Business and the Olympic Games have so many commonalities. Both require determination, concentrated effort and focused attention on a specific goal. Both business and the Olympic Games inspire passion. Both can result in euphoria or emotional despair.
When you have your heart set on a promotion, closing a big business deal or a spectacular product launch and the results are quite the opposite, how do you handle your emotions?
Business is similar to the Olympic Games.
Olympic Games involve multiple countries throughout the globe. Business is now international. With the arrival of the internet, business competition and cooperation is now conducted on a global scale. Different languages, different cultures and different time zones affect the time and manner in which business is transacted.
Build Up and Let Down
Bode Miller, winner of 5 Olympic medals, was the overall favorite for gold for the men’s downhill. After winning three of four downhill races in Sochi, one second’s loss of focused attention or one slight blip on the race course during the most important medal race and Bode missed the podium. The devastation was palpable.
Shaun White won two consecutive gold medals in men’s half pipe. He stepped aside in other events at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games to concentrate on the half pipe. Shaun came back after injuries so severe that he was hospitalized. Once again, the favorite missed the podium. Despite the smile on his face, the disappointment had to permeate all the way to his core.
Are Bode and Shaun the only athletes who trained hard, sacrificed and poured their heart and soul in to their sports only to go home with a lead weight in their heart instead of a gold medal around their neck? No, of course not. Olympic athletes train and sacrifice for one chance at victory in a four year time period. Few athletes compete in more than two or three at the most Olympic Games. It’s not like the Super Bowl where the Broncos can say, “There is always next year.”
As business professionals we know that some deals are “one and done” opportunities, just like that final gold medal run. When the run is finished, there are no “do overs.”
After the decision is final, the winner is announced. Whether it is a business decision or an Olympic contest, there will be a winner and a loser.
Handling the emotions as a winner is easy. Coping with the emotional devastation of a loss is quite a different matter. Returning focused attention to the future instead of the current loss speeds recovery and progress.
Handling Emotions of a Loss
Thomas Edison approach. When asked how he felt about failing 10,000 times in the attempt to create the incandescent light bulb, he replied, “I did not fail. I successfully identified 10,000 ways it would not work.”
Modern bosses would probably not accept 10,000 unsuccessful attempts to do any task though an athlete such as Shaun White might attempt an aerial move over 1,000 times in order to achieve perfection in a medal contest.
Blame approach. Blaming outside factors is an approach, though not a healthy approach. As long as there is blame, there is a lack of individual responsibility.
Debrief approach. Analyzing what went right, what went wrong and how the result could be improved in future situations is a highly productive approach. Focused attention on improving future results eases the pain of the present loss.
Regardless of the approach to handling the emotions of a loss, the faster the emotions can be restored to a positive mindset, the better. Emotional reactions, internal and external, are real and human. Productivity is rarely, if ever, present while delving in negative emotions.
Business decisions and Olympic Games achieve the best results when emotional reactions are positive. Determination, responsibility and focused attention on the goal yield the best results.