My Favourite Competitive Sport is Business

POST DATE Aug 26, 2016

AUTHOR Udo Jahn

Recently the entire world had the pleasure of watching the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The threat of Zika virus didn’t deter many athletes, who came and performed amazing feats that entertained the world. Our Canadian athletes won many medals and like you, I am very proud of them. When an athlete from your country is competing, you almost hold your breath watching them. Seeing them win a medal is even better and fills you with a sense of cheerful national pride. On the other hand, there were also hundreds of athletes who have been training for the majority of their lives, but did not win any medals in this year’s Olympics. The agony of defeat, and walking away with nothing, is tough, and you could see on their faces how much it affected them.

Many athletes are interviewed by reporters after their competitions. Reporters often spend a lot of time reminding the athlete where they placed, instead of talking about the most important things: their training and effort.

To constantly remind an athlete that they did not place in the top three medal-earning spots is like rubbing salt in a wound. The athlete deserves more encouragement than just being reminded that they were the first loser, or last loser. Some interviewers seem to take great delight in remembering the position the athlete placed, and for those reporters, I have some choice words. This is when I begin to get angry watching the games, and want to start ranting about my favourite competitive sport: business. 

In business, we suffer from the same thing every day: we are constantly reminded of the things we are doing wrong.

“You’re not as productive as that other country.”

“Your skill level is too low.”

“Your business plan is terrible.”

It’s implied regularly that we are losers. But who’s doing the criticizing? Back seat observers who call out comments from the sidelines, just like Olympic reporters. Gee, thanks for that, folks.

There are entire government agencies devoted to telling businesses how badly they are doing. Besides government, there are also numerous thinktanks out there doing the same thing. Some of their statements should have probably stayed just swimming around inside the tank, gobbling up plankton.

It’s my opinion that many of these statements should be rephrased in a more positive way. Why do we feel the need to be so negative all the time? Agencies and thinktanks can say, hey, this is what the industry is doing right, and here are some things we need to work on. When presented this way, we are able to leverage the things we are doing well and at the same time, work on the areas we need to improve.

Improvement, for athletes or for businesses, is always incremental. Success is not instantaneous, and it doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t just change your business or your athletic ability by flipping a switch. It’s small, gradual changes and training that slowly improves you over time.

When you compare results with another entity – another Olympian, or another business – you set yourself up for failure. Instead, focus on the long-term improvements that need to be made. Making yourself or your business better, bit by bit every day, will yield huge results weeks, months, and years down the road.

Next time you see negative reporting about business, think of what you would rather hear. 

“Udo, you ended up in 7th place! How do you feel?” I might reply with something like, “Thanks for reminding me that all my hard work has resulted in me losing.” (The rest of my reply has been edited for brevity and professionalism.)

or,

“Udo, that was a heck of a race. Your times are really improving. What do you think you need to do to keep improving those times?” In this case, my reply would be, “Thanks, I really need to train more. The other competitors are great, but if I keep concentrating on improving my weak areas, my times will improve.” 

Wouldn’t it be nice to be encouraged instead of being beaten up as a loser? I guess I’ll end my rant here. The Olympics just reminded me that businesses, as well as athletes, need leadership and encouragement more than they need to be reminded about their losing position.

Do you agree that we need more encouragement and positive leadership in business, or do you believe that focusing on the negative can produce positive results?


Author: Udo Jahn

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