What can Olympic performances teach us about business performance?

By evoke
April 26, 2010

Leaders’ Lunch summary

One of the participants brought this interesting information to the conversation:

Imagine a soccer team where:

  • only 4 of 11 players knew which goal was theirs
  • only 2 of 11 would care
  • only 2 of 11 would know what position they play
  • all but 2 of 11 would be competing against their own team instead of the opponent


Based on a survey by Stephen Covey of 23,000 employees in companies across varied industries:


  • only 37% of employees understand clearly what their company is trying to achieve
  • only 1 in 5 is enthusiastic about the company’s goal
  • only 1 in 5 had a clear line of sight between their tasks and company goals
  • only 15% felt enabled to execute key goal
  • only 20% fully trusted their organization

Comments from the Leaders’ Lunch relating to the above:

Exceptional athletic performances require clear, bold goals that inspires passion and the appropriate resources to achieve the goals

  • “Own The Podium” program had a bold, unapologetic and unCanadian goal of coming first in the world at the Olympics
  • It was supported by a well-funded training infrastructure
  • The result was Canada winning the most gold medals of any country ever in the Winter Olympics
  • This is in contrast to many businesses, which establish modest, ambiguous and uninspiring goals, resulting in employees just going through the motions in their effort to achieve them
  • Clear, bold and inspiring goals will motivate employees to behave more like high-performance athletes: giving an exceptional effort, staying focused on what matters, having a commitment to continuous improvement and picking themselves up when they get knocked down.


Do you have clear, bold organizational goals that inspire your employees to perform better, your suppliers to contribute more and, most importantly, your customers to buy?

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