I don’t know why, but I have found myself more interested in this year’s Winter Olympic Games than in previous years.
Maybe it’s the proximity of Canada to the U.S. and the friendly sports rivalry between the two countries. Maybe it’s the beauty of Vancouver and the surrounding area, which I visited in 2007. Or, maybe it’s the fact that I still have nearly two feet of snow in my yard from the recent blizzard in DC that has put me in the Olympic spirit.
Whatever the reason, I’ve enjoyed the diversion from the bad economy, the political discord in Washington, Tiger Woods, and the late night talk show melodrama.
I admit, I feel a bit nostalgic when I watch the Olympic Games. It harkens back to a time in my youth when I dreamed of being a famous downhill skier. There’s something about watching the world’s best athletes compete their hearts out, not for a paycheck or a corporate sponsorship, but for the sole purpose of winning — and standing on a podium to proudly represent his or her country.
It boggles the mind to think about the thousands of hours and years of practice that many athletes invest to become the best at what they do. And more boggling is that all that work may come down to a mere 60 to 120-second performance.
What drives a person to work that hard for a reward only of recognition?
The Olympics are unique in this regard. A company or organization could never, ever replicate this level of drive and dedication from its employees. Employment is work. It is a compulsory activity whose purpose is to make a living, provide for one’s family, and ideally save towards retirement.
With that said, there’s a lot that a company could learn from the Olympic ideal. Creating a healthy, competitive environment is a good thing. Rewarding those employees who excel and distinguish themselves is a worthy exercise and will drive increased performance across the ranks.
A corporate culture that celebrates achievement, both of individuals and of teams, is one that will lead to long-term success. It also creates an environment where employees are more likely to enjoy their work, and not dread coming to it.
Seek to ignite a fire within your employees. Light a cauldron that can serve to fuel creativity and innovation. I bet you’ll like the results and the golden opportunity it will provide your company to best your competitors.