The London 2012 Olympic Games have now concluded during which we have seen some amazing examples of sporting prowess. Some of us will have shared in the incredible emotion as we’ve witnessed a running athlete drop to their knees realising they have won a title or the rowers as they have collapsed on each other in exhaustion and emotion at crossing the line first. It’s been difficult not to get caught up in the emotion of it all and I have personally found myself feeling those swelling emotions bring me close to tears for competitors who I have no affinity with but have sensed that personal emotion.

These games, like all those gone before, have seen people’s performance peak at the right moment while others have been left wondering what might have been. So what is the difference between being able to compete and win at the Games and watching it on TV?


Well, talk to any sporting competitor and they will tell you that an effective coach makes all the difference. Coaching and training are the things that take the raw talent and convert it into sporting majesty. Whether it’s the All Blacks winning the Rugby World Cup or Usain Bolt retaining the double champion status in the Olympic sprints, coaching and training have made it possible. In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, entitled ‘Five Coaching Strengths that Produce Champions’, the top five strengths are listed as:

1. Help the athlete cultivate self-awareness

2. Build a strong coach-athlete relationship

3. Create an optimal training environment

4. Provide financial and other support systems

5. Manage the Olympic environment

So, with these coaching strengths in mind, how do they translate for us in our business environments to make champions out of our people?

Cultivate Self Awareness

It’s important to help your staff understand their abilities and areas of improvement they can focus on. What is it that they have as strengths and how can they maximise those? They may be able to share those with others and cultivate them to benefit their own performance and how that can impact on customers. Help them understand where they are heading. Have them set goals so they can achieve, have them understand what the next steps are for them and what they will need to do to get there. What areas do they need to work on? It’s just not possible to be brilliant at everything but having an understanding of what is lacking does help them to know when they should call for help, where they need extra attention or to be more focused.

Build a Strong Coaching Relationship

Trust is an obvious component here. An athlete will look at their coach before they make a run to jump because they trust them to know the right moment for the crowd and wind to be ready. After finishing a jump, I have seen the athletes run over to their coach to check on what adjustments need to be made. In the business world, wouldn’t it be great if our staff had the confidence in their leaders to go to them to ask for feedback and check on what adjustments they should make on their performance instead of worrying that they may look substandard or weak? Coaches in business need to create the relationship of trust and openness that can reflect this same level of partnership to allow staff to perform and improve.

Create an Optimal Training Environment

There’s no doubt that athletes benefit from many hours of training every week. Yet in the business environment, training is often seen as an optional extra. It’s ridiculous to hope that our people will become ‘champions’ without training. Part of this training happens on the job, part happens when they are coached and part needs to happen through formal training sessions to learn new skills and hone existing ones.

Provide On-going Support

I remember watching a programme years ago about the armed forces and one of the officers said that soldiers out in the battlefield or stationed at a post need to have their morale constantly built up. Officers are there to support their soldiers. Our staff also need on-going support. That means that they have the right resources at their disposal and know where to turn for assistance. These days we don’t expect people to sit in a room by themselves to figure stuff out. We expect them to call on their peers, the internet and their leaders to help them find solutions. If something doesn’t go according to plan, they need support to regain their confidence and help to know where to start from again.

Manage the Working Environment

Sometimes there are special events like the Olympics. It’s then that these athletes will be under the heaviest pressure to perform at their best. They are there representing themselves, their coach, their family and their country. It’s a huge burden and that environment needs managing. In the business world, there are times where the environment changes and the pressure is on. It’s the job of the leader or coach to help manage that. Help people see that it’s okay and that it’s possible to cope because they have been trained, they have the skills and the abilities to perform. In ancient Greece when the soldiers lined up facing each other to do battle, they weren’t left alone, they assigned a ‘coach’ known as a Paraclete who marched with them giving them encouragement in the face of extreme pressure. The word Paraclete itself means ‘hope is near’.

So, although these Olympics will pass into history, the lessons we can learn and apply to our own roles and people don’t have to. We can adapt these key skills to ensure we help our people, our children and ourselves become the champions we desire them and us to be.


For more information on effective coaching of staff and others, look up or check out our book, ‘Coaching and feedback made Easy’ on Amazon: