It’s the competition everyone is talking about right now: the Olympics are well and truly here. As well as performing amazing feats of imagination-defying physical prowess, the athletes involved also have a thing or two they can teach businesses about attitude and mindset.
Competition in the Olympics is complex: not only do athletes compete against each other on an individual level, but on a larger scale, entire countries vie for first position on the leader boards. Equally, entrepreneurs and employees face multiple levels of competition. From the very first moment a person steps into the office, they are embroiled in competition all around: competition with colleagues for the next promotion, competition with other in-house teams for the next big project, and competition with other companies for the next client client.
Olympics and how they are a parallel for Business
There are strong parallels between what athletes strive for, endure, and achieve by getting to the Olympics, and the process an entrepreneur or business leader undertakes to reach the top of his or her field. Both worlds are highly competitive, both worlds are filled with the elite, and both worlds require the same level of grit and determination to reach the top. The athletes competing in the Olympics have already endured countless competitions to get to where they are today, just like business leaders.
Business leaders, entrepreneurs, and even employees who watch the Olympics for sport can do well to explore and learn from the way athletes approach and manage competition – after all, it’s the same process, just a different career field.
Businesses and entrepreneurs have a choice: either they view competition as something to be feared and avoided, or they embrace competition, and use it to motivate and enhance their best work.
Businesses can only overcome competition by meeting it head on, yet so often failure starts internally. Self-doubt, external comparison and fear are all factors that cast a dark shadow over the benefits of competition. Olympic athletes are surrounded by the best in their field: they can either let themselves become overwhelmed by this, or let it inspire them to perform at a higher level.
Instead of being discouraged by competition, employees and business leaders need to turn their perspective on competition around, and use the anxiety that healthy competition induces to produce the best pitch, provide the best service, and be the best at what they do.
Using your skills in the business world
Just as an individual team member is only as good as the people he is working with, in a competitive environment, that team’s performance can be bolstered by strong competition. Businesses can learn from a competitor’s strengths by analyzing the competition’s performance, identifying where they excel, and finding a way to replicate that internally. An athlete might watch an opponent’s pole vault, and identify a certain way in which the competitor tucks her heel at the right time, or another equally subtle detail that could make or break a jump’s success. A business leader needs to identify where the competition really excels, and use her opponent’s skill in that area to improve her own performance.
All athletes, and businesses, have areas in which they excel, and all athletes, and businesses, have aspects that are weaker. As well as analyzing those areas in which a competitor business outperforms his own company, a business leader can benefit from identifying the competition’s weaker areas too.
When faced with new clients, contracts, and business, being able to outsell the competition on those areas where they are weakest could be a winning move. Just as a business can learn and improve from looking at the competition’s strengths, identifying a rival business’ weaknesses, and outshining them in those areas, can also put a company ahead in the game.
Never stop selling
We’ve already discussed motivation, and this lesson is a spin off. No matter what happens, who appears on the market, and what impact they have, never, ever stop selling.
Reaching the top of a business field is one type of achievement, but longevity is a different measure of success – some would say a truer measure. Whatever the competition is doing, selling, or schmoozing, a business needs to maintain a sharp focus on selling. When an athlete is the first to trip, slip, or falter, he could easily give up, defeated by the image of those before him who completed near-perfect runs. But the difference between the underdog success stories, and those who descend into obscurity is simple: the athletes who are success stories never stop selling themselves. They don’t let a slip, trip or falter stop them. They carry on like it never happened, and keep believing they can wow the judges or beat the clock with every single move.
Forget the competition and focus on your own business when it counts
For both business leaders and athletes, there comes a point when they have to forget about the competition and focus on their own performance. Dwelling on competitors and hypothetical outcomes distracts from the performance right here, right now.
Sports psychologist JoAnn Dahlkoetter, who has five Olympic gold medalists among her client roster, cites fear of the competition and of the outcome of an event as one of the major barriers to personal success. “Remind yourself of the skills and talents that got you to the level of success where you are now. Visualize yourself having the outcome you want over and over and over again.”
Focus on your Business
Neither businesses nor individual athletes can control what the competition does. They can only control their performance, and thinking about what the competition is doing isn’t going to help their performance. It’s helpful to study the competition, know their strengths and weaknesses, and use the presence of a competitor as a motivating factor, but there comes a time in any competitive situation when a business leader needs to focus on the performance of himself and his own staff, rather than that of a competing team.
Transforming competition from an enemy to an aid just requires a simple shift in attitude, but it can have startling results for a business, and everyone involved.
Written By: Hannah Braime