THE BLOG

The Inside Track: What business can learn from the Commonwealth Games

24/07/2014 11:20 BST | Updated 22/09/2014 10:59 BST

The Commonwealth Games are just around the corner and there are a host of athletes looking to make their mark on the competition. With 4,100 athletes from 71 nations competing across 18 sports, it's sure to be a thrilling 11 days of action. I, myself, will be watching from the comfort of the commentary box at Tollcross National Swimming Centre, keeping an eye out for the next star in British Swimming.

As Managing Director of Lane4, I also have a keen interest in how businesses can learn from the world of sport. Below, I discuss a couple of the major talking points that will play out over the course of the Games and consider what businesses can learn from them.

One thing that I'm sure many people will be keeping an eye on is how the stars from London 2012 will perform. A man who has had a very interesting two years since the Olympics is Bradley Wiggins; the first British Tour de France champion going into the Olympics, he went on to win Gold in the Time Trial at London, win Sports Personality of the year and receive a Knighthood. However, just like in cycling where the downhill sections are always quicker and more extreme, the same can be said of his career. After scaling unprecedented heights in 2012, he pulled out of the 2013 Tour de France due to injury, and wasn't even selected as part of Team Sky to race in 2014. He arrives in Scotland with only one event to compete in, the Team Pursuit. After a very tough two years he will have to show incredible personal resilience in order to bounce back from the setback's he's faced.

Similarly, in business it shouldn't be assumed that success will be continuous just because an organisation has had a good month, quarter or year. There needs to be a huge effort in maintaining performance because, as Bradley Wiggins discovered, your competitors will be doing everything they can to catch you. It remains to be seen if he will be successful this year, but he has come back from disappointment before in his career and has a mindset for treating failures as learning opportunities. Businesses need to take this view too, giving employees the freedom and psychological safety to not be afraid to fail, knowing that they will learn from it and come back stronger.

For me, another area of interest will be looking at how certain athletes handle the pressure of the Games. There are a number of people who are coming into the competition with huge expectations to perform well. Stars like Usain Bolt and Mo Farah are obviously favourites in their respective events, but this pressure is nothing new to them. If I look a little closer to home, in my own sport of swimming, Michael Jamieson is the man with all the pressure on him. Glasgow born, he won Olympic Silver in 2012 and is looking to go one better in his home town. He has become the poster boy for the home fans and he seems to be rising to the occasion.

After reading a recent interview with him I was really impressed with how he spoke about his goals and ambitions. It's clear that he doesn't just want to win the race but he also wants to become the best in the world by breaking the World Record; "I've woken up for training every morning with the world-record time on my alarm clock. It's the first thing I see when I wake up. Psychologically, that's what I'm aiming for". Underneath his vision of becoming the best in the world, Michael has set out his goals very clearly, and that will help him to handle the pressure. He will have had a number of performance and process goals in training that focus on small things like getting the timing right on his start or turning in the pool in a certain amount of time whilst also having the vision of being the best in the world to inspire him. When he says "I train 35 hours a week to be involved in events like this. The hard graft is already done. Competition should be the easy bit", it shows that these performance and process goals have been achieved so all he needs to do now is get in the pool and execute them.

Businesses can learn from Michael's example of goal setting. As you can see, it's important to have a vision to inspire people but this can be equally demoralising if you don't have some other goals that sit underneath it to make it feel achievable. Start with your vision but then break it down into outcome, performance and process goals. Outcome goals are what you want to achieve, in Michaels case his outcome goal is to beat the World Record. Performance goals then sit below this, these are the measurable things that will help you get to that outcome goal. For example, Michael might have had 'swim the last length in 32 seconds' as one of his performance goals. Finally, you have the process goals, the small things that you can work on that will allow you to achieve your performance goals. In the case of a swimmer, this is all about technique and the small margins: being quick off the starting blocks, being as physically fit as possible and eating the right sort of things are a few examples. You can use this model in business to break down very large ambitious goals so that they appear achievable to everyone involved.

These are just some of the stories that will develop over the course of the Games and I'm sure that there will be many more to come. We will be keeping track of some of them in our Inside Track blog. As a business leader I will be looking at what we can learn from these great athletes to take back into organisational life so that we too can fulfil our potential and perform to the best of our ability when under extreme pressure. So sit back, relax and watch the action unfold at this great competition.

Adrian Moorhouse is a former GB Olympic swimmer and won a Gold Medal at the Seoul Games in 1988. He has since gone on to found Lane4, a leader in the field of human performance who work with individuals and teams to build sustainable competitive advantage.

You can find out more about Lane4 here. Lane4 here. Alternatively, contact matt.kaye@lane4.co.uk if you would like to know more.