Olympic athletes vs. employees: 3 top motivation techniques

Just like top employees, Olympic athletes are intrinsically motivated by their inherent need to perform and achieve. From a coaching standpoint, it’s important to keep enthusiasm high among both employees and athletes so they are inspired to achieve their goals.

The most important challenge for Olympic coaches is sustaining athlete motivation, and the same applies for businesses today. What feeds a top performer’s motivation can vary, but personal recognition and rewards will inspire both athletes’ and employees’ intrinsic desire to stay competitive.

In a recent Inc.com article, 3 Ways to Keep Your Office Competitive, Angie Hicks shares three ways to keep enthusiasm high at the workplace. The correlation between Olympic athletes and top employees is telling, because both are equally competitive, and motivated by the same three coaching techniques:

  1. Inspire Ambition

The right attitude makes all the difference. Managers should encourage employees to set their own goals and share those goals with the office, which establishes immediate accountability. The same applies for an Olympic athlete: coaches inspire individual athletes to set personal training goals, which makes them accountable, since their individual performance ultimately affects the team’s overall standing at the Olympics. By fostering group involvement, everyone feels empowered and part of team’s success.

  1. Always Evaluate

Employees can’t be competitive if they don’t know where they stand in the office, which is why immediate manager feedback is crucial to their success. Similarly, the feedback athletes receive from their coaches motivates them to improve their skills so they can outweigh the competitor. Positive reinforcement is a great way to inspire both employees’ and athletes’ inherent need to perform. Without immediate feedback, neither would be as competitive.

  1. Reward Accordingly

During the Olympics, the best athletes receive on-the-spot recognition and are rewarded with medals: an extrinsic motivator that publically validates their talent to their peers and the world. Furthermore, if top employees are recognized and rewarded for a specific action with extrinsic motivators, such as an item of their choice, then they are more likely to repeat the behavior. This public recognition will fuel a top employee’s desire to succeed, which only makes them more competitive.

With the 2012 London Olympics upon us, it’s interesting to point out the similarities between these super athletes and top employees. Bottom line: their inherent desire to succeed will always make them competitive, but it’s up to strategic coaching techniques to sustain their motivation.

What do you think is the most important component of sustaining motivation?

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