Productivity...What We Can Learn From the Olympics

Are you watching the Olympics? The accomplishments of these young athletes are always impressive. The Olympic motto is "Citius, Altius, Fortius." These three Latin words mean "Swifter, Higher, Stronger." Just when you think you have seen the best, someone breaks a record. You hear words such as amazing, incredible, and astounding. So what can we learn about productivity from the Olympics? Here are a few things we can consider:

Training: A person doesn't just wake up one morning and decide "I think I will compete in the Olympics." It takes training. It is estimated that world class athletics train an average of 23 hours a week. It takes constant updating of skills to improve your personal best. How many hours a year do your employees attend training? Is the training targeted specifically to improve skills? When you create your training plan each year, consider how you can assist each of your employees to be the best they can be. Training is critical to continuous improvement.

Feedback: Every sport has feedback and every sport is different. It may be how high you jump or how fast you skate but every athlete has a method to measure how well they are doing. They can compare their personal best and try to beat it or they can compare their results with other athletes. Do your employees know how well they are doing? Do they have a measurement method that gives them feedback on their personal best as well as how others are doing in similar positions? Do they learn how they are performing in time to correct problems or do they have to wait for their regularly scheduled review? I have a saying I use in my training classes, "nothing new on the performance review."

Reward and Recognition: At the end of every Olympic event, athletes are immediately recognized in a medal ceremony. They climb to the top of either the gold, silver, or bronze podiums and are rewarded in front of their peers. They don't have to wait six months or a year to learn how their performance is related to a bonus or a raise in salary or a higher performance review. How do you reward your employees? It may be unrealistic to provide daily monetary rewards or construct a three stage podium in your office but verbal and written recognition is certainly doable. It feels good to be recognized and they say that "success breeds success." Having been recognized once, it encourages people to try to achieve success again.

Ethical Conduct: The Olympics have a code of conduct. Although this is a competition and athletes all want to win, the code ensures that cheating to win does not occur. In the business environment where for-profit businesses compete for market share, ethics still should matter. It has become necessary to enact laws to require business to report accurate financial data but truly ethical businesses have always known that winning at business unethically is really a false sense of achievement.

The spirit of the Olympics can also occur in the workplace. We can take lessons this week and apply them in our daily lives. Your employees can consistently reach for their personal best and their performance can also be described as amazing, incredible, and astounding.

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