Office Olympics: What it takes to become a workplace warrior

Over the past two weeks, I, along with millions of other people around the globe, watched as the world’s top athletes in Rio competed with intensity and vigor to bring back medals to their home countries. While it’s a far-fetched idea that I would have ever qualified in my twenties for Team USA in any sport, I can’t help but think about how the determination of these athletes can continue to inspire us all to embrace the “Olympic Spirit” in our workplaces.

Staying Focused.

I remember when I worked with the CEO of Brasil Telecom (now Oi) to expand on her conviction that the same discipline athletes demonstrate can be put into corporate practice. She formed the internal practice called Viva Mais (Live More/Enjoy Life), in 2002 as a cultural transformation through sports, health and leisure. She appointed a special team to implement new initiatives to boost employee health, productivity and motivation, infusing her beliefs and passion as an athlete into the company.

For example, the team turned off all elevators, forcing everyone to take more steps. They invited stretching experts to encourage relaxation breaks. They hosted “Breakfast Runs/Walks”. The CEO even started a competitive runners group so that anyone – from an assistant to a VP – could have the opportunity to run with her and speak in a casual setting (if they could keep up, of course).

Health and wellness remained one of the core values of the organization and at the time became ingrained in every part of the way it did business, including its marketing and PR strategy. Impressively, productivity in the company skyrocketed by 80%.

Promoting Teamwork.

Studies have shown that the presence of partnership and teamwork can impact the overall performance of a company. Even more recently, researchers found that a collaborative culture can empower women in male-dominated workplaces.

Brainstorming is one way to work as a team to generate creative solutions to a problem. At Paragon, our team is constantly challenged to not only come up with plans and programs, but develop seemingly outrageous designs and concepts that can be edited down to deliver effective, customized programs. Brainstorming is a process that can bring out the creative, hidden talents of the team, and according to Steve Buchholz, author of Creating the High Performance Team, the “collective mind of the group” is always much greater than that of any one individual.

Arguably nothing brings people together from all different nations, cultures, and backgrounds quite like the Olympics. By uniting over common sports and the thrill of international competition, athletes push one another to achieve the seemingly impossible. Similarly, as teammates in the workplace, we can not only come together to push one another to think bigger, but we can also unite to celebrate victories and support each other in our defeats.

Playing to Win.

Who doesn’t enjoy a little friendly competition from time to time? It’s this competitive spirit that pushes each of us to go further and aim higher.

For example, would a little friendly competition encourage you to exercise more? A recent study suggests it might. Comparing performance to average peers – in addition to offering financial incentives – proved to be the most effective method for increasing physical activity among teams of employees, according to new research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The study shows that different combinations of social comparison feedback and financial incentives can lead to a significant difference in outcomes within workplace competitions.

The Olympics are naturally all about embracing the competitive spirit. Every day, we witness how these athletes are motivated by beating world records – some of which are their own! Thankfully, for many of us, achieving recognition in the workplace does not require Herculean strength or magnetic hand-eye coordination.

But Olympic athletes don’t become superhuman overnight. Through extensive training and discipline, they are continuously focused on the long-term goal.

You and I may not be contending for medals, but we can certainly find ways to practice the same diligence in the workplace. By keeping our eyes on the prize, constantly raising the bar and setting new goals, there will be no limit to our feats as workplace warriors.

This post was written for Paragon by Ivette Almeida.

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