Lessons From The Winter Olympics

via Pinterest
I have been in sport heaven over the last few days. The background to my working day has been half-pipes, hog lines, triple toe loops and power-plays. I have been quite the winter Olympics addict.

For me, as someone who regularly takes on crazy endurance walking challenges (100 km in 20 hours - who's with me?), I always see lots of parallels between sport and business. Indeed Mr Apple's brother uses the skills he's developed in coaching some amazing triathletes to also work with businesses and board members. It's all about challenge, perspective, improvement, practice and feedback.

Anyway, the sport that has swept me away this year is curling (see what I did there?). And no,  I'm not just talking about the oh-my merits of the 'Men of Curling' calendar or the visual excitement of the Norwegian men's team trousers. Oh no, there's lots to learn with curling even if, like me, the mere prospect of slithering out on the ice and trying to vaguely remain upright is something you know to be well beyond you.

So, as a little homage to the men and women, here's my take on the lessons that curling can teach us...

  • Feedback is best when you get it at the time - each player gets a review of their stone straight away so they can adjust what they're doing straight away. There's no point waiting until after the game and then saying 'oh, you could have done that differently'. The same is true at work - keep checking in with people, get the feedback, adjust if necessary and get better. Ignorance might be bliss but not for long.
  • Plan to adapt - yes, yes, you need a plan. You need to know what, all things being equal, you'd like to happen. However, things are very rarely equal and that's when you need to adapt and respond. Having to change your plan when you're mid way through it isn't a disaster, sticking to the plan regardless of what's going on around you is. 
  • Bounce like Tigger - bad stuff happens, bad days happen but you still have to bounce back. I don't mean that you need to become some kind of emotionless automaton but you need to find away to brush the disappointment aside and get on with it. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, other people just have a better day than you. Look at what happened, learn what you can and move on.
  • Communicate - I love the way the curlers communicate with each other but please don't feel you need to slide on your knee along the office floor shouting 'haaaaaaarrrrrdddddd' at your team for them to understand what it is you want. But you do need to communicate clearly, with feeling and with passion. Don't keep you head down, doing your own thing in the hope that everyone around you has been blessed with psychic skills. Look up and communicate.
  • Practice, practice, practice - the majority of these curlers are full-time professionals. They're in the gym, they're on the ice, they work with nutritionists and psychologists and all of this work makes them better. They take what they do seriously and they know you get better by working at it. Medals, awards, wins and plaudits don't come to you by divine right. They come after months and years of slog. There are no shortcuts to fabulousness.
  • Support crews - the British curlers have a great support team (including someone who's been there, done that in terms of winning a gold medal) to encourage, advise and keep them relaxed and happy. They also have their families and friends in the crowd and support is key. Losses are easier to take and victories are all the sweeter when you have people around you to share them with.
  • You're in this for the long-haul - this is a long game, with ups and downs, twists and turns and good moments and bad. But you need to keep your eye on the prize, work, work work and never, ever give up because all it needs is a tiny little thing to change everything.