Behind the gold medals

Picture of female sat behind laptop having a conversation

Coming out of the most successful Olympics for team GB, where the medal tally put us only second to the US, and surpassed London 2012, it is easy to see why we are hero worshipping the athletes who made us proud. Whilst the performance of our athletes was undeniably exciting, watching their interaction with their coaches and the role they played was equally absorbing. Before, during and after each performance the coaches were on point, in a huddle, sharing insight and suggesting tweaks, motivating, and importantly, lifting an athlete’s spirits and refocusing concentration after a sub optimum outcome.

In the days running up to the opening ceremony the BBC ran a series of in depth profile programmes about the athlete and the coach, or sometimes just the coach. It brought to life the mechanics of the partnership between the two. The athlete bringing the talent, motivation and aspirations, the coach bringing the insight, experience and attention to detail in every aspect of the athlete’s performance. Both were essential to getting the best possible outcome, ultimately a medal and ideally a gold.

The dynamics of this relationship is a great one for explaining the partnership between coaches and leaders in the workplace. Like an athlete, the coachee is in the spotlight – their performance visible. In the background, unseen by most is the coach, quietly and with total focus, exploring the detail of each element that impacts on the coachee’s outcomes and performance. The coach is the support that helps the leader to understand themselves, their thinking, encouraging them to be courageous, explore their choices, and helps guide the exploration to the unlocking of full potential. Often, like an athlete’s coach, the workplace coach is looking to break old habits that no longer serve the leader well, to encourage moving from comfort to discomfort so that superior performance can be achieved; the prize being the workplace gold medal equivalent of strong, inspiring leadership and all the  recognition that goes with it. And the reward for the coach? The knowledge that you have helped someone grow and achieve their personal best – a very satisfying role indeed.