I had the opportunity to meet a Japanese shooting coach last week. He was once Japan’s champion shooter, though he did not manage to get an Olympic medal despite being of Olympic standard because they scrapped his specialist event in the year he was supposed to compete.
We were talking about winning championships, and how athletes in Japan are selected to be trained into national champions.
He said potential champions are picked from school according to their physique and skills. But the issue of being a world champion goes beyond this and even goes beyond excellent mental management – what many people refer to as the pressure of high stake competitions.
If a champion is motivated to keep pushing herself or himself to higher and higher standards because of motivation that comes from winning (in other words, their motivation to win comes from winning), that is fine for national championships…but it is not good enough for world championships.
In a world competition, the standard of the best of the best in the world is very, very close. At this point, if the motivation to keep going stems from winning, then the motivation is blown to pieces if the athlete fails to win a number of times. And failing to win is not so difficult among a small crowd of champions who are all world class.
What keep these athletes pushing on with determination and tenacity is that they truly enjoy the sport – their motivation is not primarily about winning, it is about enjoying the sport and wanting to be better and better at it. Winning is just a milestone, or a testimonial, along the way.
I think this point contains a critical lesson for us as leaders of organisations: if we try to motivate our people to be the best company, whichever way we measure that, whether it be profits, or ROE, or stock price or whatever, there is a limit to how well we can keep going even if we get to be No. 1, because after getting to be No. 1, we must keep striving to maintain the position of No. 1.
When the company gets to be No. 1, those who are behind will want to follow, to mimic, to dissect and figure out, how to beat No. 1. So No. 1 has to keep moving ahead in order to keep being No. 1.
Keeping the people in the company striving year-in-year-out to keep up at being No. 1 is a big demand on stamina, focus, energy and determination. It is very difficult. The real key to sustained success lies in having people who enjoy their work, who find meaning and purpose in what they do, who find their work to be an integral part of what makes their life worthwhile.
So as leaders we need to recognise that getting our people to enjoy and to feel good (not just be good) about what they do is not an afterthought, not a “bonus”, and not a “nice-to-have”, but a critical criterion for continued winning.
We must ENJOY WHAT WE DO IF WE WANT TO KEEP WINNING. And that desire to Win with Honour must start from within each one of us.
Photo credit: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/713SJrxlxRL._SL1000_.jpg