I’m not a sports fan but I do love the Olympics. I think it’s a combination of the ethos behind the Games and those glitzy Opening and Closing Ceremonies. I find the Winter Games particularly fascinating as there are so many sports I don’t really understand – curling, slopestyle, combined Nordic: even the names are a bit of a mystery. As I’ve marvelled at the speed skaters, cheered on Lizzie Yarnold as she won her gold in skeleton bob and been astonished by the heights achieved by the slopestyle snowboarders, several lessons from Sochi stuck in my mind.
A few years ago, Lizzie Yarnold was a track and field athlete competing at national level. As part of UK Sport’s Girls4Gold programme, she was identified as having potential. That potential didn’t win her a medal at Sochi – a lot of extremely hard work and a great attitude won her the medal. She is noted for her self-discipline and her desire to continuously improve: qualities as useful in the workplace as on the skeleton bob track.
Don’t give up
There were so many instances of competitors falling on the rink/track/snow at Sochi. Many of them were able to get back up and carry on: Shiva Keshavan’s incredible recovery whilst on the luge track has been seen all over the world and Yuzuru Hanyu won gold in the men’s figure skating, despite two bad falls. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is as relevant in the office as it is in sport.
Sochi gave us many examples of people going out of their way to be kind and help others. A Russian cross-country skier broke a ski whilst racing: a Canadian coach dashed onto the course to fit him with a spare ski so that he could finish the race. The German biathlon team couldn’t prepare their skis to race after a piece of machinery was damaged in transit: the Russian team let them use theirs and worked with them through the night to grind the skis. The Swiss gold medallist waited 28 minutes after finishing his 15km cross-country race to shake hands with the competitor who came last.
None of these people needed to do these things, they chose to do so and, in so doing, made a huge difference to the recipients of their kindness. How can we do the same?
The role of the coach
Coaches were much in evidence at Sochi: prepping their athletes, giving them feedback and encouragement, commiserating or celebrating. As a coach, I’m bound to say this, but the coaches are seen as an integral part of the success of the competitors: they even take an oath at the opening ceremony. Whether in sports, in business or in life, a coach can help the client achieve their very best whilst taking responsibility for their development.
The Twitter feeds of the athletes made it clear that once all the hard work was over, it was time to party! We need to make time to celebrate our successes too: often we are so focused on finishing one project and moving onto the next that we forget to enjoy the satisfaction of a task well done.
A sense of humour is essential
One of my favourite parts of the closing ceremony was when the dancers replicated the failed opening of the fifth ring at the opening ceremony. We can all take ourselves too seriously sometimes: the ability to laugh at ourselves can certainly take the heat out of a tricky situation.
Today’s pebble for you to consider: do any of these lessons ring true for you? If so, how will you apply them this week?
What do you think?
ps if you’d like a coach to help you achieve your full potential, why not email me to see how we could work together?
Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.