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Pure Gold: Workplace Lessons from the 2016 Olympics

Originally posted by Lindsey Pollak 19 August 2016

The explosive power of gymnast Simone Biles.

The incredible determination of swimmers Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps.

The feats we see at the Olympics are the result of discipline, grit and hours and hours (and hours) of practice. They showcase teamwork, focus, communication and dedication – coincidentally, all traits that make for a great employee.

As the spectacle of Rio winds down, let’s reflect on some workplace lessons we can learn from the Olympics.

Make It a Habit to Note Career Milestones –- Good and Bad -– to Improve

“Keeping a training book to look back on all of his workouts and successes, [Kenyan runner Eliud] Kipchoge has recorded each run, each piece of the training puzzle, so that when it’s time to compete, he can look back and ‘know he has done everything. It gives him the confidence to go and deliver.’ … Keep track of your accomplishments, career goals—wins, misses, setbacks and achievements. Take note of everything from where you hope to be five years from now to what kind of feedback you got at your last performance review.” —  Read more at The Muse.

Sometimes Even The Most Thankless Job Can Be the Most Important

“The Olympic swimming pool has lifeguards, just in case someone like Michael Phelps, winner of 18 gold medals, needs to be rescued. … The odds are small. ‘It’s a one-in-a-million type of event, but we’re prepared,’ said [Anderson] Fertes, [a health-club lifeguard from Rio]. …  [Danielle] Martelote, [the lifeguard supervisor at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium] and some of her charges stayed close to Phelps and kept a sharp focus on him as he trained on Tuesday. He was the one they watched most intently. ‘We joked to each other, ‘We’re here to save him!’ she said. ‘But we hope and expect that all the athletes will be fine.’” —  Read more at New York Times.

Talent Recruitment Must Be Ongoing

“While the Olympic Games happen once every four years, [Max] Siegel, [CEO of U.S.A. Track and Field], says his team is constantly preparing for it. Finding the highest-caliber athletes for the Games means being on the lookout for elite runners, recruiting them, and preparing them to compete in the Olympic trials when the time comes. This means tracking students as young as middle- and high-school age who show serious promise. ‘There’s a pretty robust and thorough analysis of the talent,’ he says, explaining that he has experts on staff who are single-handedly focused on assessing every aspect of an athlete’s capabilities.” —  Read more at Fast Company.

Shared Vision Leads to Success

“During the Olympics, all teammates have razor sharp focus on one specific end goal: to bring home the gold for their country. In the workplace, strategic goals are more likely to be achieved if your team is able to follow the example of Olympic athletes and share one concrete vision. Often this doesn’t occur because employees don’t know why the goals are important, don’t understand their roles, or even realize the specific goal and action steps needed. If you want your team to successfully work together to achieve one goal, you must clearly communicate precisely what vision they should all be sharing and why they should be engaged in it.” —  Read more at Spectrum Staffing.

Learn from the Wins and the Losses

“Chicago sports psychologist Jenny Conviser, who works with professional and Olympic-caliber athletes, said elite competitors who don’t reach their goals should realize what they gained from the attempt — attributes like tenacity, focus and the capacity for hard work. ‘You can walk away from competition and those qualities do not need to disappear,’ she said. ‘They allowed you to get as far as you did in your sport, and they can be applied to other pursuits.’” —  Read more at Chicago Tribune.

What lessons have you learned from watching the 2016 Olympics?

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