Well the medals have all been handed out and the curtain has come down on the closing ceremony; although Brazil was always going to face unique challenges, the sporting drama which unfolded in Rio still compared favourably with previous Olympics.
The wave of glory which has washed across our nation (GB) in the 16 days is what defines the Olympic Games as truly being the most inspiring sporting event in the world.
At no other time can such a vast array of sports create such a fevered sense of hope, joy and happiness. I am sure there are many who read this who only sit on the edge of their seats once every four years hoping that a dancing horse does not make any mistakes or that a paddler in the kayaking does not touch a dangling pole.
It is a truly unique experience which can bring an entire nation together but this can only be achieved through the tireless commitment of the participating athletes. They have dedicated their lives to reach the pinnacle of their chosen sport(s) and when reviewing why these leading athletes succeed where others fail, there are a large number of takeaways which we can learn from. Here are six of the best I have personally taken:
1.Blood, sweat and tears are needed if you want to be the greatest
All sportsmen and women have to have a high degree of talent to get to a world level in their sport but it is their years of dedication to mastering their profession which ensures they succeed in winning medals at the Olympics. One of greatest US athletes of all-time, Jesse Owens, quite rightly said: “We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”
Success at work is not served to you on a platter. For most people, they will work hard and efficiently for the bulk of the work day but ask yourself: how often do you extend yourself to really do what your colleagues would not be prepared to?
It could be taking ownership of that challenging customer who is never happy or making those extra sales calls to ensure you over-achieve on your stats every day. If you push yourself to go beyond your expectations and those of your employer, then you put yourself in a much stronger position to succeed.
2.Success breeds success
From the dismal failure of a solitary gold medal in Atlanta 1996, Team GB has steadily climbed the medal table to the new heights of runners up to the USA at Rio 2016. There are many contributing factors which have lead to this happening but there can be no doubt that success inspires others to want to succeed as well.
The fantastic images of Sir Bradley Wiggins with a 12-year-old Laura Trott, or Michael Phelps with a 13-year-old Joseph Schooling, shows the success and inspiration of others will lead the next generation to want to follow suit.
From a team management perspective at work, celebrating successes with others is fundamental to getting others to be inspired to want to achieve too. Recognising an achievement with their peers will also motivate that individual to want to continue to hit even greater heights.
3.Surround yourself with high achievers to push everyone to achieve the best standards
The British cycling team was lauded at the Rio Olympics for their standout achievements (11 track medals and one road). It has been acknowledged that one of the main reasons for this is having such an elite group of individuals train together, which constantly pushes each of them to the highest level of achievement.
The added bonus factor is whenever someone new is bought into the group, they are immediately pushed to the very highest levels (see Callum Skinner being integrated into the team with Hines and Kenny).
If you are looking to push yourself to new heights at work, ask yourself ‘who is the best and most successful person / people I can learn from within my team?’
The amount of valuable advice and guidance you can glean from aligning yourself to the top performers in your company ensures you are giving yourself the optimum opportunity to be successful.
4.Having strong financial backing helps to accelerate success but by no means guarantees it
It is well known that the cost of each medal at the Rio Olympics for Team GB was around £4.1m. To some this is an eye watering sum, while to others it is a justified investment to ensure we are competing at the highest level in the sporting world.
No-one can doubt that having access to great facilities, the best trainers and excellent medical facilities, while allowing the athletes to train full time, has had an enormous impact on our performance levels at this Olympics. However, it is not an absolute given you will dominate in all competitions.
The inaugural Rugby Sevens competition was a fantastic spectacle of strength, speed and skill. The final was contested by Great Britain and the ‘financial powerhouse’ of Fiji! GB were dominated from the off by the physically domineering Fijian players who demonstrated immense skill levels combined with their huge size. Although Sevens is not the highest funded area for Team GB, there is no doubting the resources on offer would have been greater than Fiji.
Talent will always shine through in the world of sport, irrespective of the money which backs you, but you do have a greater chance of getting there quicker if you have solid funding.
If you work for a recognisable name within your particular sector, it does often make the initial stages of your job easier. The value of your brand carries itself across to the customer who wants to be aligned or partnered with a company they aspire to work with. Does this guarantee your success? Of course not; it has given you a foot up the ladder but there are still many rungs to climb.
On the flip side, if you work for a less well-known business where budgets may be tighter, do not let this be a reason to hold you back. Learn what strengths the business has and the value they can add to your prospective client base. Ensure these come across in every aspect of the work you do and it will push you to new levels of success both as a company but also as an employee.
5.No matter what you face in your career, realise it is having the character to learn from your mistakes and improve which makes a champion
For all the people who succeeded at the Rio Olympics, there are many more athletes who did not reach the levels they wanted or expected to. From a GB perspective, seeing leading diver Tom Daley win an early bronze medal would surely set himself up well in his individual competition at 10m. Having qualified highest for the semi-finals, he then surprisingly came in last place when trying to reach the final. The acclaimed GOAT (Greatest of All Time), Michael Phelps has said in the past;
“Things won’t go perfect. It’s all about how you adapt from those things and learn from mistakes.”
For those athletes who did not hit the heights they expected, they now enter a period of reflection to understand what didn’t work and identify how to improve their results in the future.
In the world of work, we are all faced with a barrage of challenges on an almost daily basis. It is an almost unrealistic expectation to think that everything will be perfect at work and having the ability to learn, adapt and improve future performance through gaining experience when things go wrong is essential for your personal development.
I can honestly say that my first two years of recruitment were a huge learning curve and I definitely made a large number of mistakes in that time. I faced failure on multiple occasions almost to the point of losing my job. Did this mean I was a bad recruiter? No!
It made me realise I needed the right environment to continue my development in but to also utilise all the positive skills and traits I had gained from those formative years.
Remember the greatest amongst us have all had personal and work challenges to face with people telling us we will never succeed. Having the strength of character to pick yourself up, dust yourself down and then get back on the horse ASAP is what makes the best better than all the rest.
6.You have to have a passion and love for what you do to get to the top
The biggest point which comes across in all the competitors at the Olympics (whether medallists or not) was how much love they have for competing in their respective sport. The passion flows through each winner and it is this which pushes every one of them to the limits when training in the four-year cycle through to the next Olympic Games.
The motivation for them is having that medal around their neck; the pain and suffering they have to endure and the thousands of hours of training to improve their skills is what drives them to their end goal.
In the context of work and your own career, ask yourself whether you truly love and have a passion for what you do. If you answer with a negative, maybe now is the time to reassess about what you want to get out of your career and what you can do about it.
We interview hundreds of people every year who have major complaints about the work they do and the companies they are employed by. You have a choice in life whether to accept this as the norm or to do something about it. Realise that when you have something you are truly passionate about in your career, you are more likely to do everything in your capability to reach those Olympian heights.
These are six of my biggest takeaways from the Rio Olympics, which reflect well on the world of work; What have you taken away from the inspirational efforts of the world’s leading sportsmen and women?