How To Create An Olympian Work Ethic

Olympic gold medalist and executive coach Drew Ginn applies his sports training to how marketing teams can achieve success.

How To Create An Olympian Work Ethic

At 21, I became the youngest member of Australia’s Olympic rowing team, known as the “Oarsome Foursome.” I knew I was in for an intensely gruelling 12-month physical training program as we prepared for the 1996 Atlanta Games.

What I never imagined was that the older team members–who’d come home from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics with the gold–would challenge my way of thinking and help shape my overall philosophy.

What I discovered was their casual demeanour, seemingly laid-back attitude, and presentation (morning golf rounds before a race) hid a constant self-assessment that was part of an overall improvement-seeking process–and one that would eventually pay off with another gold at the Atlanta games.

Fast-forward to the 2012 London Olympics. I was now the mentor of a team of younger rowers. We made the podium (and had gone 10 seconds faster than the 1996 crew). How did we do it? I tapped into what I’d learned about high performance from the best and was able to teach this team a mindset I am now helping APAC clients to apply to their businesses.

As an athlete, the times when I felt the greatest pressure and suffered from lack of performance was when I’d lost connection with my intrinsic motivation, goals, and sense of purpose to the team. A strategy the Oarsome Foursome used to refocus was to access our sources of inspiration, now known as self-determination theory, or SDT.

SDT dates back to the 1970s. It provides a framework for motivation and personality, and examines the dynamic between intrinsic and extrinsic factors to explain why some people persist with an activity while others give up.

It turns out a person’s drivers and inhibitors often come down to their sense of autonomy and competence. Intrinsically motivated people have a sense of autonomy and control over a situation. They are intent on mastering what they’re doing–whether in sport, business, or the arts–and are willing to persist over the long term to achieve outstanding satisfaction and outcomes.

So what does this have to do with Asia-Pacific marketers?

We are living in a period of constant and dramatic change, where the marketer’s role is evolving, as a result. Marketers need a deep understanding of diverse audiences, cutting-edge technology, emerging channels and devices, and strategic branding, just for starters.

Many find it hard to keep up with these constant changes; they feel lost and effectively out of control. This feeling of a lack of autonomy is dangerous. We shift from being intrinsically motivated because we know what we’re doing, how to measure success, and how to achieve the right outcome to waiting around for a reward, or giving up entirely.

At the Adobe Symposium 2016, in Sydney, I’m going to challenge every marketer in the room to regain that sense of autonomy and control of their role. I’ll be moving people out of their comfort zones and back towards their passions.

We can all become a bit automated, which isn’t always bad, but figuring out what drives and inhibits elite performance will help you form healthy career habits.

Click here to register for the Adobe Symposium 2016.