Going for Business Gold

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Olympic fever is about to reach Basingstoke with the torch passing through on 11th July. I spent some time looking into how athletes prepare to compete at world class level and here are six themes I found that are as relevant to running businesses as they are for running in the Olympics.

Clarity – An Olympic athlete has one very clear and measurable goal – GOLD. This is nice and simple and it would seem that they do little else except activities that directly relate to winning gold. This includes visualisation (think F1 drivers imagining a perfect lap or golfers visualising the perfect shot). Research with basketball players showed that visualising successful throws was just as effective as actual practice, and when players had real sensory visualisation (i.e. they could hear and feel the ball) they actually out performed players who did live practice.

When you started your business or career the chances are you had some idea of what you wanted your life to look like as a result of all the work you were going to do. Perhaps you wanted to fund your early retirement, or improve your lifestyle with more money and time for the things you really want to do. Getting crystal clear about what you really want enables you to figure out a plan and provides you with motivation to push through difficult periods with ease. So is your goal written down in detail? Can you imagine what your life looks like when the business is finished?

Belief – “I am the greatest. I said that to myself even before I knew it was true” – Mohammad Ali’s words are a great example of how mental state plays such a key role in sporting success. But thinking can also catch people out.

For many years it was thought impossible for a man to lift more than 500lbs. Attempts beyond 499.5lbs repeatedly failed until Valery Alexis finally lifted 501.5lbs because the scales were rigged to show 499.5lbs. Since then this record has been well and truly surpassed. Limiting beliefs can play a role in holding us back in any endeavour.

It’s the same in business. Right now you will have a set of beliefs about your abilities, your company and even your industry that in some way hold you back from further success. Just remember that we make decisions based on fact, opinion or guesswork so it pays to be clear which you are using. Oh and by the way just because you think it does not mean it is real. What myths could you challenge in the coming months?

Focus – I read a story about an American swimmer who failed to qualify for an Olympic team. He worked out what time he thought it would take to win at the next Olympics and set out a four year training schedule of daily training. It even included what improvement he would have to show in each session to reach his target time. Olympians are focus monsters giving total commitment to the important things (training, diet, technique and mindset) at the expense of everything else. Their success is in direct proportion to their focus.

Are you really as focussed on the stuff you need to do to build the business or are you on the hamster wheel of work that just keeps going round without moving forward? The truth is there is always more things you COULD be doing but are you doing what you SHOULD be doing?

Strength – Athletes spend a lot of time working on their core strength and aerobic fitness. They know that tiny differences in fitness levels can be the difference between first place and second place. They also study and practice new techniques to improve their performance.

In business I believe strength comes from knowledge and skills. Are you keep your knowledge current? Not just the technical aspects of what you do but sales, marketing, finance, team management and the other disciplines essential to a good business. Some of my clients have had the biggest shifts in their results from a single idea in a book. What you don’t know will hurt you!!!

Discipline – I was lucky enough to see a talk by Sir Steve Redgrave. He told us that following his fourth gold in Atlanta in 1996 he had two weeks off before embarking on a training programme for the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Without the discipline to take the actions all the clarity, belief and focus are for nothing. If you really want to build the business of your dreams you need to get on and develop your plan, enhance your sales and marketing, put systems in the business, grow and develop a team and all of the other things that need doing and you need to stick at it. Even if you love your business I bet you still have periods where you fail to take actions or stay focussed on the important stuff. This is where the final theme comes in

Coaching – Tiger Woods had 15 different coaches for different aspects of his game (golf in case you are thinking otherwise) and I don’t know any professional sportsperson that doesn’t have at least one coach. A coach keeps you clear on your goals, keeps your mindset positive, keeps you focussed on the right things, gives you new ideas and holds you to account so you keep taking action. So why doesn’t every business owner have a coach? I wish I knew

There is one last thing. Athletes love what they do. That is what gets them through all the difficult training and endless laps. I love helping businesses and I think it shows in the general rise in enthusiasm in the companies I work for. Remember a business is simple, easy and fun when you let it be.