, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Unless we address the crippling problems at the heart of UK businesses we will fall further and further behind, and with the prospect of Brexit on the horizon the need to remain competitive has never been more important. So what lessons might we learn from our best in Rio to drive performance and long-term success in our organisations? 

Four Lessons Businesses Can Learn from Rio

  1. Funding - Providing sufficient budget for development and engagement is essential to enable managers to embrace the kind of skills it takes to lead effective teams, to focus on collaboration and on becoming curators capable of establishing and sustaining cultures that excel. It’s simple - forward thinking, successful organisations understand the value of investment in their people, and in curating their culture. Those who don’t are falling behind, and the failure to invest reveals an unfortunate case of myopia - one project we have worked on alone has yielded an incredible 3400% return on investment. 
  2. High-performance culture - Even our most jaded organisations have pockets of brilliance. How can we leverage our best talent to inspire and drive performance and create a values-driven culture in which everyone feels a part? Marrying clear performance metrics with mentoring and open coaching conversations will create a culture where feedback is both expected and welcomed, rather than feared. This drives engagement and accountability and means that people know what they’re aiming for and feel supported in getting there.
  3. Supporting Emerging Talent - Bringing in a pipeline of new talent and identifying and supporting existing talent is a key tenet for building long-term organisational success. Helping people to develop and grow into roles that might be beyond them currently, to fill in capability gaps that might be holding them back, recognises our innate need need to stretch ourselves not only builds loyalty and engagement, it also drives the ability for organisations to retain talent, knowledge for longer.
  4. Team Spirit - A sense that we’re all in this together drives motivation and engagement - we’re aligned in our thinking and in our goals, and we understand how each of our roles contributes to the overall mission of the operation. We understand each other and we speak the same language, pulling together to achieve more collectively than we could ever achieve individually.