What we can learn from the Olympics – strategic planning

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We are on the heels of another phenomenal Olympic venue and as we watch in awe, we see such dedication, determination, admiration, respect and most importantly humbleness, teamwork and spirit.

 Strategic Planning

“Coming together is a beginning.

Keeping together is progress.

Working together is success.”

– Henry Ford


The Olympics seem to energize and inspire us in so many ways.  Although we may root for our own country, sport and the like, we also learn to enjoy and appreciate the commitment and intensity that an athlete must go through.  Our own teams show more team spirit and sportsmanship than we do in business to our colleagues.  Why is it so difficult for us to be calm, understanding and appreciative of one another and what we do, know and bring to the table.  


Sports teams make sportsmanship and common courtesy look so natural.  Why is it so difficult in business?  

Sports teams show us what commitment to ones craft is like and how it can pay off, whether you win a medal or not, the spirit is high and the enthusiasm and ability to demonstrate kindness and awe towards someone else, is much simpler than the negativity that we bring into business to bring down others!


So much can be gleaned from the simple words of encouragement that many sportsmen have delivered:


  • I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career, lost almost 300 games, missed the game-winning shot 26 times. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed. – Michael Jordan
  • Champions keep playing until they get it right. – Billie Jean King
  • Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit. – Vince Lombardi
  • The will must be stronger than the skill. – Muhammed Ali
  • It does not matter how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get up. – Vince Lombardi
  • It is your response to winning and losing that makes you a winner or a loser. – Harry Sheehy
  • You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take. – Wayne Gretzky
  • I never thought about losing, but now that it’s happened, the only thing is to do it right. – Muhammed Ali
  • The impossible is often untried. – Unknown
  • Do not throw in the towel; use it for wiping the sweat off your face. – Unknown
  • The man who can drive himself farther once the effort gets painful is the man who will win. – Sir Roger Bannister
  • A winner never whines. – Paul Brown
  • Show me a guy who’s afraid to look bad, and I’ll show you a guy you can beat every time. – Lou Brock
  • If you can believe it, the mind can achieve it. – Ronnie Lott


Winning and succeeding is not done alone and it is not done in isolation.  When I hear a leader say what they have done and how much effort went into getting it accomplished, etc., I usually stop listening and begin formulating my questions. Questions such as, “so you did “X” by yourself?”; “you were able to increase “X” by “X” by yourself?”; “the growth of the business and/or unit was done solely by you?”, and many more comments and questions.  The reason for this, is to point out that none of us, no matter whom we are, do things alone.  We all need others to bring a piece, a morsel, or all of it to fruition.  There is a reason we call them teams!  


Teamwork is a strategy.  The 2nd to the last night of the Olympics the individual men’s diving showed how strategy and teamwork meet, yet not only teamwork as a strategy, yet individual sportsmanship for their peers, and not only those from the same country, yet all countries and peers.  This is a lesson worth learning and sharing and transcending back to business.


When the men’s individual divers finished their competition, each was genuinely happy for the other – gold, silver, bronze – was not the important factor any longer, camaraderie  was the genre of the time.  When the US won the gold in basketball on Sunday, Spain was rightfully disappointed and unbelievably good sportsmen.  When Russia won their Gold medal in team volleyball the Brazil team was gracious.  When Croatia won the Gold in water polo, they were thrilled and congratulatroy of their counterparts.  Each team plays to win, plays their best, works in synchronicity with one another, and even at the end of a long road and preparation, each person and team is completely exhilarated, happy, tired, and every other range of emotion, and win or lose, the experience was and will always be memorable and worthy of a lifetime of memories, friendships and the likes.  


So when we move onto our “regular lives” in or out of competition, we need to carry what we have learned and take back the simplicity of our sporting events and teams to work in harmony, diplomatic, straightforward and consistently.  This will not only serve you, yet your peers, colleagues and companies well.


As businesses ebb and flow, we tend to forget that we cannot do things alone and we certainly cannot accomplish results alone.  Certainly, we have tasks and activities that we can do, yet there are always, always, always others that make what we do possible.  The Olympic teams have reinforced this.  From the starting ceremonies, to the events to the closing ceremony.  Sportsmanship and teamwork should be constant and consistent.  We should put as much into our work as sportsmen put into their trade.    


I”t’s the lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believe in myself. “

– Muhammed Ali


What was your biggest ah ha from the Olympics that you will take back consistently to your office?


What will stop you from maintaining what you learned?


What will keep you to continuing to achieve?


Accomplishment is about strategy.  Strategy is a collective pooling of all resources – people, processes and finances.  Together should be a major part of our vocabulary.  Teamwork should be difficult and failure should be accepted, as long as you learn and know how to support one another and course correct/change quickly.


Strategic planning should not be about writing something down and doing nothing with it, yet it should be about collectively implementing it and defining what works well and what does not, and supporting one another to be sure that it is consistently do such.  The destination = the journey and the journey = the destination.


So as Nike says:  “Just Do It!”


As the closing ceremonies began and progressed, it continues to formulate that we are a united front.  The competition transcended friendships and life long relationships and memories. Congratulations to all Olympians and to the journey and destination that you have completed.


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