Career advice, insights & tips for HR professionals
Sail to success 07/08/2012
Olympic medallist Sarah Ayton and Jo Lee, of organisational development change consultancy AytonLee, reveal their insights to Natalie Cooper in this Q&A.
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- Q. How can we follow our dreams?
- Q. How can we nurture our wellbeing at work?
- Q. How can we keep ourselves inspired?
- Q. What lessons can we learn from athletes?
- Q. How can I inspire those around me?
- Q. How would you sum up your advice?
Q. How can we follow our dreams?
Sarah Ayton (SA) OBE, double Olympic gold medallist in sailing: It had been my dream since the age of 12 to win an Olympic gold. When I watched Sally Gunnell win hers in Barcelona, I thought to myself: ‘Wow, she is amazing. I want to be an Olympic champion’.
If you want something enough, you’ll do whatever it takes to achieve it. Set yourself realistic goals, formulate a plan, work hard, never give up and – most importantly – keep reviewing the process.
Jo Lee (JL), director and lead consultant, AytonLee: We ask people to focus on realistic goals within a timescale of 3-4 years. We support them to visualise those goals in the present tense, write them down, keep talking about them and build a clear action plan to get there. The action plan is all about enjoying the journey to reach your goal – it’s as important as the goal itself.
I loved Sarah’s Olympic goal – ‘world domination’. This wasn’t a dream, it was a realistic goal for her team and they achieved it, twice.
Q. How can we nurture our wellbeing at work?
SA: To be a consistent performer in sailing you have to arrive at an event fully prepared and engaged in what you’re doing. Our events are spread over long periods and, with 11 races over 10 days at the Olympic Games, you have to learn how to switch on and off. In the build-up to the games we give ourselves some downtime because it’s too easy to keep pushing through. If anyone in the team was on a two-day break we didn’t expect them to answer the phone or reply to emails.
Looking after your body is a must – drinking well and eating the right food is something we do as part of our job. If we get this wrong, we see a direct effect on our performance.
JL: I wish corporate organisations would learn lessons from sport more often. We work with individuals and teams to help them increase their resilience – a major part of this is managing wellbeing. Make sure you start the day well, and that you focus on managing your energy. Take regular breaks, eat lunch – away from your desk – and take regular exercise. I would bet that many of our corporate colleagues reading this will be thinking: ‘It’s not possible with the amount of work I have to do’. I’d urge them to re-read Sarah’s comments above and think again about what is possible.
Q. How can we keep ourselves inspired?
JL: This goes back to goals. Do things that motivate you, be with people who inspire you, listen to music that increases your positive mindset, look for opportunities to work with people who make you happy, make sure you have some ‘me’ time and do the thing you love.
Q. What lessons can we learn from athletes?
SA: The biggest message is to keep things simple and enjoy the journey. We are lucky in that we are doing something we love, we are surrounded by like-minded people, energy is high and we’re all working hard to achieve the same goal – to be the best at what we do.
JL: The successful sportspeople I have met have a confidence in their abilities that you can just ‘feel’. They’re all very different, but what they all carry is a personal confidence that comes from achieving great performance. We could learn that it’s ok to acknowledge strengths and be smarter about how we use those strengths to get the most out of people.
Q. How can I inspire those around me?
SA: You have to care. As a leader, it’s my responsibility to make sure everyone in the team is engaged in what they’re doing and enjoying the journey. People are inspired and motivated if they are included, listened to and valued. I need to show that I believe in what we are doing and that I have the energy to achieve our goals.
JL: Authenticity is very inspiring to others. People who are often pointed out to me as role models are individuals who live their personal values, are not afraid to show their vulnerability, and are confident to be themselves.
Q. How would you sum up your advice?
SA: Have a goal, work hard, learn from others, never give up, and enjoy it.
Natalie Cooper, editor, Changeboard
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