Merge's Blog

Olympic excitement offers lessons in leadership

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Canadian pride in downtown Vancouver

Last Wednesday, I was in Vancouver, Canada for a speaking engagement.  As just about everyone knows, Vancouver was the host city for the 2010 Winter Olympic games which ended on February 28.  And there I was in Vancouver, ten days later, and this city was still humming!  Large public buildings were still majestically emblazoned with the Canadian maple leaf, average working Canadians on the street were still proudly wearing their red-and-white outfits, and downtown Vancouver was surrounded by an indescribable yet very real buzz that just seemed to scream excitement and euphoria.  I spent most of my day in an office building, but the moment you stepped out, you could see it, you could hear it, you could feel it.  Even inside the office buildings, walls and windows were covered with symbols of patriotic pride.  For me, as a visitor, Vancouver was an exhilarating place to be last week.

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Canada Post building in downtown Vancouver

Two things about this situation surprised me.  First, that Canadians, who normally are known to be pretty low-key when it comes to outwardly expressing their emotions, were so patriotic and pumped up about their country.  And second, ten days after the Olympics ended, people’s enthusiasm and jubilation was still going strong.  What would it take to translate this level of loyalty and excitement into your workplace, I wondered.  What would it take to get your employees pumped up about their department and your company?  What would it take to get them motivated and enthusiastic about their jobs?  I don’t have the perfect answer, but based on what I observed in Vancouver, here are three ideas:

  1. Give people a distinct measurable objective to focus on. Here the goal was to win medals, and every time a Canadian athlete won a medal, the country jointly cheered and chalked it up on their collective scoreboard.  What is your distinct measurable objective?  It could be a sales target, an accuracy goal, or just a total count of the number of customers served – whatever it is, have one.
  2. Give them a physical symbol to rally around. In Vancouver, it was the maple leaf.  Whether it was a giant billboard on the side of the building, a small poster on an office wall, or a modest screensaver on someone’s desktop, it stood for belonging, and it represented pride.  What is your physical symbol?  Most organizations have a recognizable logo; do your people have access to shirts and hats with your logo?  Do they wear them proudly?
  3. Give people a place to meet and celebrate. The City of Vancouver set up several places in downtown Vancouver for people to cheer together.  The medal ceremonies were held every night in BC Place, and Robson Square hosted family-friendly events all day and evening.  Do your people have a place to meet and celebrate?  It doesn’t have to be fancy – it could be the break room, or it could simply be a bulletin board on which people can post photos – but whatever or wherever it is, make sure that it’s a physical space where people can have fun and relax.

These are three things I learned last week in Vancouver.  What do you do in your workplace to create this kind of energy?

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