Tokyo Olympics symbol

Workplace Lessons from Tokyo

11 August 2021

The close of an extraordinary Olympic Games in Tokyo occurred just a few days ago but the spirit of sportsmanship and the greatness and support of humanity witnessed is still reverberating across the globe. Much has been written of how needed these games were as a salve to the world’s mental health, and the Tokyo Olympic Games delivered that in spades.

But never has there been amongst the world’s most competitive athletes such displays of sportsmanship, pep-talking, mentoring and general camaraderie that traversed teams and nations.

The team support for some meant going beyond their own extremes of endurance to enable their teammate to win a medal or to decide to share a gold medal with a competitor in recognition of effort, tenacity and performance. From these unprecedented Olympic games where the best of humanity triumphed, we at Change2020 believe there were many great takeaways and lessons that have a place in our workplaces and within our teams – we invite you to read on:

Lessons as to how we can help each other be the best versions of ourselves

Despite the athletes enduring training regimes impacted by lockdowns, often limited access to support, and certainly no “roar of the crowd” in the lead up to and during the Olympics, by persevering and competing, they still were and are victorious – medal or no medal.  We believe that from the efforts of all the athletes who competed, are lessons that have broader application for other parts of our lives. There are lessons as to how we can help each other be the best versions of ourselves, how when we work towards a common goal and win, we all win together.

Encouragement and belief can get you over the line

One of the best examples can be found with Aussie Cedric Dubler who was placed last of 21 athletes to finish the decathlon. But what has become more well-known are his efforts to enable teammate Ash Moloney to run a personal best in the 1500m and secure an historic bronze medal.

Moloney, although a medal hero, is the first to say that he owes much to his more experienced teammate Dubler, who despite a hamstring injury finished the gruelling competition. Not only did he persevere to finish, but he also provided passionate encouragement and tactical guidance to Maloney, his teammate who was starting to flag around the halfway mark of the 1500 metre race.

Some days are diamonds, some days are hard and flat

And Maloney was really starting to flag, and he has stated in subsequent Olympic interviews, he was starting to “wobble”. It was at this moment that Dubler started yelling encouragement and reminding Moloney of what he was capable of.

We recognise that such a moment is mirrored in life when sometimes, you just need someone to push you along, to motivate and incentivise you – we all have hard days, flat days, and days when we are not at our best.

We remind managers and leaders that sometimes your people need someone to remind them that they are capable of and skilled to achieve all sorts of goals, both professional and personal.  And we remind everyone that sometimes that someone has to be you – where you can use things like self-affirmations and resilience training to reiterate that you have put in the hard work and are capable to reach for and attain so much.

Sometimes changing your style of mentoring can achieve amazing outcomes

Changing your mentoring style or approach can result in amazing outcomes. Dubler’s coaching during the race was more like yelling. Yet in testament to the trust and shared goals of the two teammates, it was exactly what Maloney needed at that particular time.

By this stage, Dubler had pulled a hamstring, but Dubler through his shouts of encouragement to Maloney, modelled that it is possible to continue through the pain. Push yourself so you can push others, put yourself outside of your comfort zone and push harder – your team will be inspired and follow.

There were many sage life and professional lessons from the Olympics. Chief amongst them we believe is that we can achieve much together when we work towards a shared goal – there is no “i” in team – life, work and 1500s are much easier when you’re not on your own.[1]


Kerryn Fewster

Kerryn is the Founder and Director of Change 2020. She has consulted extensively in the area of Transition and Transformation. She places emphasis on strategy development and solution implementation to minimise people and operational impacts associated with major change.

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