The most inspiring comment I heard from the past two weeks’ coverage of the Rio Games came from the GB badminton doubles team after they beat Japan to go through to the semi-finals. I’m paraphrasing, but it was something like:
“I’m not the best player out there, but I work hard. We train hard and flow well together as a team. To achieve something like this is insane. But bring it on, I’m ready to go for a medal.”
Chris Langridge and Marcus Ellis are an inspiration.
Not because they went on to win bronze, but because they showed what can be achieved by people who are willing to put in the work. Watching them win the match against Japan I saw two people who were absolutely focused on giving it all they had.
Didn’t we all grow up with the notion that getting to compete at the highest level in sport was something you were born to do, because you had huge amounts of natural talent? If you didn’t have it, then you just didn’t have it. Go home, give up your dreams.
I thought that perhaps this year, everyone had been watching too much Eddie the Eagle.
But then I read Matthew Syed’s book ‘How Champions Are Made’. This compelling and well-evidenced book conveys very clearly that getting to the top in sport, music, business is about relentlessly putting the work in.
At this year’s Olympics we are hearing a great deal about achievement based on passion, training and great personal sacrifice. The Mo Farah documentary summed it up brilliantly. This is no longer just about an uber-talented elite.
National lottery funding has created fantastic opportunities for our competitors – at grass roots as well as top flight level. Along with this, comes the inspiration from watching today’s stars excel across the board. The minute you get seemingly ordinary ‘could be my next door neighbour’ people winning medals, the floodgates open in everyone’s minds as to what we, and the next generation, are capable of achieving. If winning is not solely the preserve of an elite, then anyone really can set their mind to following their passion and have a chance of achieving success. Not overnight. Not without sacrifice and hard work. But it can happen.
Coming second to the USA (as I write this) in the medal table is a phenomenal achievement for a country our size. It would be great to see this kind of healthy competitive drive transferring into business.
Post Brexit, isn’t this what we all needed to boost our motivation?
If we can continue to punch above our weight in the business world as we have done this summer in sport, this country has an excellent chance to prove what it can do on the world stage.
But I do think that when it comes to motivating employees, this kind of unflinching dedication is hard to ask for. If people don’t own the firm, how can we expect everyone to pull together and make our joint success a shared goal? How do we replicate the kind of team spirit and determination that were visible last year with Leicester City FC for example? Claudio Ranieri reportedly kept them focused on ‘the next game’ all season. Step by step, success.
It’s often difficult to get a team to realise their own potential – what they are capable of.
Seeing people work towards personal challenges via our 121Hours platform has taught me a great deal about igniting each person’s drive and determination. The positive energy of personal achievement is flowing through in to people’s work ethic. Our teams understand each other better, because they know more about what makes each person tick.
Watching all of this unfold at work and in sport has made me think. Do we spend too long trying to recruit that perfect high-flyer for job vacancies? Should we be more focused on recruiting to fill a gap in the existing skill set, so that the whole team can work stronger together? What internal processes are at work, stopping people forging ahead? And do we use ideas like mentoring enough to make sure everyone is learning from the mass of talent among the team? The more we can get everyone working hard in the same direction, the more we chance we have of success.
Well done team GB. An inspiration to us all.