The Summer Olympics, with opening ceremonies July 27 in London, bring us critical lessons on how to prepare for success. Many of the swimmers, tennis players and other athletes will have spent countless hours, days and years in training and preparation for a competition that will be over in five minutes.
Our life in cubicles may not have the pageantry or the television crews, yet we face many critical moments where preparation and an ability to focus will help us propel our career, or see it drop like the seventh place finisher in cycling. Our Olympics may be a presentation before senior management or a key deadline for a report or upgrade to a computer system.
Here are four ways to train like an Olympic athlete for career climbers:
Find the right coach.
If you want to run a marathon, you will want a good fitness trainer who has experience in distance running. If you want to move up into management, you may seek out a leadership coach to aid in your development. Look for a coach “who understands your goals and how you’re motivated” and check out her background, suggests Anna Miller in a Daily Muse blog post on Olympian training tips anyone can use.
If you cannot afford a professional coach, seek out a friend or someone at your church or synagogue whose wisdom and experience shine brightly.
Really know the sport – and the players.
Tennis players know the rituals and nuances of their game, from pre-game courtesies to how to manage an untied shoe. They know all the rules and may even develop a plan for the best way to use a television commercial break. They also know their competitors, including their key strengths and weaknesses.
In corporate life, understanding the game and players may mean reading industry blogs and tracking the careers of some rising stars (especially if you hope to work for one of them). It means reading every media release your organization puts out, and going to the shareholders meeting or employee open houses and listening actively. Don’t forget to track your key competitors’ moves, too.
Athletic training is serious business, and involves serious commitment of time, energy and resources. British sprinter and Olympic runner Jeanette Kwakye trains six days a week; half of those she puts in two sessions a day. She became “a lot more disciplined” and focused in college, she tells viewers in an iCould video.
Workers need to determine first what critical inflection points and skills demand training. For stock or commodity traders, that moment may be when they glean a snippet of information and must act. They breathe faster, their muscles tense and their heart beats rapidly as they prepare for action, much like an Olympic athlete, according to a column in the Financial Times. Traders could train themselves to scan for more insights, manage risks and stress levels.
Many Olympic and other top athletes turn on an internal movie of themselves, getting ready, putting on their tournament uniforms and stepping forward into the limelight. They see themselves in a flawless race or competition, and the easy, effortless way they hit a hole in one or volley the ball hard at a corner their competitor cannot reach. They have clear goals and they can see themselves achieving them in their mind.
Such visualization can build confidence, and also helps them know their plan for succeeding intimately. Corporate executives and professional speakers use the same techniques to map out their busy days and their successful engagement with their crew or an audience. You can start doing this in small snippets – imagine your boss asking one or two questions, then saying yes to your request for training or a three-month rotation on a prestigious project.
Your Olympic training may not win you a gold medal, but it could win you a promotion.