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What Leaders Can Learn from Olympic Champions

Posted by Kristin Baird on August 6th, 2012 • No Comments »

I love watching the Olympics—not just for the actual contest but for the stories behind the competitors. Before they win the gold, silver, or bronze, and before we make them larger-than-life heroes, we get a chance to sneak a glimpse at the athletes’ often humble beginnings. In doing so, we learn that many of them have had incredible struggles, made great sacrifices, and have overcome adversity to achieve success. Were these incredible athletes genetically programmed for this success? Undoubtedly, there have to be physical attributes that are predictors of athleticism, but, if you’ve read Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success you’ll recognize the truth that real success is not from the genetic code but rather in the 10,000 hours of practice.

In today’s environment of immediate feedback, it’s hard to remember that it takes time to develop sustainable skill. Of course, practice makes perfect, but there’s more. In listening to the Olympians’ success stories, I’ve found some common denominators behind their greatness. These include:

  • Setting personal goals
  • Unwavering determination
  • Perseverance regardless of external influences
  • Willingness to be coached

What if every healthcare leader applied these qualities in their quest for excellence? It would mean remaining vigilant, holding themselves and others accountable, and keeping the vision in mind at all times. The hardest one of all is perseverance. Healthcare leaders have so many competing priorities that, in spite of good intentions, the patient experience often takes a backseat to other demands.

When it comes to creating a culture of excellence, remember to think like an Olympian: Excellence doesn’t happen by chance, it happens by choice.

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Baird Consulting


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