The 7 Attributes of an Olympic Class Organization

Being a winner … and staying a winner … sounds a lot easier than it is.

M ost of us who played any sport over the years has learned there’s a very fine line between victory and “almost.”

The 7 Attributes of an Olympic Class Organization

How Fast is a Flash of Time?

Most of us know that the difference among the greatest athletes in any sport is a very narrow margin.

While there is an overabundance of trophy-giving these days just for participating, we know that people will soon tire of just “participating” if they are never “winning”.

Can you identify what’s common among the items I’ve described below?

  • It lasts about 300 to 400 milliseconds.
  • It occurs about 10 to 20 times per minute.
  • Over the course of a day, excluding about 8 hours of sleep, it amounts to about an hour and 20 minutes on average, a fair chunk of time in our waking day.
  • If you consider that the universe is about 14 billion years old, it lasts about 54,000 years would pass by during any given span of those milliseconds. 

Some might argue that we can’t see anything during such a short period.

What period is that?

Simply the blink of your eye.

What’s the Difference between Victory & Defeat?

It lasts about 1/3 of a second.

It ain’t much but in that short period, a lot can occur.

For Olympic athletes, the difference between a gold medal and fourth place averages about one-half of 1% when measuring fitness, according to the U.S. Olympic Committee’s psychologists.

The blink of an eye lasts much longer.

That’s the small measure that differentiates superior performance and watching the medal ceremony from the bleachers.

Not sure about that?

Here’s a simple test: Name a previous bronze medalist in any Olympic sport. Anyone?

Thought so, as I dare say none of us remembers the name of a bronze medalist, let alone someone not on the medal stand at all.

How Will Your Company Get to the Top of the Medal Stand?

When we apply this to our organizations, here’s a few of the questions you must ask:

  • Are we even in contention for a medal?

  • Is it possible we’re just an also-ran, struggling to keep up and unwilling to put in the work to win?

  • Will anyone even remember our name?

I’m pulling for you.

If you have the drive, devotion and the discipline to win … in immeasurable quantity … wouldn’t that be enough to make you an Olympian?

It’s a great start, but even if you ARE willing to put in the work and want nothing less than victory for you and your company, it’s not enough.

Let’s take a look at what it takes to build a company of Olympian proportions – not in size but in success?

Consider The 7 Key Attributes Required for a Winning Organization.

Keep reading to download the Olympic Attributes Assessment Form to see how your company measures up.

1. Strength

We can measure strength in a number of important ways, but it must start with the quality of your leadership team.

General Joe Dunford, #7 on Fortune Magazine’s “World’s Greatest 50 Leaders” is a Marine four-star general and is currently the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, our country’s highest military position.

Dunford told Fortune that his first battalion commander told him the three rules to success.

The first?

“Surround yourself with good people.”

“Over the years,” says Dunford, “I’ve forgotten the other two.”

In concept, it’s very simple and you don’t need another rule if you relentlessly focus on this one:

There is absolutely no substitute for hiring and retaining “A” players to create the best possible leadership team. Period.

Great athletes = great performers = great performance.

2. Power

While this bears a family resemblance to strength, it’s more focused on the explosive bursts of strength required at critical moments.

Power determines your business’ ability move quickly to attack initiatives by applying all the resources you can muster at that precise moment.

When you have an “all hands on deck” challenge that requires a rapid, full force response, your power will make all the difference.

3. Stamina

This fitness attribute refers to your ability to sustain the skills and capabilities of your organization over extended periods of time.

More than anything, it requires proven and reliable systems and processes to ensure a consistent and sustainable delivery of your products and services.

Ongoing training, cross-training and education is essential to achieve a high level of fitness in this category.

4. Agility

This characteristic refers to your organization’s strategic commitment to lifelong learning and your ability to respond quickly to change.

We’ve all learned this lesson, probably many times:

The only thing that never changes is change itself.

Our ability to create initiatives to keep our organization nimble and agile is critical to our success.

You’re learning every day, but if you can’t implement anything new, you’re going to lose the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and improve your prospects for the future.

You also need to be hyper-alert to changes around you so you can react with alacrity and purpose.

If you are slow to react, you can be dead certain you won’t be standing on the medal platform.

5. Flexibility

In some ways, flexibility is a kissing cousin to agility.

In this case, I’m referring to the operational flexibility that allows you to deploy your resources in unique and varying ways to quickly respond to the needs of your customers and the marketplace.

While agility requires an eternal commitment to strategic change, flexibility defines your organization’s intellectual and emotional capacity to flex its financial, human and physical talents to respond to changing circumstances.

Learn how you can embed flexibility into your company DNA by reading 7 Steps to Build Flexibility into Your Company’s DNA

6. Coordination

[pullquote]The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” ~ Vince Lombardi[/pullquote]

For athletes, being coordinated requires that all of their mental and physical attributes work in harmony, with choreographed timing, to create the desired movement.

It’s not every man for himself, but every woman for each other.

No one left behind.

No one finishing a project late at night without others pitching in to get it done.

Coordination means that we need to burn down the silos and build a collaborative culture that synchronizes and integrates all the parts so that a common goal can be achieved.

Politics is anathema to coordinated organizations.

Blame doesn’t exist.

Mistakes get made but they’re quickly remedied.

Everyone moves forward.

This is my favorite saying that captures the essence of this point:

“Everyone dives for the ball before it hits the ground.”

7. Balance

While coordination informs it, balance requires sure footing and the recognition that short-term goals and long-term objectives should be applied in equal measure … or as close as you can get.

Every organization has multiple goals.

Sometimes, immediate profitability and positive cash flow is essential to keep the company solvent and strong.

At other times, you’re investing every extra penny to build capability for the future and sacrificing short-term gains to do it.

You also have many constituencies … employees, suppliers, customers, shareholders, your community … and each of their needs must be met in a consistent fashion.

It’s challenging because it’s always changing … just as our individual balance is always shifting among personal, family, business and community responsibilities.

But, without this balance, your organization will be dashing between pillar and post, unable to realize any of its objectives because the goal du jure is pursued at the expense of other objectives.

Your organization must shape its multiple, and sometimes conflicting, goals into a cohesive strategy that balances the company’s goals as well as its various constituencies.

Download the Olympic Attributes Assessment Form

Why not take a few minutes to evaluate your own organization.

I’ve created a simple Olympic Attributes Assessment Form so you can rate your Company on the The 7 Key Attributes Required for a Winning Organization.

While there’s no way to create a precise profile of these attributes, this checklist will give you a pretty good idea of where your company is thriving and where it’s struggling to achieve the success you’re seeking.

I think you’ll find that your gut instinct will help you find a pretty sound rating for each of these attributes … and like it or not, will identify a meaningful threshold to help you focus on improving your weaknesses and strengthening your capabilities.

Question: How Did You Rate Your Organization?

How did you do?

If you’ve uncovered a few challenges in this exercise, we can think about it together to figure out some steps you can take to strengthen your capabilities to build a more successful business.

Go ahead and hop on over to our Facebook Page to leave your comment or question. I visit it every day and look forward to hearing from you and expanding our discussion of this concept.

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