- Everyone wants a medal or a promotion, but the journey to get there is what matters most.
- Rose Monday, three-time Olympic coach, said hard work is needed on the track and in the office.
- Olympic tennis coach David Nainkin said managing elite talent requires prioritizing their time.
Managing high-performers, whether on the playing field or in the office, can be challenging.
Olympic coaches David Nainkin and Rose Monday told Insider how they help their athletes succeed on the international stage. Managers can use these same techniques to help employees excel in the office.
The Tokyo Olympics look different from past iterations of the game — with concerns over COVID-19 preventing fans from attending the event, and a series of racist decisions casting a shadow over the international sporting competition.
Despite the controversies, Monday, Team USA’s women’s track and field head coach, said the coaches and athletes do their best to focus on the tasks within their control. And while, running faster, higher, and stronger this year will take extra focus, she knows that with dedication and a level-head, her athletes will succeed — and so will your employees.
“You can’t hide hard work, you just can’t,” Monday said, “there are no shortcuts, whether it’s in business or in sports.”
Understand your high-performer and push accordingly
Natural talent alone can earn you many things. But it’s not enough to secure a job promotion … or a gold medal.
To succeed at the highest level of business or sports, leaders need to push their talent to continuously grow. In tennis, where the skills needed to excel take time to develop, being naturally talented is only a small part of a long journey, said Nainkin, Team USA’s men’s head tennis coach.
A coach’s job is to keep their athletes focused on honing the abilities that can lead them to triumph, said Nainkin. But constant growth can be difficult to maintain.
“The better the athlete, the harder it is to have marginal gains, because their skills are more developed,” Nainkin said. Which is why he prioritizes narrowing the focus of the athlete’s training. Sport and industry leaders need to invest time in understanding the needs of their high-performers so they can better push them towards their next success.
Managers need to help their employees set a goal, and then give them the tools needed to work towards that goal, said Monday.
“You put your goal out there and then you plan accordingly. You have to do that,” she said. “You have to set the goals and you have to work hard to reach those goals.”
Keeping your cool in victory and defeat
But, hard work is not the silver bullet against defeat — athletes and employees will always face failure.
Coaches and managers need to be prepared to help their talent overcome physical and mental hurdles.
Olympians can often seem superhuman, but they, like the rest of us, experience the emotions that come with winning and losing. The key to leading an athlete or employee is learning to manage these emotions, for yourself and your worker, Nainkin said.
Winning and confidence go hand in hand,” he added, but so do failure and doubt. Leaders and talent alike should be cautious about basking in the inevitable wins and losses of a game or a business, because those feelings distract from the next competition, or the next project, he said.
And while these tips can help managers lead their talent, it’s important to remember that every high-performer needs unique guidance.
“Every individual’s a little different,” Nainkin said. “I don’t speak to each athlete the same. It’s very individualized when it comes to management of what makes different people fire.”