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Be a Sport

The Winter Olympic Games in China reminded me how powerful and captivating sport can be. Not just for the Olympians who have spent years dreaming and preparing themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally for their moment of glory, or for the organisers who have worked long hours putting an event of this magnitude together, but also for those of us watching the hard work paying off, dreams becoming a reality, and success being achieved.

We have seen on more than one occasion how sport has united individuals, teams, countries and, at times, the world. For South Africans, sport has changed our lives and its impact has been legendary. Who can forget pivotal sporting moments such as the Rugby World Cup wins that sent our country into euphoria and created a spectacular sense of unity?

This got me thinking. How do we get organisations to have the same impact?

After all, just like any Olympic team, organisations should be made up of team players who are passionate about their skills, have spent years specialising in their trade, and are hungry to achieve the goals they have set for themselves and their respective teams. Surely, we want our organisations to have an impact and strive for gold?

What sports team do you see your organisation as?

Imagine your organisation is an Olympic gymnastics team – streamlined and rehearsed. Individually, your team members perform to ensure that collaboratively, they finish strong and on top.

But can your team perform when a member is out? Have you set your team up for success or do you rely on specific members to get the job done?

The ideal is to position your team so that with or without certain members you still succeed. We saw the success of the US team in the 2020 Olympics when Simone Biles, the star athlete in the gymnastics team, stepped down and yet her team still managed to win the gold.

Is your organisation like good old rugby? You have a team of players who are at the top of their game and cohesively are unbeatable.

But for how long?

The longevity of a rugby team, due to the physical and mental impact, has a shelf life and your organisation could crumble if there is no contingency plan put in place.

What kind of sports team would you like your organisation to be?

There is no one correct answer to this question but rather a couple of checkpoints to consider when choosing which kind of team you would like your organisation to mirror. Here are five for you to consider as you think through what your team needs to get to gold.

1. What’s your game plan? Strategise, plan and communicate who you are and what you want to achieve.

2. Skill.. Choose a high-performance team of individuals who will use their skills to add value.

3. Exposure. Teams can only get better through experience.

4. Longevity. What plans have you put in place to ensure long-term success?

5. Failure. Failure is key. Every successful person will tell you they failed countless times before they made it. Failure teaches you what to do differently the next time.

Usain Bolt said: “I trained four years to run only nine seconds. There are people who do not see results in two months, give up and leave. Sometimes failure is sought by oneself.”

Personally, I love the comeback story of surfing and how Kelly Slater got back in the game and won the pipeline competition in 2022, a week or so before his 50th birthday. That’s 30 years after he won his first pipeline. Slater never gave up on his passion, talent, and skill. He partnered with the right team, picked up his board every day and kept trying until he achieved what he set for himself.

Thinking about your organisation with a sport and team in mind can be helpful as you plan into the future. Sport is strategic and relies on individuals to make the collective succeed, just like an organisation. Is your team set up for the results you want, and for the future you want?

Think about it for a while. C’mon, be a sport!

“How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top.” Yvon Chouinard, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman

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