HR lessons from Olympian Steven Bradbury

by Human Capital20 Mar 2014
It was February 16, 2002, when Steven Bradbury made Olympic history at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics by becoming Australia’s first ever gold medallist: After all of his competitors in the short-course 1000m speed skate crashed, he skated to victory to claim the number one spot.
 
His under-the-radar strategy clearly paid off, so what can HR learn from this Olympic champ?
 
Lesson: Slow and steady (sometimes) wins the race
Occasionally, the best way forward in HR is to play it safe and steady, just as Bradbury did in the Salt Lake City speed skate quarterfinals. Bradbury was not favourited to win any Olympic medals, let alone gold, but his strategy was simply to keep out of the way of the other racers and hope for a collision. A crash that took out the other four finalists on the final turn allowed Bradbury to coast to the finish line – thereby winning Australia’s first ever Winter Olympic gold medal.
 
Lesson: Hard work always pays off… eventually
Long hours, staff complaints, angry unions, difficult employees, uncooperative line managers, having to let people go… Sometimes, when we’re having a bad day at work, it can seem like there’s no end in sight. On those days, Bradbury says his resolve only got stronger. “My biggest asset was that I was prepared to work my guts out for as long as it took, every day. I trained harder than possibly anyone in the sport, that was the strength that I had,” Bradbury said.
 
Lesson: A strong purpose can help you move mountains
Having a strong purpose and laser-focused goals has been proven to help HR managers to drive cultural change in the workplace. This applies in the sporting world, too: as a teenager, Bradbury made a sign that read, ‘This is the Olympics, get up!’ and stuck it above his bed, so it would motivate him to train on those days when he just wanted to crawl back into bed. What are you doing to genuinely motivate your staff towards reaching their organisational goals?
 
Lesson: Don’t be intimidated by competitors
Feeling threatened headstrong line managers, department heads and union reps will never serve you well. In Bradbury’s case, his competitors were younger and quicker, but Bradbury was never intimidated. He competed to the best of his ability and came out on top as a result.
 
Steven Bradbury will deliver the keynote address at our 2014 National HR Summit, held in Sydney on April 1-2. Limited seats are available; for more information, click here.

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