How to deliver an Olympic performance in business

As the medal tallies climb, and the number of heart-warming stories of success grows by the day, the Olympics continues to be a constant source of inspiration, providing lessons for people well beyond the sporting world.

For those in business, I believe the Games exemplifies a range of qualities that we can use to improve how we work.

Team GB gymnast Nile Wilson
Business leaders can learn from Team GB gymnast Nile Wilson, who didn’t achieve this feat without setting a few goals and putting in some serious effort. (A.Ricardo/

Set goals like an Olympic athlete

For many athletes, simply reaching the Olympics is the goal.

Hours, weeks, months and years of gruelling training have gone before the ultimate recognition of being able to walk behind their country’s flag in the opening ceremony and compete with the best of the best in their sport or event.

The hard work can not be underestimated and the determination it takes should be the aspiration of anyone with their sights set on business leadership and success.

Setting your sights high, and having a clear aim in mind is, without a doubt, one of the best motivational tools you can have.

It doesn’t have to be an immediate goal – as Olympians have shown us, the biggest rewards are rarely an overnight win – but simply knowing what you want to achieve can give you the stamina to fight for it.

In a recent blog, I reflected on the importance of retaining this level of focus: “One of the things that has helped me to remain motivated throughout my career is my desire to ‘Be Something More’. This phrase was printed on a poster that I put up on my bedroom wall as a youngster living a home and it has helped me to shape my approach to work and to life more generally.”


Team work takes you to the top

Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Jessica Ennis-Hill. They might be the faces of the Olympics, but behind them there is a huge group of coaching and administration staff. Not to mention all of the mums, dads, partners and siblings who provide vital emotional support (and chauffeuring services).

Although they are not the ones on television, that support crew is a vital part of the success that the sports stars experience.

In business, team work is equally important. No one person can do it all – or at least, do it all well. So make sure you have people around you that believe in your mission, have skills that you don’t and can fulfil the essential roles and tasks required for business success.

You then need to get everyone talking. Watch any of the Olympics events and you will see the competitors continually communicating with each other and their coaches – the gymnastics, synchronised diving and tennis doubles are great examples – to ensure they’re aligned and also for motivation and support.

Great communication in a company is crucial too. It will enable you to maximise results and achieve more than you can as an individual. By supporting one another in a business, you can also learn faster and make fewer mistakes.


Develop a gold-medal attitude

A gold-medal mindset does not come from fearing failure.

Using positive self-talk and mental imagery, and managing emotions effectively, are skills that professional athletes frequently allude to when speaking about what helps them to reach the heights of their sports.

Maintaining a positive outlook, and visualising a successful outcome is not just a mental device for Olympians, it is something that can assist everyone in their day-to-day lives.

When facing challenges in business, taking a positive stance and looking for ways to solve a problem, rather than dwelling on the negative, is the best way to move forward.

In another of my previous blogs, I mentioned that inspirational leaders tend to have a bold visions: “Whether this is outselling competitors, developing groundbreaking products or services that advance industry standards or meeting ambitious growth targets, being able to think big and articulate their goals clearly and convincingly helps to set the best businesspeople apart.”

So, as the Rio Olympics draw to a close, I believe it’s not only worth celebrating the wins and the medals, but also the incredible drive, commitment, gruelling work and passion that the athletes and the their support teams have brought to this event. For me, that is what’s truly inspiring about the Games.


Chris Niarchos is founder and chairman of The Cobra Group of Companies, which includes the global field-marketing organisation Appco Group and high-performance race-car manufacturer McLaren GT.   


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