Watching the Olympics is one of my favorite fun family experiences. It's one of the few remaining pure entertainment options celebrating raw talent. And as we admire the prowess of the Olympic athletes, we can also take some lessons from the coaches and trainers who helped groom the most accomplished athletes in the world.
The same factors that motivate top-performing athletes have been shown effective in workplaces: autonomy, career development opportunities, team loyalty, recognition and the ability to do what you excel at. Looking at the many accomplished athletes about to push themselves to the limit for the glory of Olympic gold, you can see these factors in play.
Autonomy. Micromanagement has killed many offices' morale. Employees consistently list autonomy and respect from their supervisor as the top drivers of job satisfaction. Similarly, once Olympic athletes are on the field, they are solely responsible for their performance. Nobody groomed cyclist (and working mom) Evelyn Stevens from a young age to compete. She took up bike racing as a respite from the rigors of investment banking in 2008, and soon quit her day job to race full time.
Career Development. Whether in the office or the swimming pool, the ability to continually improve your skill level is tremendous force. "I've always been somebody who's very motivated by goals and I've set goals my whole life," says swimmer Michael Phelps, in an NBC interview.
Team Loyalty. So often, employees are more willing to take on the burden of a longer shift or additional task to help out a co-worker, rather than to please the boss. When managers give control of schedules to the work group, they often find the work load is divided quickly and without complaint. For 10 years, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings were an unbeatable beach volleyball team, winning gold medals in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. Despite May-Treanor's recent Achilles tendon injury and Walsh giving birth in 2009 and 2010, the duo returned to London in 2012.
Recognition. Nobody wants to toil away incognito. Whether it's a simple email thanking a staffer for going beyond the call of duty, or a formal employee recognition program that ties to work promotions, being noticed matters to workers. The opportunity for global recognition drives the world's top athletes to train for the long years in between Olympics. Take Allyson Felix, the U.S. track sprinter who finished second in both 2004 and 2008. "To get second, it was really devastating to me, and it really has driven me the past four years to continue to strive and get that gold I want so bad," Felix tells NBC.
Sources: NBC, AP News.