The Advancing Leadership Blog

Olympics 2012: What your company can learn from the games

The Olympics are right around the corner – will you be watching London this year? Many TEC members have heard me share the Roger Bannister/John Landy story in seminars. Recently, 83-year-old Bannister carried the Olympic Torch on its trek to the games, on the same track where he broke the 4 minute mile in 1954. Cool. What you may not know is that Roger Bannister never won an Olympic medal; in fact, he only competed in one Olympics and finished fourth! He credits that loss with his record-breaking 4-minute mile; had he won at the Olympics, he would have retired rather than pressing on. He went “beyond Olympic Gold” to have lasting impact. Nobody really remembers who wins Olympic gold… but we all remember what Roger Bannister achieved.  What can we learn from that?  See below!

Ask your team these 3 questions at your next meeting:

1. If our company ‘won gold’ at the 2012 Olympics, what would it be for?

Think about it. Would you win in archery, because you excel at reaching your targets? Would it be running, because you’re the best at speed-to-market? Perhaps gymnastics, because your company is so flexible? Or do you excel as a team? Or, is more training required before you have any hopes of a podium spot?  Try having each member of your team write the answer to the question on a post-it note, stick them on the wall, and compare notes.

2. Why?

Asking the “why” behind the “what” will give you some interesting insights into each member of your team and how they view the strengths of your company. You may gain some unexpected AHAs! As you see Olympic Gold unfolding at the Games through August, it’s a great conversation to take throughout your organization.

3. What goal “beyond Olympic Gold” do we really need to achieve in our business in order to have lasting impact?

McDonald’s “supersizes” things. I want you to “Bannister-size” things. Is your current Olympic Gold enough, or is it holding you back from something bigger? What is the milestone that your company could claim and be long-remembered for? How will you achieve it, and when? Brainstorm this with post-its. You may be surprised by the results of this provocative question!

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