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5 Ways The Olympics Inspire Excellence

The Olympics have always meant a lot to me personally.  I remember growing up with 4 television channels and every 2 years the games came along and changed the fabric of entertainment. 

They were a testament to national unity and the previous night’s competitions were the topic of conversation the following day. I think we could all use a little of that right now.

There is still something special about the Olympic games – They resonate a sense of national pride and competitive excellence.  The majesty of the event is dwarfed only by the talent of those who compete in the games and strive for the gold.

We have all used that phrase “going for the gold.”  It is universally understood as striving not just to win, but to excel when it matters most under the highest scrutiny and pressure. It means to be the very best.

So as I watched the opening ceremonies this year and tucked in to the opening day’s events, it was reinforced that there is so much we can learn from the Olympics.

Here are 5 things the Olympics can teach us about delivering excellence:

Dedication Drives Excellence:  It amazes me the stick-to-it-iveness that it takes to become fantastic at anything.  Whether you want to be the best chef, mechanic, or table tennis player, it takes the will to settle for nothing less.  I can tell you that I had what I considered to be a solid collegiate bowling career at Ball State University.  I felt like I competed at a high level and made it to the second round of team USA qualifiers.  I remember spending hours every day practicing – early mornings, late nights, and weekends.  I remember bowling three leagues a week, traveling on the weekends to tournaments, and spending time daily tweaking my equipment.  And that was just to be what I considered really good.  I never approached the level of these Olympic athletes who sacrificed every moment of their time beginning in early childhood to achieve their goals.  It reaffirms the old adage that nothing great comes easy and without effort – so whatever your craft may be, put in the time to be excellent.

Teamwork Matters:  Team sports bring out the best in the individuals that make up those teams.  When you can train with others who value winning as much as you do, and who are a part of your common vision for excellence, it creates and environment where losing seems impossible.  It can inspire camaraderie and caring that spur everyone on to greater heights (and heights that might be impossible alone).  Remember that when you build or join teams.  You must trust them; You must be inspired by them; You must fit in with them.  When teams are supportive, well trained, and trust one another, there is no limit to the success they can achieve.

Recognition Inspires Excellence:  There is a reason we keep score and a reason why they give out medals at the Olympics.  These symbols of achievement are the physical representations of excellence.  They are the goals that everyone is trying to achieve – but only because of what they represent.  The medal ceremony (although different this year) and the keeping of world records is a way to reward and celebrate those who achieved excellence.  So that is a lesson to us all – remember to give great recognition to those who are excelling for your Customers and your organization every day.  This not only reinforces what you value, but lets your team know that you appreciate their hard work and great execution.

Talent is the Engine:  Although not the only indicator for success, having great talent is a game changer for any organization.  There are certain X-factors such as dedication, heart, and attitude that matter most, so they have to be considered as you identify talent.  The best talent brings technical skill as well as a dedication to excellence and positive attitude.  You can’t win gold in basketball without the ability to cash at the free throw line, drive the lane, and have a deep desire for victory - but heart and motivation matter, too.  Keep all that in mind when you recruit, hire, and train talent.  Everything begins by selecting the best talent and then ensuring that it is nurtured and motivated to succeed.

Competition Brings Out Our Best:  We discussed the team dynamic above – and it is a powerful thing to be sure.  It is powerful because of the support teammates provide, but also the pressure that it brings to be great.  Even athletes who are not part of a team may have trained in a group environment, which inspires a subtle (or not so subtle) spirit of competition.  A little healthy competition can be harnessed to inspire entire organizations to win.  It is the idea of employee of the month, sales person of the quarter, or best performing business unit.  These are no different than the competition for a starting position or even to stay on the team.  Don’t let it turn into a free-for-all at the expense of the guest, but if you can get the competitive juices flowing, it will likely help your team achieve at a higher level.

This all matters because great service is as much about execution as it is about hospitality.

It’s true that customers will forgive the occasional miscue if you take action to fix it in a quick and friendly matter – but that only works to a point.  Today there is competition everywhere ready to cultivate your customer’s loyalty if you cannot execute on your brand promise.

So ultimately, you must balance safety, hospitality, quality, simplicity, and inclusivity.

This will help you to execute at outstanding levels AND keep your customers at the center of everything you do.

Talk to you soon! Tony

Tony Johnson, CCXP Customer Experience Speaker | Author |Trainer | Consultant 606.356.7447 FREE RESOURCES AND TRAINING TOOLS WEB - TWITTER - FACEBOOK - YOUTUBE - INSTAGRAM - LINKEDIN - PODCAST - CALENDAR Improve Your Customer Service with my Book: TOGETHER WE SERVE: Four Proven Strategies to Create Winning Experiences for Your Guests and Your Tea. Click to Purchase on


Tony Johnson is an award winning speaker and author on the topics of sales growth, customer experience, and leadership. Tony speaks to thousands annually and has been featured on ABC News and Fox News. He is available for business planning, motivational keynotes, leadership workshops, and employee service skills training.


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