Olympic Coaching And Lessons From Falling On The Ice

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Posted by Matt Rivera

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February 19, 2014


If you’ve been watching the Winter Olympics this year, there have been many great stories, some heart-warming, some tragic and some surprising. I marvel at the things humans can do, especially when I can’t even get to my car without falling on the ice.

OK, I slipped and did not fall on the ice. But in that moment, I felt for every skater I saw this past week who fell. You are completely helpless and embarrassed, even if no one is watching – and they literally have millions of people watching.

But I also appreciated the coaches who put together and mange these teams of elite athletes. If we all ran our businesses like these coaches, imagine what we could accomplish.

It also brought to mind some questions about how we as HR and business professionals manage our teams. Here are a few thoughts:

Are you motivating your entire team? Many of the favorites this year have not come through, while others on the team have. If you rely only on your past top performers, you might be missing someone with potential. And developing potential is one thing that I think that is being missed in today’s economy. Everyone wants to hire someone away (the elusive passive candidate), rather than look for someone with potential and then develop them. The only problem is, eventually you’ll run out of passive candidates. Ask a few managers in the STEM areas about that.

Are you working as a team? There are still some athletes who, despite their best attempts, still come across as more concerned with their individual accomplishments than that of the team. For a coach, putting a team together is not as hard as getting a team to work together. Then it’s a matter of keeping the team together and motivated as you work toward a common goal. The vision of the coach or manager has to be firmly on the bigger goal, while motivating team members to accomplish their individual goals. If it sounds exhausting, it is, but it can be done.

What’s your player’s real focus? Big headline: Shawn White pulls out of one competition to focus on another. Is he hurt? Does he not think he’ll do well, so he pulls out to avoid embarrassment? Or maybe he just wants to focus on one thing. We as managers need to help our employees focus on the things that will make the most difference in our business. This is part of setting them up for success. Sometimes decisions need to be made to facilitate this – difficult decisions in some cases. But at the end of the day, even if the decision is that they don’t work for you anymore, it’s usually the best for all parties involved.

Are you putting the right players in the right events? Like the Olympic coaches who work with the team they are given, most managers inherit a certain number of workers. You can’t always choose your entire team from scratch. So, you have to work with the available talent and then make decisions as to how they can best benefit your organization. When you do this, make sure you are not making assumptions based on previous managers, what you’ve done in the past or how it’s always been done in your organization. Take some chances and give people some chances to surprise you. Maybe the new guy can take things to the next level.

The Olympics are a great reminder of some of the great things we can accomplish. Maybe some Olympic style coaching is what is needed in today’s workplace to take us to the next level.

Topics: Staff Management, Leadership & Management

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