The Olympic spirit was at its height this past week with the Opening Ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Sochi, Russia was on display for the world as over 2,800 athletes completed the processional to officially kick off the Olympic games.
I don’t know about you but there is just something about seeing our nation’s colors and symbols of the USA flying high. It’s a “goose bump” moment and simply makes you proud to be an American.
Regardless of your sports preference or whether you like any of the winter sports featured in this year’s games, you must respect the dedication and journey required of each athlete as they prepare to represent his/her country in the next two weeks.
Each of these Olympic athletes can teach us several lessons in our own professional development. I found a few specific teachable moments from three of our own from Team USA.
#1 Balance contributes to excellence
The only thing that can upstage Noelle Pikus-Pace at the skeleton track are the two pint-sized ones she brought with her. Pikus-Pace is one of three US Olympians who are also mothers. Her children, six and two know her as mom. We know her as a powerhouse leading the US skeleton team, who just 8 years ago suffered a shattered leg from a bobsled accident.
So how does a dedicated athlete who is representing her country also find time to be a mom to two kids? She has to find balance. Each role has its place in her life and each role demands a different set of skills, focus and time. For every employee on your team, they must do the same. A job that must be ever-present and a priority 24/7 is impossible to achieve. Dedicated employees are those who know you support them as a person long before they are your employee. Send a message to your team that you support work and life balance. Then ensure your actions do the same.
#2 Do what you do best
He’s been known by his runaway locks and a 2010 gold medalist, but this year we know him as the athlete who withdrew from one event to focus on just one. Shaun White announced just two days before competition he would not be competing in the slope style event and instead would compete in the half pipe competition. After a small wrist injury and time to observe the course, he withdrew from the slope style event (a new competition) to focus on the one thing he says he does best. He decided to bypass a chance at winning two gold medals at these games and instead concentrate on the halfpipe, where he’ll have a chance to win his third consecutive title.
The bottom line: Shaun White knows what he does best and is those skills he continually seeks to hone and perfect. The same could be true for us as leaders and even for the businesses we lead. Do you know what you can be the best in the world at? Find out. Then pursue it passionately. You may be able to do “many things” well but what can you do “best”? That is your differentiator. Find it and perfect it.
#3 Every team needs a “Glitter Fairy”
Meet Kikkan Randall. With a shock of hot pink hair, a sprinkle of glitter across her cheeks, she just might change the USA’s perception of what a cross-country race looks like. As she heads into her fourth Winter Games, Randall, 31, could become the first American woman and second American in history to win an Olympic medal in the sport. The inside scoop? She is competing against athletes almost half her age.
This team spirit isn’t always the norm in skiing, largely an individual pursuit with veterans protective of their hard-earned knowledge. But Kikkan is different. She has 10 world cup victories but is the first to high five the players after a grueling workout. She’s earned the name Glitter Fairy on the team because she dusts glitter on her teammates’ faces before each race to remind them to have fun.
Who is the Glitter Fairy on your team? You need one. In fact, every person can an encourager to someone on the team. Let’s face it, ever day isn’t fun and your team needs you – and needs everyone – to remind them we’re in this together.
In two weeks we will know which of the 88 competing countries have won the most medals. Team USA is a favorite. Why? Each athlete has a drive and discipline to be one degree better every day and each player contributes his/her part of a winning team. What about you? Let’ the sprit of the Winter Olympics catch you. You might be the spark that helps your team shine. Go Team! Let the games begin.