The Olympics give us unique insight into a group of working professionals who are at the peak of their careers. It’s no matter that their job may be on the snow or ice and the rest of us work in plants, schools or offices. What do these highly successful professionals all have in common and what can we learn about these ideal employees?
8 Ways Olympic Athletes are Ideal Employees
1. They work hard. Pretty obvious, right? But their commitment to hard work is truly exceptional. It’s common for athletes to invest four to eight years training in a sport before making a team, according to a Forbes article by Allison Van Dusen on “How To Train Like An Olympian.” Runners can train that long just to achieve an aerobic base necessary to compete as a world-class athlete. Others have spent most of their life perfecting their sport.
2. They’re motivated and goal-driven. Do your employees know exactly what they’ll be doing six months from now, or two or four years from now, to achieve specific professional goals? Olympic athletes do. Many plan out their training schedules annually and up to four years in advance to make sure they reach specific performance goals. Guideposts for achievement keep them motivated, even in moments of weakness. A long-term goal-driven model can help engage and retain top talent in your company too.
3. They’re passionate. Passion is that qualitative X factor — it can’t be measured, and it’s as individual as the person. Loving the sport is crucial, of course, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find that often an athlete’s passion comes down to how he or she finds inspiration in friends and family. Take, for example, Canadian skier Alex Bilodeau. He credits his older brother Frederic, who has cerebral palsy and is paralyzed, with being his “everyday inspiration.” Think about your job and your workplace. Who or what inspires passion among your employees? How can you inspire more workplace passion?
4. They support and celebrate colleagues. It’s unique to the Olympics and to Hollywood that professionals in these fields acknowledge and genuinely thank their coworkers — specifically and individually! — in a big, public speech. Maybe speeches aren’t your workplace’s style, but celebrating your colleagues and employees should be. Gratitude creates that sense of community that fuels big workplace success.
5. They give back to their team and community. This is another characteristic of Olympic athletes that unfortunately isn’t always expected of the rest of us in our professional lives. Former Olympic speed skater Johann Koss recently reflected on Huffington Post, “Olympic athletes show us what the human body is capable of — what dedication, persistence and passion can achieve. But practice and training will only take you to physical limits. To be an Olympic champion, often there is something else that pushes you; something that is harder to explain. It pushes you to do better. To give back.” Do you offer opportunities or paid time for employees to participate in community service? How can workers participate in “giving back” in your company environment?
6. They take direction well. To be an Olympic athlete means finding and listening to the people who know better, and following their suggestions. How many times did we hear about athletes studying the competition for insights and inspiration? Olympic athletes know the value of a great coach and routinely consult with trainers, doctors and nutritionists to check their health and find ways to improve their performance. An Olympic athlete’s body is his or her livelihood, but the lesson applies to any business. Who knows about the “nutrition” of your business? Who would you consult for an evaluation and checkup? Do you encourage mentoring at all levels of the organization? Do you routinely study the competition for learning and inspiration?
7. Money isn’t everything to them. Yes, money is important. But if this was an Olympian’s number one motivator, he or she would’ve given up years ago. Just because you’re an Olympian, doesn’t mean you’ll make any money from it. “Since many athletes don’t have sponsors to help cover their daily expenses, some also have side jobs or careers,” writes Van Dusen for Forbes. It’s the same for your employees, it’s not just about the money. If it is, you won’t retain top talent. What are you doing to build a company that employees love and are proud of?
8. They thank the people who support them. The first thing an Olympic athlete does after competing, win or lose, is to thank the people who helped them get there. They don’t ever lose sight of the emotional and material support that enabled them to do their work. And neither should the rest of us. Sharing gratitude in the workplace is just as important and meaningful to your hard-working employees and colleagues.
How can thinking more like an Olympic Athlete help you be more successful? What can you do in your workplace to enable employees and colleagues to be more passionate and more effective?
Learn more about supporting each “ideal employee” at your company — through engagement, support and gratitude — download our free eBook “The Ultimate Guide to Employee Gift-Giving” today!
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