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Take a Cue from the Olympics to be the Best Business Athlete

Watching the London Olympics, I can’t help but marvel at the dedication the athletes have exhibited to compete on their sport’s biggest stage. For most of these men and women, they’ve spent a lifetime conditioning their bodies and minds to reach their peak performance. As business leaders, we can learn from these athletes’ training regimens and discipline to shape our own professional successes. 

Business executives have incredibly demanding schedules, packed with domestic and international travel and tiresome physical demands. But travel doesn’t mean taking a vacation day from your routine because it’s easy to stay active on a trip if you’re prepared. Throw comfortable walking shoes in your bag, walk around the airport on a layover, do yoga in your hotel room or only stay at hotels that offer on-site gyms. Feeling good physically and staying in shape will give you more energy and stamina to perform your job. 

Taking care of your body also means providing it with nutritious fuel. We must be cognizant of staying hydrated and making the extra effort to find healthy food options. While our schedules get busy, squeezing in three healthy meals a day will keep your mind sharp and focused. When dining out, remember that the average restaurant portion is twice the recommended serving size — so be sure to ask for a doggie bag if there’s a mini fridge in your hotel room.  

Dedication and discipline also help keep business athletes at the top of their game. Studying your competition, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses and determining where opportunities exist are time well spent. When you have a solid understanding of the playing field, you can better anticipate competitors’ actions, build forward-looking strategies and react swiftly and decisively. Honing keen decision-making skills can make the difference between a business victory and a misstep.Every business athlete is a member of a team, and that team’s success depends on its members coming together cohesively despite different working styles, competencies and training backgrounds. We must find synergies amongst our diverse personalities and opinions to work towards our shared goal: helping our organization “win.” “Winning” can be defined in many ways — employee retention, revenues, profits or customer satisfaction — the important part is that we pool our unique talents to overcome the obstacles before us.  

In the 2008 Summer Olympics, sprinter Usain Bolt stirred a controversy for his 100m dash performance. With a considerable lead, Bolt slowed up at the end of the race to celebrate his victory, which despite not finishing strong to the end, still resulted in a world record and a gold medal. Usain Bolt’s success undoubtedly has inspired others to train harder, endure more and run faster. The next time he slows to check on his lead, another runner could blow past him.The same holds true for business athletes. When you’re the leader in your sector, your competition will always be hot on your tail. We must be fully committed to finishing strong and recognizing that every day is race day, or we won’t find ourselves crossing the finish line first anymore. 

Our country’s Olympians represent our country both on and off the field. It’s an honor and a responsibility, just like the one we hold as leaders of our organizations. Let’s set the standard for being a “business athlete” by staying healthy, agile, collaborative and focused year round. 

Bernard J. Tyson is president and chief operating officer of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan, Inc. 

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