In this guest article from Jeremy Campbell, CEO of Black Isle Group, we hear why business leaders can encourage greater productivity and wellbeing if they treat teams like elite athletes…
Business often looks to the highest levels of sport to crack the secrets of high performance. In many ways, it’s a more fruitful learning zone than the family unit!
At Black Isle Group we believe there is one learning from sport which is a game changer for business. We’ve been working with Sarah Broadhead, the psychologist to many elite athletes, including Jade Jones – the teenager who went on to win Olympic golds in Taekwondo in 2012 and 2016. Sarah is passionate about focusing on the process and not the end goal. In other words, take the dream of Olympic gold and break it down into the everyday actions you need to move towards, what business guru Jim Collins called, the ‘BHAG’ (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).
In the lead up to the London Olympics in 2012, Sarah and Jade would compile a list each week. It would cover what the teenage athlete would need to do around sleep, diet, stretching, strength, technique, and many other things to move towards her dream of gold. It meant around a dozen specific actions each week. That translated into over 50 small steps each month and more than 500 every year. Sarah is quick to point out that by focusing on the everyday actions you take away the anxiety of the daunting goal.
At the end of each week, athlete and coach would review their progress and agree the small steps for the following week. On this eight-year journey to double gold they were constantly being distracted by things which could push them off course or break the new habits they were embedding. But the everyday actions brought them back on task.
At Black Isle Group we have taken the methodology of our Olympic athletes and supported it with an innovative technology called Nudge. It sits on the smartphones and PCs of our clients. Through the tech, we nudge our clients to carry out those everyday actions which will take them closer to their goal. It is constantly working to help individuals avoid distractions and stay focused on the key things they need to do.
We worked with the managed IT and solutions provider, VCG. Following an acquisition, they were faced with the challenges of bringing together two teams and two cultures while coming out of the COVID pandemic. They wanted to accelerate sales, increase employee engagement, and trying to achieve several behavioural changes across the business.
The numbers were superb. But the standout for me, is seeing the inter-team coaching and support. That is what makes a team succeed together. Sales, Marketing and Pre-Sales, all of which need to coexist for the success of VCG and the customer experience. There is no doubt this approach achieved much more togetherness.
Head of Sales, VCG
We brought the VCG team together for a BIG kick off to establish clear goals and to motivate and inspire them for a ten-week sprint. We worked with them to help create the right “everyday actions” to achieve their BIG goals. We coached senior leaders and helped them peer coach their colleagues in the business.
We rolled out our Nudge technology so that the VCG team got daily reminders to keep them on track. Our Nudge tech brought visibility – especially in the remote world – and meant they could track progress in real time. They described our reporting suite as “gold dust”. Most of all it helped everyone maintain focus.
The results even took us by surprise! They put a stretch target on attracting new business into their sales pipeline and over-achieved that by 360%. Employee engagement went through the roof. They created a performance coaching culture, just like Sarah Broadhurst and Jade Jones.
The group head of sales at VCG, Jeff Wheeldon, said, “The numbers were superb. But the standout for me, is seeing the inter-team coaching and support. That is what makes a team succeed together. Sales, Marketing and Pre-Sales, all of which need to coexist for the success of VCG and the customer experience. There is no doubt this approach achieved much more togetherness.”
Perhaps the biggest insight that people in business can learn from elite athletes is this – Olympians don’t leave the learning in the classroom. They take what they learn and turn it into results. In business, we waste millions and millions of pounds every month in delivering learning but not putting in place the process to put that learning into action.
Our work at Black Isle Group is all about that. Using the psychology and the process of the Olympian athletes we aim to change the way that businesses go about maximising the performance of individuals and their teams.
The challenges of the pandemic and the looming threat of global recession demands a new approach. The choice for businesses is clear – keep doing what you’ve always done or work like Olympians to reach the heights that you dream about.
ABOUT OUR GUEST WRITER
CEO, Black Isle Group
Jeremy is the CEO of Black Isle Group. He is the former Chief People Officer at the global HR, technology and services innovator Ceridian, where he worked for 15 years. He also worked as the Chief Commercial Officer and Managing Director of SD Worx, UK and Ireland. He began his professional career at BUPA. Jeremy is an executive coach and leadership mentor with an executive education at Henley Business School.