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The Gold Mindset – Professional Skills We Can Glean From Olympic Athletes

Written by David Salters on July 7, 2021

Warren Averett Olympic image

There is no shortage of reasons to admire the athletes who are preparing to display their hard work and talents to the world at the long-awaited 2021 Summer Olympics.

The Olympics and the competitors involved have become a symbol of the rewards that come from hard work, determination and the value of “going for the gold.”

As many of us prepare to watch some of the world’s greatest athletes put blood, sweat and tears into pursuing success this summer (from the comfort of our couches in our air-conditioned living rooms), I can’t help but wonder: what if we applied that same “gold mindset” to our professional lives?

Below are three simple ideas inspired by Olympic athletes that can be translated to our day-to-day capacities as business leaders, employees and colleagues.

1. Perfecting the Art of Practice

Much of what makes the Olympics so fascinating is the precision and focus that goes into perfecting a sport. Yet, each athlete who reaches an Olympic caliber began years ago as an amateur.

What happened in between the time they started and the time they receive a gold medal is practice—and most likely, some failures, bumps and bruises.

No person has a history (or future) free of mistakes. And no successful business leader is without mistakes, acknowledgment of them and intentionality toward improving. It’s through failure, re-attempts and practice that we experience professional growth.

Much like training activities or team practice drills, the small things we do can greatly contribute to big things with real impacts. Setting a goal for where you’d like to be (for technical skills or soft skills), making incremental progress and taking even small steps toward improvement are valuable.

2. The Importance of Coaching

Few—if any—gold medal athletes became successful because they innately knew everything there is to know about a sport. There is unique value in having a coach who not only has in-depth experience and knowledge, but who can help you to see your own blind spots and places where you can improve.

Even gold medalists, while wildly successful, aren’t so good that they don’t need a coach.

Seeking out the advice and input from someone else can be beneficial for any business leader in any position, but it’s even more impactful when you’re willing to address the accompanying opportunity to improve.

Share your goals, discuss your struggles and achievements and ask for input. Listen to feedback—not to reply, but to understand and act in response.

And while you’re working on being coached yourself, don’t forget to be a coach for others. Invest the time in helping and advising your colleagues to help them to reach their own goals as well.

3. Competition is Fierce, but Our Attitudes Don’t Have to Be

Competition is the driving force of our business world. We want to be the best, and we want our team to win. Our competitive nature drives us to check off our to-do list, challenge ourselves and go the extra mile. The passion to win is a key ingredient to a healthy and successful mindset.

But when that drive turns sour and the heat of the moment gets the best of us, our mindset isn’t beneficial anymore.

Even in competition, remember to be kind. Focus more time on finding solutions than you do in placing blame for the problems.

Headlines reporting tensions among competing Olympic teams have been commonplace for years. Some are remembered for being a short-lived feud ending in reconciliation, and others are remembered for harsh words and revenge. Even in the business world, it’s important to know the difference.

Even if you do swing and miss and your competitor comes out on top, remember that, while there is great value in friendly competition and benign rivalry, don’t let it go too far.

Going for the Gold

If you’re preparing to watch the Olympics and admire the dedication, precision and friendly competition on display, don’t forget that the principles at work aren’t all that different from those that we can apply each day—not just every two years.

Warren Averett’s HR consulting team understands the growing need that companies have to equip and develop their team members in order to advance toward their goals. If you’re looking to inspire your team to go for the gold at your company, ask a member of our team to reach out to you to learn more about our employee relations and performance management services.

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