Are You Goal-Setting Like an Olympian?

Written by Alicia Parr

Published on Aug 4, 2016
It’s time for Olympic fever.  Watching world class athletes, with world class talent, who have done world class training compete for the highest honor of athleticism there is—the Olympic gold medal.  It seems near miraculous, what these unusual humans do, but there’s no magic to it.  Not really. Let’s talk about this world class training and what it has to do with your business. hand-982069_1280Olympians set and achieve big goals.  Really big goals.  Multi-year goals broken into annual and sometimes semi-annual competition cycles.  Throughout these cycles, they work with their coaches on their preparation, checking performance metrics every day. Sometimes several times a day.  Athlete and coach are in constant communication, checking progress, and adapting the plan as they go.  Everything, absolutely everything, is oriented to maximize performance and to wring out every ounce of potential. What can we learn from this as a business? As a business, you aren’t usually aiming for a big every-four-years performance.  More likely, you’re looking to win with your customers every day.  That’s a little different, but still the same because you are aiming to wring out every ounce of potential your team has, right? But maybe you don’t like to be confined to set goals, instead preferring to wing it, free-wheeling your way to success.  Or perhaps you do establish periodic goals but you set-it-and-forget-it once a year, feel super hopeful, then check back in 6 months to see how things are going. Any of this sound familiar? This is not how an Olympian behaves. Don’t you want to be a champion?  I know you do.  If you want to win and keep winning, then you need to do goals like an Olympian. Tips for goal-setting like an Olympian. Systematically set purposeful stretch goals. Olympians set and strive for goals that continually expand their capabilities to perform their specific event at the highest level.  Winning businesses have a habit of continuously stretching their performance on goals that execute on the strategy. Measure prolifically both real performance and necessary conditions for performance. Olympians measure and track lots and lots of data.  Not just training stats, but sleep, food, and anything that could reasonably be expected to contribute to or negatively impact performance.  Winning businesses have a rigorous practice of measuring and monitoring things that not only indicate performance directly, but also indicators that influence performance downstream. Have clear ownership of who does what.  Olympic athletes are never confused about what activities they are responsible for, what the coach is responsible for, and, in the case of team events, what their team mates are responsible for.  Winning businesses, too, are high-fidelity about role accountability and required behaviors. Be transparent with goals and performance data.  Anyone on the athletic team that is part of the performance unit has access to goals and performance data.  The more streamlined and automatic it is for the different members of the performance support team to stay in sync, the more optimized the training can be.  Winning businesses adopt higher levels of transparency of goals and performance between business functions so the whole business stays in sync and out-performs the competition. Constantly revisit and iterate goals. Olympic athletes continually optimize their goals and targets based on performance and other salient variables.  For example, an Olympic distance runner may adjust their pace targets if they are training through a heat wave.  Likewise, an Olympic gymnast may focus their training on one event more than originally planned if progress is slowed on that event due to other factors.  Just like Olympians, winning businesses don’t set-it-and-forget-it, they measure-scan-and-iterate, measure-scan-and-iterate. Always prioritize doing the fundamentals well. Even Olympians do drills long after they’ve learned and mastered the basics of their events.  That’s because new bad habits can creep in and proliferate if you don’t keep re-laying the groundwork.  Winning businesses continuously monitor and seek to improve on the fundamental capabilities that are necessary for success. Doing all of these things well requires some effort on your part.  That’s true.  But the payoff is huge, so it’s worth the effort. The role of software. At All Elements, we believe software should make doing the right things easier.  Software doesn’t do business, people do business. And people will do the right things to win big when the barriers to doing them are removed. People make it happen.  Software makes it simple. Win the gold.

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