Olympian Tips to Win Business Gold

It was a pleasure listening to the very down-to-earth Sally Gunnell last week at the East Cambs Business Boost. She was there promoting her business: www.sallygunnellhealthandwellbeing.com and, no doubt, collecting a small appearance fee. It was money well spent for East Cambs as the room began packed and ended inspired.

Transferring success on the sports field into the business arena is not new. I remember listening to Will Carling (England’s youngest ever Rugby Captain) in the 90’s. Carling is quoted as saying, “success in sports management and success in business is derived from the same basic principles” and I have always been fascinated by the parallels. If you too are interested, I’d recommend a great book by Kevin Roberts, ‘Peak Performance: lessons from the world’s top sports organisations’

What has changed since the 90’s is the business focus on well-being. Sportsmen and women have always trained hard to achieve their goals. As the century turned, the importance of what entered the mind and the body also became of paramount importance. Footballers turned away from the drinking culture that had immortalised the pre-match exploits of players like Bryan Robson and Paul Gascoigne. Suddenly the benefits of meditation and a balanced diet, which extended the careers of players like Ryan Giggs, were being adopted across the board. The money involved in the Premier League and sport generally meant that every single element of life was considered in order to achieve the incremental gains required to be the best in the world. And fairly recently, with the steady rise of the Millenials, we are seeing this transferred into the world of business too.

This is the Brailsfordian philosophy that is now preached by Mme Gunnell to the world of work.

She offers her 6 sports success secrets for you to achieve your business gold:

    1. Have A Strong Purpose.
      You must have a strong ‘why?’. Think carefully about the motivations for doing your job. The more internal drivers you can find: to self-actualise; to make a difference; to help others grow; to support the drive to find a cure for cancer etc, the better. These will be stronger than external drivers such as, I want to make more money.
    2. Understand Your Strengths and Work to Them.
      Focus more time on improving your strengths than improving your weaknesses. Why strive to be average on a range of things if you can be exceptional in a few? Do you know what your strengths are? There are plenty of psychological resources out there to help you find them. Once you know what you are good at, find a job that exploits these strengths and work hard to keep improving them, until you are the best that you can be. The results will follow.
    3. Take Your Failures and Disappointments and Use Them To Drive You Forwards.
      Use them as motivators. Take your pain and use it to help you work harder to cement your determination to succeed the next time. Try not to adopt a ‘I’m not good enough’ mind set- make it a ‘I’m not good enough- yet’ mindset. And put a plan in place that is going to take you to where you want to be.
    4. Push Beyond Your Comfort Zone.
      If you really want to be the best that you can be, Gunnell suggests you move beyond the place where you are comfortable. To be the absolute best at what you do, you have to believe that you will never be promoted beyond your level of competence. Keep challenging yourself. Keep learning. Keep setting new goals.
    5. Constantly Look for The Small Incremental Changes.
      This is the Brailsfordian approach that has led to British Cycling’s dominance. However, Brailsford should not take the credit for its invention, just its most successful application in sport (possibly excluding the All Blacks). Ironically this approach actually originated in the business arena. It is commonly known as the Kaizen approach and is credited for Japan’s economic dominance in the 80’s. It’s worth investigating further.
    6. Work on Your Resilience.
      Gunnell (and I, as a former teacher) are convinced that we need to work harder on our resilience. I worry particularly about the next generation. Social media has made them destructively self-critical. Generally, they are too quick to say, ‘I’m not good enough, I give up’. This is not acceptable if you are to be a success in sport, or business. Ask yourself, ‘Do I give up too easily?’

If the answer is ‘Yes’, consider adopting Gunnell’s 6 resilience boosting strategies:

a. Get more active;

b. Reward yourself when you achieve small goals;

c. Think about what you eat;

d. Get enough sleep;

e. Embrace stress-busting strategies;

f. And think about your ‘why’ every day.

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