High Performance Culture: What Team GB’s Olympic Success Reminds the Business World About Executive Coaching?

Great Britain is celebrating its most successful Olympic Games ever in Rio 2016, with a total of 67 medals, nearly 130 medalists, across 19 sports, their best since 1908!. Now, everyone is asking the same question: What has been the secret of Team GB’s Olympic success?

 It was only 20 years ago, at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, GB finished in 36th position, their lowest ever and behind New Zealand, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Ireland and winning only one gold medal.

 This prompted a fundamental question: how could they do things differently in order to be a winning team?

 First of all, they started putting clear goals, ambitions and targets. It was obvious that they would only go upwards and this message was made clear to all sporting parties. Step 1 in creating high performance culture: Creating a clear, shared vision!

 Next step was reviewing the resources: Both people and financial resources. The biggest impact of the results of 1996 Atlanta Olympics was on the way GB funds its Olympic sports. In 1997, there came the use of National Lottery funding whichhas changed the face of British sport. It played a huge part in driving the agenda in creating a high performance culture. With the money coming from the National Lottery, it has been possible for athletes to train full-time.  

 The money also supported the strategy on finding the best coaches, introducing better training schedules, diet, medical support and bringing expert advice from all over the world. Step 2: Reviewing the resources that would support you in creating high performance culture!

Then there came an action plan with strict measurements of performance. The National Lottery funding helped UK Sport introduce the World Class Performance Programme in 1997. With all the support from both financial and people side of the sporting world, there is now an expectation to succeed as failure results in funding cuts. A prime example of this is British gymnastics team as they achieved their 4 medals target at London 2012, they were awarded with a 36% increase in the funding which resulted with their first gold medal ever in Rio 2016. Step 3: Set clear performance targets, give more support to those who achieve the targets and give them more challenges. Review the reasons behind the failures and do not be afraid of making difficult decisions.      

This programme of World Class Performance also monitors the risk of people most likely to be targeted to join another country, and a succession plan for our best coaches, scientists and medics. Thinking long term is behind the success of Team GB. Step 4: Put a succession plan in place!

Creating the enviable team spirit was an important factor behind Team GB’s success, if not the most.  Being able to give people a long-term future creates the huge sense of belonging. People really want to be part of this success. Step 5: Create the team spirit.

And finally, when Team GB returned from Rio yesterday, they were greeted by the whole nation. They were all over the TV, radios and newspapers and they will be for a while. And in October, in Manchester the whole country will come together to celebrate their great success together with the Paralympics Team. Step 6: Celebrate your success!

Thanks to Team GB , it is becoming more clear to the business world that the path to high performance in Olympics is identical to the one in business. The term coaching has been in use in sports far before it has been used in business and there is a reason for that: People in sports have been focusing on high performance more than the people in business until recently. When the competition got tougher, business world have started looking for better ways of performing and this is where executive coaching has been  providing expert support to create high performance teams. Through its systematic approach, executive coaching helps the executives to develop insight, self-confidence, skills to cope with the challenging world and ability to make difficult decisions. 

In order to make those coaching efforts impactful, businesses need to make right decisions as to whom they would support through executive coaching like Team GB does. Executive coaching can help businesses in making those decisions. Sometimes, those decisions might be difficult or tough to make but one thing is sure making the investment in the right people pays off!  High performance culture is possible!