‘Alone we can do so little: together we can do so much’ (Helen Keller)
As we celebrate the triumphant return of our Olympians today - led by such modest talismen as, Kate Richardson-Walsh, Jade Jones and Adam Peaty - we must not forget that they would never have made it to the top on their own.
For those who participate in team sports there are often one or two individuals who dominate the headlines and become household names; step forward Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Bradley Wiggins. However, it is not individual skill that brings home team medals; it is the unique combination of individual talent woven into a cohesive whole that sets the GB team apart.
This was proved when Sir Bradley Wiggins returned to cycling because of the calibre of the GB squad, even though the other three team members of his squad were relatively unknown and very much underrated because they are not Tour De France winners or big road stars. And yet he had gracious humility in his post victory interview to explain that it is the teamwork of the other three cyclists: Ed Clancy, three times gold medal winner, who Wiggins describes as ‘the most naturally gifted rider,’ Steven Burke, the unused substitute in Beijing and quiet powerhouse, who now has two gold medals to his name, and Owain Doully, a novice, who has the world at his feet as he is soon to join Team Sky, who have now helped make Wiggins the most decorated Olympic winner in British history. We must learn from this striking example that each individual in a team brings unique characteristics and it is the skilful blend of those characteristics that makes a team successful. The loudest, most confident or best known team member should not take all the glory. So the next time your team wins a competitive pitch or lands a new client make sure that one person does not hog the limelight and ensure that each individual is praised for their effort and contribution.
However, it is not just the elite team members whom we need to celebrate right now, but all the members of Team GB. Their success is, of course, down to their individual talent – but, just as important, is the contribution made by the vast ‘invisible’ team, whose total dedication, technical skill and unwavering belief enabled every one of those supreme athletes to excel on the world stage. Successful sporting teams stick together. They start work early, they finish late, even on Christmas Eve, and they go out of their comfort zone by training at extreme endurance levels which would defeat most mortals. Their reward for that dedication is that they, like the GB Ladies Hockey Team hit the headlines and gain fame and fortune but there are so many unsung heroes in the backroom team who remain in the background: the nutritionists, engineers and coaches whose precise attention to detail, natural curiosity and endless hours of training have produced world beaters.
The most dynamic leaders that we have interviewed on The BDLN are very much aware of how success can contaminate a business culture if individualism is encouraged at the expense of the team, if money and fame become the primary motivators and when the ‘people at the bottom’ are forgotten and disempowered. So next time you are watching a gold medal ceremony or business awards presentation, be proud of every one receiving a medal or award, and recognise the unsung heroes in the background who have made it all possible and find ways of celebrating them as well…
Team GB will fly in to Heathrow on Tuesday morning, clanking with their scores of medals, on flight number BA2016, a British Airways 747 repainted with a golden nose and renamed “victoRIOus”. They return home to a chorus of demands that they be weighed down with further honours: nothing less than Dame Laura Trott and Sirs Jason Kenny and Mo Farah will do. Bill Sweeney, chief executive of the British Olympics Association, has already called for key support staff also to be recognised in official honours. They were the people thanked by many of the athletes moments after their triumph: the doctors and physiotherapists, and the coaches who often looked far more anguished at the side of track or pool than the athletes. Trott heaped praise on her coach, Paul Manning, for “putting up with my crap”.