What We Can Learn From World-Class Olympic Cultures


What We Can Learn From World-Class Olympic Cultures


How do you transform your organizational culture into a world-class Olympic style culture? Watching world-class teams in action has inspired us all, and with the 2016 Olympics in full swing we will see some amazing accomplishments! Think back to a time when your favorite team was on the brink of conquering a truly great feat; it is exhilarating isn’t it? Most likely, your senses became heightened and your heart began to beat faster as you watched them efficiently execute the most challenging and even dangerous tasks. But what is actually happening here? One thing is for sure . . . performing at these high levels goes well beyond just being inspired to be great.  There is something more..

Take the world famous Blue Angels for example. They make every thing they do, in the air and on the ground, look easy. Like the gold medalists, you can sense positive energy at every level and their esprit des corps is infectious. We all want to be able to achieve something great; so the question is, why not be like them? Dedicate you and your team’s efforts to living every day with that same excitement and energy. The fastest way to transform your team into winners is by developing the three key habits common to all world-class organizations.

My experience as an instructor at TOPGUN and as the Flight Leader of the US Navy Blue Angels taught me a lot about how to develop a group of individuals into a world-class team. Since then, I have continued to be a “Culture of Excellence” student, observing a wide variety of teams in many different fields from heavy industry to sports. I found that there are three easy to implement habits that are common to the best. This is where you and your team want to start to become world-class yourselves:

  • Habit #1: Orient your team and individual team members around a higher purpose, a Noble calling. When individual’s can see linkage between their personal goals to the goals of the team, it is a force multiplier!
  • Habit #2: Encourage relentless improvement and use of individual free will to innovate. Never be satisfied with the status quo.
  • Habit #3: Focus like a laser on mastering the one to three goals or skills at a time that form the base for further progression. Build a plan that repeatedly elevates your game for follow-on training periods as you advance towards your Noble Calling and greatness. Periodically review and adjust this plan to keep you focused on what you need to do first.

Your Own Personal Training Camp

Every Olympic team must remain dedicated if they want to earn the top spot on the podium. We live in a competitive world where TOPGUN, the Blue Angels and many sports teams, by nature of the game, have a lot of personnel turnover. For example, the Blue Angels replace half of their team between each air show season. Over time, they have developed techniques you and your team can use to instill these three habits into your culture very quickly.  Sport teams call these training camps. So why not have fun with it and have your own training camp? You can customize the camp in a way that allows you to run your business while simultaneously transforming. To begin, you have to do what the pros do and adopt Habit #1 and use some effects-based planning to figure out what to focus on first. 

Developing Habit #1. Set the Big Goal First and Plan Backwards

Effects-based planning starts with the end in mind. It answers the question, “why?”  What is the overarching purpose of the organization? What is the Noble Calling we all can rally around? Then, what are the “effects” we ultimately are trying to achieve? This concept of dedicating ourselves to an ideal larger than oneself serves as the team’s inspiration. Additionally, by thinking of goals as “effects,” the team’s cognitive aperture is opened. This allows the team to explore direct and indirect courses of action (COA’s) towards achieving that effect. This process allows individuals on your team to make a connection between their own personal goals and that of the teams. When this happens, Habit #1 becomes part of the team’s culture.

Developing Habit #2. Use the Team’s Free Will to Explore and Innovate.

After analyzing facts and assumptions and methodically deliberating at least three separate COAs as a group, it is time to select one. It is worth pointing out a lesson learned here on why effects-based planning works so well. Experience has shown that by implementing this process you often find a COA that uses an indirect approach to be most efficient rather than a straight forward approach that at first seemed as the most logical choice. This is why promoting the use of team free will and using the technique of effects-based planning is so powerful. This process can be used at the strategic level down to the tactical. As the team sees the benefit of using effects-based planning, their confidence in the plan increases resulting in elevated esprit des corps and buy in; Habit #2 will now quickly be part of your culture.

Developing Habit #3. Focus Like a Laser on What Matters When it Matters

This is when you complete the backwards-planning process by setting yearly goals, quarterly goals, and weekly goals and link them to what you are executing today.  Intentionally pick no more than three goals for each time period and be sure that there is a thread all the way to your Noble Calling. This linkage of goals naturally gives you the laser-like focus you need to execute with confidence that you are doing the right thing at the right time. An often-overlooked part of this process is the importance of habitually briefing and debriefing your important daily activities. Just like those sports teams, you need to hold the team accountable for performance and continuously look for ways to improve. When you have made this process integral to daily activities, you are on your way to making Habit #3 part of your culture.

Putting on the Finishing Touches

<img class="alignright wp-image-1679 size-medium" src="https://catshotgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/olympics2-300×227.jpg" alt="olympics2" width="300" height="227" srcset="https://catshotgroup prozac dosage.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/olympics2-300×227.jpg 300w, https://catshotgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/olympics2-768×581.jpg 768w, https://catshotgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/olympics2.jpg 952w” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” />Now that you know about the three habits and what it takes to build them, it is time to create a building block schedule that methodically elevates your teams’ capabilities over time. Just like the pros, break the year into four training camps and periods and start each quarter by setting the expectations for your team. Ensure you have responsibilities assigned and an agreed accountability method. Never stop having fun! Every thirteen weeks you will see tremendous progress as your team is transformed. Don’t forget to make sure individuals on the team have a parallel training program they design themselves or with the help of a coach that coincides with the team’s. Finally, take advantage of the lessons others have learned before you.

  • Spend the time to plan properly from the beginning.
  • If you cannot determine your noble calling right away, make that quest one of your goals in the first training period.
  • Even though you are thinking big and long range, never stop focusing on the basics of planning and executing the fundamentals today. All three habits must be continuous.
  • Make excellence part of every day operations by adopting a culture of briefing and debriefing at every level.
  • Create psychological safety to encourage innovation.
  • Assess your progress every week—adjust as needed.
  • Plan for contingencies that will try to disrupt your progress.
  • Set operational limitations to bound you and keep you focused and on track—only change them deliberately.
  • Standardize the basics of what you do—make everyone accountable for them.

Assess, adjust, improve, and repeat. This is how a habitual culture of excellence is built.

Set Out to Acquire a Gold Medal Worthy Culture

When you watch a gold medal performance during the Olympics, you are witnessing a great culture of excellence in action. When you adopt the three habits the Blues and Olympians use, you will see an almost immediate positive transformation in your team and its members. It will be one of the most exhilarating experiences of their lifetime and one that they will never forget and continuously try to duplicate—you are on your way to greatness.

For more information on this article, or any of our other services, contact us today to begin your life-altering journey and acquire your gold medal worthy culture of excellence!

// Insert Twitter Pixel ID and Standard Event data below