As you may have gathered I am a big sports fan and I see many parallels between sporting achievement and achievement in the business world. This summer I was struck by a number of examples of athletes not giving up when all seemed to be lost. The picture above is probably the most striking I encountered. It shows the 400m Final at the World Athletics Championships. Christine Ohuruogu had been behind for the entire race and looked to be beaten. She kept going down the finishing straight and managed to dip at the line. The result was that she beat Amantle Montsho clocking the exact same time of 49.41 seconds, but it was the Briton who was deemed the winner by four thousandths of a second.
The other example was watching Bradley Wiggins at the World Road Cycling Championships – Time Trial. He would have known that part way into the race he stood no chance of winning gold, as Tony Martin was in unbelievable form and already ahead on time. What impressed me is that he kept going through the pain right to the very end of the race, and in the end claimed a silver medal by 2.25 seconds from Fabian Cancellara.
Over the years I have been involved in enough programmes and projects to know that I will always come up against those that say “We have no chance of delivering on time. We might as well re-baseline now!” The problem I have with this is that as soon as you concede then you stand no chance of meeting your objective no matter how outlandish the possibility might seem. Just like Christine Ohuruogu and Bradley Wiggins you have to stick to your own game plan and make every effort to achieve the outcome you are after. There might also be that point where the reality sets in that you aren’t going to get the gold. Do you throw your arms in the air pack up your toys and go home or do you focus on the next goal of getting as close as possible to winning?
In my experience many times I have seen what might have been a two week miss turn into a two month miss and significant additional cost because people take their foot of the gas when winning is no longer likely. We have to learn to live with the discomfort that we might fail in order to succeed more times than most. Too often there is the temptation to not push through that final bit of pain when we are just on the verge of success.
I still find it strange that people somehow think that success will just be a walk in the park and everything will go to plan. I have a simple three step strategy to delivering success in a business context.
- Things will go wrong – don’t be surprised!
- You will need to get creative and be clear on what would need to be true for you to be successful.
- Never give up until all is said and done.
What are your strategies for success in business?