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What we can learn from our Olympic team for workplace performance

Aug 08 2012

What a fantastic Olympics – it really is inspiring to see Great Britain (GB) scooping so many medals! The coaches and the wider GB team have clearly put everything into helping our athletes reach their peak.

This got me thinking about what we, as employers, can learn from our Olympic team for workplace performance...

I saw a really inspiring interview with David Brailsford, Performance Director of the Great Britain cycling team, whose team won eight out of 10 track cycling gold medals in London. He attributes four key things to their success:

1. Talented athletes

2. Hard working athletes

3. Set a specific goal

4. Make a list of all the elements that impact on the success of your goal and work on improving each element

Brailsford refers to the different elements as ‘marginal gains’. He says that if you break down everything that goes into achieving that goal and improve each element by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.

He focused on obvious things like fitness and conditioning, the technology of the bike and clothing, but also other things like sleeping in the right position and having the same pillow when athletes are away and training in different places. Brailsford said, “They're tiny things but if you clump them together it makes a big difference to performance”.

The GB cycling team used experts in each area to help achieve these marginal gains; technology experts to improve the performance of the bike and sleep experts to ensure athletes got sufficient sleep.

Every aspect of preparation for the cycling has been meticulous. The medals are not a fluke. It’s the preparation, hard work and talent – talented athletes, talented coaches and other talented experts in each of the marginal gain areas – that has led to success.

The formula should be no different for businesses – we need to ensure we have talented people who are working hard. We also need a clear goal and by breaking this goal down we can identify and improve the different elements to ensure success. One of these elements has to be achieving a healthy, energised and engaged workforce.

I am not suggesting that we buy all of our employees a comfortable pillow, but by educating them about the simple changes they need to make to improve their health, energy and performance we have a real opportunity to help them maximise energy, improve their performance and increase business profits.

Click here to listen to our August 2012 webinar. This focused on how you can use the Olympics to inspire your workforce, drive business performance and get your employees to focus on gold.