Development Potential focuses on Leadership and coaching to make great leaders. They work with Directors and Leaders individually, with teams and design programmes to help executives and managers fulfil their potential.
In the first of Stephanie’s blogs, she gives us her view on what we can all learn from the forthcoming coming Olympic Games.
A Sense of Possibility
The Olympics are finally upon us and we see evidence of it everywhere, in the media coverage, the conversations we are having, and even in business. Matthew Pinsent, Sir Clive Woodward and other athletes have been speaking recently at the third annual Times CEO Summit on what can be learnt from Britain’s athletic success.
So what can we learn?
• Focus on what you do well: UK sport has really invested in cycling and rowing; an area we do well in rather than others where we are weaker e.g. tennis. Organisations still haven’t grasped the nettle here: individuals are still encouraged to develop their weaknesses rather than capitalise on their strengths; teams are still expected to be all things to all people; and organisations are still more likely to diversify than specialise. What emerges as a consequence is mediocrity rather than excellence.
• Adapt and respond to change and competition: elite athletes are always looking up and out, knowing why/how/what is ‘out there’. British business by contrast, needs to sharpen up its external radar; business leaders need to spend more time focusing externally and less time on internal business.
Perhaps the most learning is to be had by this third message:
• Create a sense of possibility: with big hopes, big dreams, big goals. These athletes are thinking huge possibility, pushing their performance bars to the peak of their possible abilities, with ever stretching and more demanding goals. British business has many high, focused achievers; as a business coach working with some of them, what I regularly notice as missing is real clarity of goals. Businesses may have a vision; teams may have a charter; leaders may have objectives; but do individuals have a vivid, picture of the goals they want for themselves? My experience is more often than not they do not. By contrast, successful athletes always do.
Goal setting is exciting; the process produces the neurochemical dopamine in the brain which drives us to action. Moreover, and this is the real breakthrough – the neuroscientists are telling us that we learn from setting goals: new neural circuitry is wired together as a consequence of our creating goals. In other words we can learn by simply creating the possibility: whether it be a goal of more analytical thinking; or innovating a new pharmaceutical drug; or becoming a team leader. We learn not just through repeating and repeating and creating habits, but also by creating the possibility and translating that into goals.
So what will it take for British business to not just hear the messages from our elite Olympic athletes, but to take them to heart and convert the messages to action?
Part of the answer must lie in encouraging individual business leaders to take the time to think: to focus on strengths; to think externally; to think future goals. Going ‘contra culture’ – slowing down to think when the going gets tough, is what is needed to match what our Olympic colleagues do. Every day our athletes are slowing their minds down, thinking about the competition, imagining success, playing out their goals….
It is hard to see this happening: people are all so busy and these messages require time to focus on. As we know, the downturn of the economy means more work is being done by fewer people; The more tasks we do, the less able our brains are to think creatively or innovatively, and so the vicious circle sets in.
We’re talking changing work culture here. All of us have a part to play and can make a difference.
If we all focused on our strengths, the external market and our individual possibility; the Olympian shifts would start to happen. Your thoughts?
Stephanie de Sarandy is a founder of Development Potential working with Directors and Senior Management professionals to develop leaders and their teams.