By Chris Sheppardson, CEO at EP Innovates (www.epinnovates.com)
Becoming a gold medal athlete isn’t just about turning up to train. It involves a great deal of thinking, planning, stringent goal setting and preparation. In truth, if you’re going to take home a gold medal in any sport, every day of every week, of every month throughout the entire year is about focus and planning, without it one cannot expect to perform and achieve the best results possible. In business, it is absolutely the same.
The world of sport is more closely related to business than we might first think and in corporate life we can learn many lessons from it. Sport is about teams, business is about teams. Sport is also about spirit, culture, success and improvement; all areas that businesses today continue to struggle with. Interestingly in business, we seem to start every journey with an expectation, a bottom line target or an ultimate goal, one that must be achieved whatever the cost (and regardless of whether it pushes people beyond their limits). In sport this would never work, you aren’t born a ‘gold medallist’ – there is however, an important journey that gets you to that point.
Reaching peak performance
Most Olympians will tell you that from the outset it’s not about the ultimate goal of becoming a gold medallist, it’s actually about lots of smaller goals and visions centred around training, conditioning, performance, eating, social skills and more. When combined these aspects help individuals to reach peak performance.
But reaching peak performance in sport and in business, doesn’t happen without a great deal of trust, support and respect. Look at the England football team, they only got as far as the semi-finals because they were a team, in the real sense of the word. You have to be able to communicate with your team if you expect to get the best out of each other. There is no ‘I’ in team, you have to have faith and belief in all of the team-mates around you.
Business leaders talk about the need for better teams and improved culture a lot, they talk about the importance of team spirit and happiness in the workplace. Yet, what they don’t speak about quite so often in business today is honour, loyalty, friendship and care for your fellow peers. Having a belief in a common vision, trust in your leadership and in each other will in turn, bring greater commitment to the cause.
Ruthless brutal honesty
Sport is an interesting correlation, because one of the main differences is that sport is brutal. The workplace is far less so (although some may beg to differ). In sport, there is an onus on ‘keeping it real’, ruthlessly telling the truth to each other as a team because the focus is on an end result, on winning. Those ruthless conversations and that brutal honesty, also builds trust and support.
Perhaps one of the biggest issues in business today is that too many people are trying to do everything alone, which is never going to work. You will never achieve true success in complete isolation. Teams are as important as they ever were and in truth, it is teams that make every dream and goal possible in business.
Sadly people are so focused on individual ambition (they want to be the best) and one could argue it’s the same in sport, but there is a difference. In sport people work together as a team because they have to. In business it can seem as though people have tunnel-vision on reaching the top of their game by themselves and at any cost. No Olympic gold medallist ever reached the top in pure isolation.
If you are really striving for gold in business, the most important attributes are discipline, motivation and determination as well as having a clear, unified and focused goal. Spending time with colleagues away form the working environment can also help to build greater trust in teams because socialising and finding common ground in a relaxed setting or doing something outside of one’s comfort zone (with friends and colleagues) gives people a new perspective and often new ways of communicating and connecting with each other.
Sport is cutthroat (few would argue with that), but business can be cutthroat too – often for the wrong reasons. People are being put under immense pressure in the workplace today (the stats around rising levels of mental illness and depression are proof of that), so having a trusted and valued network around you, during the highs and the lows, really cannot be underestimated.
About EPinnovates (www.epinnovates.com)
A shop window for entrepreneurial innovation, EPinnovates has been created to showcase exciting innovations, new products, services, concepts and businesses forlarger companies to discover and explore. Designed to recognise and support the innovation that entrepreneurs and smaller businesses bring to the future economy, EPinnovates tells stories about entrepreneurs; each has a different tale, adventure and overcomes diverse obstacles, but all are looking to improve business and create value. Accessing these ideas and innovations can be difficult forbusinesses to truly discover so EPinnovates acts to bridge that gap and help to engineer the future for the better byintroducinglarger companies to entrepreneurs through the principles of trust, community and relationships.