On Your Marks, Get Set, Go!


Did you have the opportunity to watch the recent Summer Olympics on TV? The games were thrilling as always. And so many great athletes stood out such as gymnasts Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman, volleyballers Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, swimmers Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin, and runners Usain Bolt and Oscar Pistorius.

While watching the track competition, I took note of the runners just before their races started. The TV cameras zoomed right in for the close-up shots of their faces. You could see that they were getting into the zone of high performance.

Then came the three commands we are all so familiar with, On Your Marks, Get Set, and Go. It occurred to me that these three steps form a part of the leadership process.

On Your Marks - This first command says to the runner, Get in your lane. Get on your starting spot. This in essence is the leadership property of alignment. Getting into the right place to perform.

Watching the high diving competition, especially the synchronized divers, inspired this blog post. The synchronized pairs were extraordinary. Not only is the high board 3 stories above the pool, but the teams must dive in unison with the utmost precision. Talk about alignment!

Get Set - The second command tells the runner to assume the starting position. This is the leadership property of focus. You can see the intense focus in their bodies and in their faces.

After many of the races, the sportscaster on the scene would interview some of the athletes. I remember one such interview with swimmer Missy Franklin where she was asked how she transforms from the chatty and fun loving girl we see before the races to the intense competitor who wins the gold. Her answer: she focuses.

Go - Then the third command signals the take off. This is the leadership property of execution. Like an arrow shot from a bow, the runners dash from their starting spots, legs, arms, and hearts pumping round the track.

But there is a fourth step, a step that precedes the three above. It's the step that prepared these men and women physically, mentally, and emotionally to compete on the world stage. It's the step I would call Design and it represents the leadership property of planning & preparation. Planning and Preparation includes a great deal, such as goal setting, communicating, training, and building a team. It also includes commitment and perseverance.

South African sprinter Oscar Pistorious, one of the most notable competitors of the 2012 games, is a great example of this fourth leadership property. He runs on artificial legs. Born with a severe deformity in both limbs, he had to undergo surgery at a young age which left him without lower legs and feet. Despite this disability, he demonstrated his ability to run! Now known as "the Blade Runner," Pistorius runs on carbon fiber prosthetic legs. And he is among the fastest people on Earth. What an extraordinary example of the human spirit's determination to overcome adversity. And the importance of commitment and perseverance.

It occurred to me that organizational leaders can take a page from these top performers.

Like the high divers, when you ascend the ladder to that diving board, you had better be sure that that is where you want to go. You had better be sure that you have a Plan and have Prepared yourself. That you and your team are well Aligned with a clear goal that all understand. That you are able to Focus when the time comes to bring your "A" game. And that you Execute with excellence for the sake of your customers and your company.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Wednesday August 15, 2012

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