Choose an Olympic attitude at work

The world’s best performers (in whatever arena) aren’t blessed with exceptional qualities or superhuman powers. What they do have is a mindset and attitude that ensure that they make the most of their talent and potential.

If you’re serious about being the best version of yourself as often as you can, then you need to adopt the same attitudes.

Reading time: 5 minutes

High performance headlines

  • Elite performers feel 100% responsible for themselves and their performance. What they do and achieve is their choice.
  • They take charge of their own progress, development and career. They don’t wait for someone else to hand them opportunities, open doors or “put” them on a development programme.
  • They’re always looking to know how they can get better. So they crave feedback from others. They’re students of the game, learning all they can about the world they’re in and how to perform best in it.

The full viewpoint

Having an Olympic attitude at work starts with taking responsibility for your own performance. That means that you don’t make excuses or blame others for what you do or for the results you get. Ever.

Like the Olympic athlete, results are really important for you, but as the world’s best do, you recognise that it’s the things you do and the choices you make that deliver those results. So your focus is on the inputs and you include your attitude as one of those. Thinking like this means that you don’t “have a bad day” but you might “do a bad day”.

In the world of work we’ve seen how strategies, policies, structures and hierarchies can often get in the way of people taking responsibility for their own performance. We recently overheard a salesperson telling a client, “We’ve been given responsibility for our own development”. It sounds like progress but at the same time we wondered when she’d given away that responsibility. It’s a rare Olympic athlete who gives away responsibility for their training, progress and career to anyone else.

Olympic desire

When it comes to learning we could take an example from Lord Coe who talked to a customer of ours about how elite performers crave feedback with an attitude of “if you know something about my performance that would make me better, and you don’t tell me, then you are letting me down”. If everyone had that attitude in work, performance will only get better.

In most businesses, processes too often discourage that constant exchange of information and feedback to learn and improve. Fixed points for performance reviews and check-ins seem to have created a culture that these are the only times that it’s ok to give and receive feedback. We’ve also seen a lot of the attitude of “I’ve not been given any feedback about my performance in that meeting/on that project”.

If that’s your attitude, we’d love to know when and how you decided you weren’t capable of going and getting it for yourself? And if it was ok to wait for someone to decide if they were going to give you valuable information about your performance that’s essential for you to get better?

Whether it’s your attitude or you have a friend that’s a bit like that, it’s definitely not an Olympic attitude. They’ll use every opportunity to gather information that will help them learn and improve. They crave feedback from their coach and support team and they’re like a dog with a bone trying to get it. They become experts on the game they play – the history, the arenas, the latest developments. They watch and observe. They pick the brains of competitors. They’re exchanging information and asking for feedback from fellow athletes as they train.

How does that compare with what you do?

Your attitude – worth the investment?

If you’re serious about performance and believe that mindset plays a huge part in how you apply yourself, what you do and what results you get, you’d be working on your attitude. Spending time acquiring new knowledge and developing skills matters but how much time do you spend developing your attitude in a way deliberately designed to maximise your chances of winning?

So if attitude is important to you, start working on it. Be deliberate, systematic and don’t leave it to chance. Take responsibility, commit to improve every day, seek out every opportunity to learn. Check in that you’re leading with those attitudes regularly. And perform like an Olympian at work.