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Olympic lessons for Olympic Day


It’s Olympic Day - this creeps up on me every year but it really is a day that always means a lot to me. From starting my career as a journalist at the London 2012 Olympics through to moving to Rio de Janeiro to work as an editor in the Rio 2016 Olympic News Service - the Games has shaped my life beyond compare. I met my husband through the Games, found many of my closest friends and I currently live in what was once athletes' accommodation for London 2012.

The Olympics also taught me a bunch. I’d like to share a few things I’ve taken away from the experience.

High performance standard

It goes without saying that the Olympics is about extraordinary performance. But this extends beyond the field of play. I’d describe this as the ‘Olympic standard’ - the standard that all athletes, staff, partners and volunteers strive for, inspired by the gravity of the global stage on which they are performing.

Quality was absolute and that’s a learning that can impact any role/industry.

In the Olympic News Service, we were delivering athlete quotes and news to the accredited media who could use these in their own reports. In this scenario, if a mistake were made, it could be re-published onto BBC, Sky News, CNN - your mistake could travel the world in minutes. Time was also a factor - for news to be breaking it has to be fast.

To meet this we had an editorial process that boiled down to check, double check, check again, and with fresh eyes: always having involved multiple editors checking the work. To err is human - so checks need to be put in place. This robust review policy is essential in all lines of work - and in fact we have a similar process at Tonic.

Big picture thinking

Everyone wants to see the impact of their work. It makes you care.

The best leaders I worked with in the Games inspired their teams, bringing to life how the work we were doing contributed at the highest levels. This big picture drives everyone forward on even the hardest days.

Having a shared aim also allows you to focus on what’s important. Is what you’re doing today contributing towards that big picture? If not - why are you doing it? As all of our work lives involve juggling countless differing priorities, I think having that review makes such a difference to your time management. In the Games, we had a hard deadline - the Games was going to start regardless of whether you felt prepared or not - I think fixing those deadlines really helps focus the mind.

Real teamwork

Last in my list but actually the most important. Most of us probably work in teams, so we’ll say we have good teamwork. But when I think of real teamwork I mainly think of trust and efficiency.

Trust that that colleague has your back and will be there with you. There’s definitely a reason some of the people I’ve learnt the most from and consider life-long friends are ex-colleagues from the Olympics. You’re together through a high intensity experience, and you’re performing together at incredibly high standards.

Efficiency does come from that trust but also from the clarity of where you all fit in. Recruitment in an Olympic Games is unique - you bring together individuals from all over the world with different levels of experience and throw them together. But, everyone has a set finish date and a clear project/ objective - you’re all a piece of a puzzle. Knowing your role clearly and where you fit is essential.

You want your team working together as one towards a shared goal.

I’m sure these learnings aren’t unique to the Olympics - they can be experienced and carried in any area of work. But this is what I lean on.


Do you have anything to add from a work experience of your own? Leave a comment and let us know!

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About Author

Ruth Faulkner
Ruth Faulkner

Head of Content

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