Claire Carver-Dias, PhD, MA, OLY, ACC
It was midway through the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. As I travelled up thirty floors in a packed lift, the Canadian Olympic medal tally flashed up on the elevator television screen. The stranger beside me announced to the sardined passengers, "I am so proud to be Canadian right now. Our Olympians are doing so well…” Then she added, "It's too bad our summer Olympians suck so bad."
As a summer Olympian, I cringed a little, but remained silent. While the wording of the woman’s criticism was a little harsh, I can’t help but agree with the spirit of her comments.
The fact of the matter is Canada’s Summer Olympic team does not achieve the same level of success as its winter Olympic team does.
The elevator experience moved me to thinking about the impact of investing in talent, and how a targeted approach to developing people can reap impressive returns over time. You see, historically, Canada’s winter Olympians struggled as much as its summer athletes to win a spot on the podium. Here’s the math: “In the first 17 Winter Games, Canada won a grand total of 64 medals. In the last four, Canada has won 82” (Toronto Star, Feb 4, 2014).
So, what happened?
As Canada geared up for a Winter Olympic Games on home soil in 2010, organizations like the Canadian Olympic Committee, Own the Podium, and corporate sponsors, began to invest heavily in sport and athletes. Focused talent-development programs took root. Results improved.
The story is not just a Canadian one, either. Australia saw its own summer Olympic medal tally sky-rocket in the years leading up to the 2000 Games in Sydney, as it focused its funding on state of the art facilities, top-notch training programs, and on tailored development programs for high-potential medal contenders and sports. The same story is true of China, or Great Britain as a result of their investment in the lead up to their own Games.
The professional service world can certainly learn from this Olympic people-growth model, but here are some things to keep in mind as you map out your business’ talent development plan:
I hope that the business world takes the sporting approach to performance by adopting more of these high-potential initiatives. Because one thing is clear, these intense, tailored and targeted talent development programs work. Just check out Canada’s latest winter Olympic medal tally for proof of that.
CLAIRE CARVER DIAS, PhD, MA, OLY, ACC
Claire is an Olympic medalist, PhD, professor and communications consultant who specializes in designing and delivering soft-skill learning, talent and coaching solutions for her clients across the professional service world. Additionally, she runs presentation and communication skill development programming for corporate leaders, Olympians and Paralympians. She is a sought after facilitator, coach and speaker.
Contact Claire to discuss your firm’s talent development needs: firstname.lastname@example.org; +1.905.901.4740.