7 Lessons For Leaders From The London 2012 Olympics!


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The London Olympics are creating lots of excitement, passion, tension, frustrations, glory and success (especially for Team GB!), but what does it all mean for today’s business leaders? Is there anything they can learn?

We believe there are lots of similarities between London 2012 and business, and lots of lessons too.

So, here are 7 Lessons For Leaders that we have picked out (so far!):

Lesson 1: ‘Get That Vision Thing’!:

‘Getting That Vision’ Thing is all about painting a picture of the future that ‘stimulates, excites and inspires’ and engaging people in making it happen. Here’s a quote from Lord Sebastian Coe about his vision… “It is to create the best Games the world has ever seen by unlocking the UK’s unrivalled passion for sport, by delivering the best Games for athletes to compete in, by showcasing London’s unmatched cultural wealth and diversity and by creating a real and lasting legacy.”

They seem to be doing that don’t they?

  • How clear is your ‘vision’?
  • Does it ‘Stimulate, excite and inspire’?
  • Have your people ‘bought in’ to it?

Lesson 2: Your ‘Stars’ Aren’t Always Your ‘High Profile’ People’!:

Yes, the athletes are at the centre of things, but if it wasn’t for ALL the volunteers, helpers and supporters, the Olympics would not be happening, and would not be going so well! There have been consistently great reports of outstanding performances of individual guides and helpers.

Many businesses focus too much on their ‘high profile’ people – the sales guys, senior managers and the ‘loud ones’…

  • Do you know who your real ‘stars’ are?
  • Do you proactively recognise their contributions?
  • How can you create more of them?

Click here to see a brilliant example of one of the volunteers ‘performing’!

Lesson 3: Things Go Wrong – But The Best Keep Going!:

Things go wrong in all sorts of ways, both on the pitch and off it. In the Olympics we’ve had lost keys, security guards who didn’t turn up, the wrong flags been hoisted, empty seats, and Indian lady who appeared from nowhere in the opening ceremony and a mayor dangling from a crosswire!

However, they’ve kept things going and that’s what winning businesses do!

In your business

  • What happens when people make ‘mistakes’?
  • Are they encouraged to learn from them?
  • Are they allowed to?

Click here to see Mayor Boris ‘doing his thing’!

Lesson 4: Give People The Chance (& Budget!) To Make An Impact!

The Opening Ceremony was epic – full of imagination, creativity and of course Mr. Bean! It was a triumph for the creator and co-ordinator Danny Boyle. He was given a remit and a ‘free reign’. He was also given a budget of £27 million and he went on to create something incredibly memorable that got people talking all over the world!

OK, so you probably haven’t got £27 million but have you got …

  • A project or aspect of your business that needs changing or improving?
  • Some people in your team who would love to have a crack at working on it?
  • The inclination to let them have a go?

Lesson 5: It’s About Behaviours As Well As Results!

The disqualification of the eight Chinese, Indonesian and South Korean badminton players for deliberately trying to lose their matches to avoid playing their better rivals in the next round was a brave move. The Badminton Worldwide Federation disqualified them for… “Not using one’s best efforts to win a match and conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport.”

It was a great example (and a very symbolic one) of ‘challenging your challengers’ – dealing with those people who do not behave in line with your culture and values (even if they do achieve the ‘results’!)

Do you …

  • Have a clear set of values that are understood and shape the behaviours you want?
  • Deal with those who don’t act in line with the values and challenge your challengers?
  • Reward and encourage those that do and ‘champion your champions’?

Lesson 6: Recognising Golden Performances Works!

We’ve seen some amazing performances from Team GB and a great gesture from Royal Mail has been the immediate production of 1st Class stamps with the Gold Medal wiiners on them!

They’ve also created a golden post box in the town where each gold medal winner lives. It’s a lovely simple and very visible recognition of an outstanding performance! And it seems to work…GB Olympic rower Katherine Copeland to her partner Sophie Hoskin on winning gold… We’ve won a Gold Medal! We’re going to be on a stamp!”

No, you don’t have to paint the post boxes in your reception area, but do you …

  • Recognise ‘golden performances’ in your business?
  • Have mechanisms to ‘spot’ them happening?
  • Reward and recognise your people ‘appropriately’?

Lesson 7: It’s All About ‘Team’!

Every single winner of a Gold Medal, when interviewed, has been so eager to thank all the people that have supported them and helped them achieve their victory.

It extends way beyond their specific coaches – from family to friends to the nutritionists, the technicians, the masseurs, the physios, the psychologists, specialist coaches, support teams and mentors – they maximise the ‘experts’ to help maximise performance. After winning his Gold Medal, Mo Farah exclaimed… ‘I want to thank everyone who has supported me from my childhood and until now. Without all them people this wouldn’t have happened”

Do you …

  • Really know what ‘expertise’ exists in your business?
  • Tap in to that ‘expertise’?
  • Maximise that ‘expertise’?

Click here to see the impact Mo’s amazing performance had on the BBC commentary team!

And finally….

Another lesson from the Olympics is its ability to bring people together from different countries, cultures and interests to share their passion and enthusiasm.

So, in the true ‘Olympic Spirit’ I would love you to share your leadership lessons from London 2012 – let us know what you’ve learnt!

You can download an extended copy of this article in the form of a FREE ebook here


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