I’ll level with you all, prior to a week last Friday, I wasn’t too concerned with the fact that the Olympics were being held in London. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the spectacle of ‘the games’ themselves, but the fact that it was in our back yard (relatively speaking) did little to heighten my excitement. Equally, given the snippets of information that had been leaked to the press concerning Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, I dare say I was pretty apprehensive about the whole experience (“wow, this could be pretty embarrassing” was my general thought process).
Shame on me!
In Boyle we trust (I bet that is a phrase seldom used…especially at the Doctors). Who would have thought that seeing the ‘green and pleasant lands’ stripped back to reveal the harsh toil and sacrifice of the industrial world, would fill me with huge pride? The “soot-vomiting mills” that Charlotte Bronte spoke of are part of our history and represented an eventual step change in the standards of living and technology that most enjoy today, whether you liked them (think Dyer, Dalton, etc) or not (see ‘romantics’ such as Wordsworth and Coleridge). There is of course the counter argument of those who do not reap these benefits, but that is for another blog!
So then, what parallels and insight can we draw from what we have witnessed so far with our own challenges with employee engagement?
Well firstly I don’t think anyone can deny the success of the opening ceremony, it was as ironic, complex and beautiful as Britain itself. The captivating and successful story telling that Danny Boyle masterful unfurled before the world was in every sense an education on how to engage. Making people feel proud of the journey they have been on (whether they were part of that journey or not) and creating a sense of excitement about the path yet taken, in a manner that everyone can grasp, is fundamental to engagement
We have witnessed the emotional drivers of sport that provide athletes with the motivation and inspiration to achieve their goals. Similarly, in order for employees to be engaged in the workplace they need to feel some emotional commitment to the work itself. There are a number of factors at play that will help to generate this commitment, including providing meaning and purpose to their work. Having a common purpose establishes a clear sense of direction for teams and is a powerful way to ensure that there is commitment and consistency at all levels in what you are trying to achieve as a whole.
Leaders can enable their reports to feel valued and proud of their achievements by recognizing their performance and commitment to succeed, even when the results aren’t quite what was hoped for/anticipated. Think back to the emotional scenes at Eton Dorney last Saturday when Hunter and Purchase got pipped on the line by Denmark…although inconsolable in ‘defeat’ (give me a medal of any colour please!), there can be no accusatory finger pointing or talk of anyone being let down.
Providing opportunities for growth and professional development maximises the potential of employees by giving them the chance to learn new skills/behaviours/knowledge and affording them the platform to progress within the organisation. Equally from an organisational point of view, it handily helps to give you a few ticks towards priorities linked to retention and succession. An example to draw reference from in the Olympics is the ‘Go Ride’ scheme that has nurtured and developed the now household names of Laura Trott and Jason Kenny.
A final lesson is that people like to feel a sense of community, knowing that they are all part of the same team, working together to achieve the ‘bigger goals’. I can’t begin to recall the number of “one big family” comments I have heard from the Team GB athletes, articulating the sense of togetherness and peer to peer support they are providing each other with.
The City bankers, who with their greed and self-aggrandisement, hold us to ransom by threatening to take their skills elsewhere will come and go. It is the innovative, quirky, driven, bold and brave individuals that have sculptured GB’s identity. I for one am hugely proud of this and thank Danny Boyle and all the athletes for reminding me what makes Britain Great. By Christ we have a lot to shout about!