Many of us think we could have been great athletes, or champion football players, or if we missed out then as parents it's difficult to step back when our children are on the field/pool/gym/track.
We also often align the sporting champion metaphor to business and working life. There are similarities, and I'd suggest that the traits of super champions are ones we would look for in talented employees.
So what separates the difference between athletes who overcame adversity and went on to become world-class (what the researchers call super champions) and those who struggled in the face of hardship (the heartbreakingly named “almost champions”).
Talent development researchers Dave Collins, Áine MacNamara, and Neil McCarthy identify the following.
Follow your interests. Starting in their youth, super champions showed great interest in their respective sports. So in business, do your salespeople show real interest either in the job they do, or the industry they work in to be able to go the extra mile?
The best goal is also the simplest: Get better. Super champions were driven from within. Their primary concern was self-improvement. Do you operate a continuous learning environment, that enables your team to get better day after day?
Seek empowering, lasting mentorship. The coaches of super champions were empowering and “mostly seemed to take a longer-term perspective,” the researchers wrote. Are you only looking to the end of next quarter and immediate results, or taking a longer term view on the overall performance of your teams.
Brad Stulberg finishes off by saying (@bstulberg)
Individuals who demonstrate persistent effort follow their interests; practice foremost to get better, not to outdo others; derive satisfaction from within; and feel constantly supported, but not pressured, in their journey toward achievement. If these criteria are in place, experiencing failure doesn’t weaken motivation — it bolsters it.
So as leaders and managers, we should try to embrace the super champion in all of us.
The researchers found that super champions were characterized by an almost fanatical reaction to challenge.” They viewed challenges in a positive light — as opportunities to grow — and overcame them thanks to a “never satisfied” attitude.