What the Olympics Can Teach Employers About Teamwork
The 2016 Rio Summer Olympics are in the sports history books, with Americans carting off 121 medals, including 46 golds.
Within the 28 sports in the Rio Games, each athlete, no matter what country they represent, is lifted by a team of supporters, whether they be coaches, trainers or parents.
That teamwork needed to succeed in the sporting world is not lost on Angel Bovee, an Athlete Career and Education Program specialist at Adecco Staffing USA. Bovee, as a retired Olympic-level boxer, is far from a stranger to teamwork. In fact, today she works with young Olympians to translate their ability to motivate others and work as a team into the workplace setting.
“Teamwork is essential to an athlete’s quest for gold; just as it is essential for a productive and positive workplace,” Bovee says.
Lessons learned from the Olympics
Looking back on her time as an athlete, one key theme stands out and almost seems to encompass Bovee’s entire experience: tenacity.
“Being tenacious was probably the single most important factor to my success as a U.S. boxing champion and member of Team USA,” says Bovee, a three-time U.S. boxing champion. “And it wasn’t just tenacity inside the ring, but also being able to think outside the ring to find ways around every challenge that stood between me and my dream.”
Like many amateur athletes, Bovee struggled with no funding and dealt with the constant pressure of balancing full-time training with a traditional job to pay the substantial expenses of international competition. And that’s where tenacity proved crucial to developing a stronger belief in herself than in the obstacles that stood in the way.
“The ability to never give up on your goals is the element that separates the good from the truly amazing,” she says.
In transitioning from athletic career to a more traditional, full-time profession, Bovee initially was discouraged. However, she explains, an athlete’s competitive spirit and passion to always do their best can easily be harnessed at work.
“In my current role, what keeps me motivated is treating every assignment as a new opportunity to be the best at what I do,” she says.
How teamwork relates to the workplace
For employers, it all starts with helping employees set their goals, Bovee says. In order to triumph, athletes must understand how each individual on their team is important to the collective goal – a concept that is also critical to the workplace. Goal setting will help build trust and understanding among colleagues and co-workers, she says. In addition, teams that are transparent and consistent communicators – and who foster the strengths of diverse teammates – are likely to be the most in sync, resourceful and innovative.
“Under-communicating goals can cause team members to feel disconnected and unsure of what they are working towards,” she explains. “Also, it inhibits teammates from appreciating each other’s strengths.”
Entering the world of work, Bovee also found how important it is to be able to work well with all sorts of personalities and how beneficial it is for teams to be diverse. “If everyone on a team has the same skillset, there will likely be talent shortages within the team,” she says. “Moreover, a lack of diversity can hinder creativity and innovation, and it discourages employees to seek out their peers as resources.
Bovee says employers looking for the right talent need only pay attention to specific traits among job candidates including:
Attitude: Everyone who is part of a team knows that attitudes – whether positive or negative – are infectious. When one teammate is having an off day or has become distracted from the big picture, an entire team can suffer. “It’s important for managers to be conscious of each team member’s perceptions of work and to quickly seek out the root of the problem,” she says.
On the flip side, positive and passionate individuals who prioritize relationship building can boost team morale. With that, supervisors must reinforce and applaud these actions so that top performers feel appreciated and continue to be engaged in the team goal.
Adaptability: The world of work is constantly evolving and sometimes disruptions come along the can shake up a team. Teams that are adaptable are best equipped to perform well under pressure, stay ahead of the curve and demonstrate a willing attitude, she explains. In addition, flexibility and resourcefulness can help a team push through difficult times.
Competition: Bovee says that the pros and cons of encouraging competition in the workplace have long been debated; however, when executed as team vs. team – as opposed to individual vs. individual – employers can create camaraderie and develop an engaging office culture. Friendly competitions can also drive productivity and push individuals to new heights.
“Bottom line,” Bovee says. “To avoid potential confusion, employer policies and guidelines, as well as individual and team roles and the goals of any ‘contest,’ should all be clearly spelled out from the get-go.”