Can Business Leaders Learn Vision from Olympic Athletes?

Male Swimmer
Male Swimmer

Watching the Olympics makes me marvel at the mental toughness of Olympic athletes. During this year's Olympics, a seriously injured gymnast was interviewed while being carried off on a stretcher.  Instead of being depressed about missing his chance to medal this year, he shifted his focus to the future and said he was determined to come back.

We also saw medal winners be completely astounded they had medaled. We saw athletes fall in track races, pick themselves up and finish the race.

How do Olympic athletes develop the mental toughness to perform to this level? What can we as leaders of businesses, nonprofits (and families) learn from these amazing athletes?

Olympic Traits

Here are some traits that we can embrace and develop to move our leadership to a gold medal:

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Create Strategic Change in the New Year

create strategic change

As a new year approaches, people begin thinking of resolutions to create strategic change in the new year.  A study by Franklin Covey reveals that 35% of people abandon their resolutions by the end of January. And only 23% achieve their resolutions. 

The approaching new year is a great time to take stock of your business or organization. What is its current status? What strategic change do you want to achieve by the end of the next First Quarter? Second Quarter? Third Quarter? Year End? 

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Understanding the Marketplace is Critical to Your Success

Your strategy is key to your success. The first step in selecting the right strategy is to understand the environment in which your business operates – both the internal and external environments. A significant factor in this step is to analyze current and accurate information.our text here...

  • The threat of new entrants into your marketplace
  • Your competitors - their intensity and characteristics
  • The bargaining power of your buyers and your suppliers'
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Clarity + Focus + Action = Strategic Change

It may be a surprise to those of you reading this… a business specializing in strategy and strategic change feels pressures and encounters bumps as it implements action steps leading to a strategic change. Surprise, surprise! This may be a case of “the plumber with the clogged pipes.”

Experiencing Strategic Change

You see, C4SC is experiencing strategic change. We have been working to transform a traditional offline consulting business into an online/offline business. Experiencing the process has emblazoned in our minds once again what our clients experience as they embrace strategic change. We have experienced muddled thoughts, confused priorities, multiple options, new technology and more demands on our time while the number of hours a day still remains the same. Sometimes we feel like we aren’t able to “see the forest through the trees.” Other times we feel we are just “cracking up.” So many options. So many different directions to go.

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Innovation and Creativity are Vital for Success

Innovation and creativity are vital elements for the success of your business. Here are a few concepts that caught my ear as I've listened to other business owners talk about the significance of innovation and creativity to their business.

  • ​Innovation is the ability to ideate, create and validate.
  • Innovation makes sense and cents. It doesn’t have to take a lot of money to innovate.
  • Imagination + creativity = innovation.
  • Everyone is called upon these days to be more creative.
  • Innovation is conceiving what is not.
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Toddler Spurs Thoughts on Innovation

Toddler playing with tablet

Watching a video and reading the related post on Dave Kaminiski’s Web Video University blog really got me thinking. The video shows a toddler trying to interact with a print magazine the same way she interacts with an iPad. Dave’s post says, “Despite industry efforts to spin things differently, printed media is dying. Newspapers are struggling to stay in business. In schools and universities, text books are being replaced with iPad’s. United Airline’s pilots are now carrying iPads into the cockpit, instead of 38 pound flight manuals. Even cursive handwriting is being dropped from most schools.”

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Lessons Learned

The years I've in business have helped me to realize that there are many important “understandings” to running a sustainable business in addition to embracing sound business principles.

A few of the "understandings" I've learned are:

  • ​Begin with the end in mind. This gets your subconscious working on getting you to your desired end goal while you are focusing on the day-to-day operations.
  • Be patient with myself (and with others.)
  • Listen to my intuition. Assess the ideas that pop into my head. I have bundles of ideas. They all have merit, but some have more merit or fit into my strategic plan better than others. I’ve learned to be selective, choose a few and write the others down in an Idea Journal for possible use in the future.
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Develop New Habits

Looking at my blog posts, it occurred to me how difficult it is to take action and develop new habits. As I continue to work at moving my offline consulting business to an online model, I’ve been on a massive learning curve. Learning new software. Learning new marketing techniques. Learning the language of the online world. Learning (or at least trying to learn) social media. Learning to develop new habits to keep my websites current.

Adapt and Change Habits

One of the hardest things to learn is to adapt the way I structure my time and change my habits. After all the years in the offline consulting world and being very conscious of time efficiency, parts of my business are comfortable… you know, like “the old shoe.” Moving into the online arena has jolted me out of my comfort zone. The “new zone” has been terribly uncomfortable at times. But it has also been exhilarating, even though it is exhausting. It’s been exciting yet daunting. Things that were easy and comfortable in the offline world are new and different and more difficult (at the moment) in the online world. Habits that served me well for years in the offline world need to be modified to benefit me in the online world. One habit I am trying to develop is to write posts regularly for this blog. But as you can see, many days slipped away before I got back to writing. It’s not because I don’t have topics to write about, it is because I have not yet developed the system within my business to write posts on a regular basis.

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My business has experienced a number of transitions since it launched in 1992. It changed from a sole proprietorship to an LLC and then to a sub-chapter S corporation. The area of expertise grew from project management and board of directors development to strategic planning, strategy, market research and now strategic change. Colleagues joined the firm as associates so we could provide more expertise and resources to clients. The firm launched the Center for Strategic Change, LLC. We now have online clients as well as offline, traditional clients. I am truly amazed at what has evolved.

Although I advise clients on strategy and strategic change, I sometimes feel like the "plumber with the clogged pipes." It is easy for me to help others get clarity. But more difficult for me to consistently find it for my business.​ There are so many options. And so many factors to consider. Early in my business, I thought I could figure it all out. Then I learned I could speed up the process by working with coaches and mastermind teams. They helped me get clarity more quickly, helped me to stay focused and held me accountable for the action I decided to take.

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