The road to Rio: three powerful leadership lessons

Image from
Jul 27 2016 by John Blakey Print This Article

The road to Rio represents four years of dedication, hard work and suffering for thousands of athletes from around the world. In the UK, I have been supporting Team GB coaches from the worlds of rowing, diving and Paralympic target shooting as they have led teams of athletes hoping for gold medal glory in the coming weeks. Working with Olympic sports coaches offers valuable lessons for those of us leading businesses. Here is my triathlon of top tips:

1. Ready, Fire, Aim

Typically, I find the Olympic sports culture encourages action rather than reflection. Ruthless competition, immoveable deadlines and in-depth performance measurement drive a 'ready, fire, aim' mentality rather than the 'ready, aim, aim...' procrastination of some aspects of the business world. You may be deliberating and weighing up risks on a ley business decision but have you also weighed up the risk of taking no decision at all? If in doubt, jump!

2. Resilience

I worked with a sports coach who was sacked after a disastrous world cup performance by the national team. I spoke with the coach three days after the sacking and was surprised to find him in a strangely upbeat mood. I asked him how he'd dealt with such a huge blow and he replied, 'John, you've got to remember that job did not define who I am'. It was a great example of how elite sports professionals build resilience and make a friend of failure in a way I do not experience as often with the CEOs I coach. As the Vistage saying goes 'Before you were a CEO, you were a human being'. It helps to remember this when things go wrong.

3. Celebrating Success

Recently I listened to Vistage speaker, Dr. Michael Canic, who asked the question, 'has anyone ever looked back on their business career and concluded they celebrated too much?' It was a great question and reminded me that the best thing about gold medals is that they are 'gold', they are 'medals' and they are presented on a podium in front of thousands of people.

What is your equivalent of a gold medal? And what will you do to celebrate when you win that medal? Creating a 'gold medal' attitude to goal-setting and celebrating success is an untapped opportunity for most business leaders.

So when you are screaming at your TV screens in a few weeks’ time as your national heroes and heroines stretch every sinew to get over the line, remember that behind the glitz and the glamour of Rio is four years of blood, sweat and tears. To paraphrase Thomas Edison, genius in sport, like genius in business, is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration. But by taking decisive action and building personal resilience we will get one step closer to achieving our own gold medal performance. And when you hit that goal, please don't forget to find a podium, wave your hands to the crowd, book a long holiday and celebrate in style!

About The Author

John Blakey
John Blakey

John Blakey is an executive coach and co-author of the critically acclaimed Challenging Coaching. A former FTSE100 Managing Director, he has helped over 120 CEOs from 22 different countries achieve their goals. His new book, The Trusted Executive, examines how leaders can create a strategy for building trust in an increasingly sceptical world.