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How is HR Team Performance Like an Olympic Relay Race?

How is HR Team Performance Like an Olympic Relay Race?

What do we know about Olympic teams and Olympic athletes?

This question gets good traction every two years or so. Once when the summer games are playing and again in two years when the winter games are playing.

Olympians are recognized as the best. They work very hard to get to the games. They are the experts in their sport. They have passion, dedication, discipline.

Lots of work.

Lots of dedication.

Lots of time and preparation.

Collaboration and working together.

Knowing where you are and where the other team members are.

And, so important in our competitive world today, we know not everyone wins. Of these Olympian experts, only some of these hard working, dedicated, excellent athletes win. We remember the winners.

When the Olympic relay race is over, the commentators talk about the winning team. Perhaps some special stories are covered; however, the majority of the coverage goes to the winners. Plain and simple, it is about the winners.

What is our take away from this? Dedication, passion, and hard work are important. However, we do not get rewarded for dedication, passion or hard work. We get rewarded for winning. We get paid to win. Our companies get paid to win. When we make sales we win.

Many of us in the human resource world have turned dedication, passion and hard work into something that deserves a reward. This distracts from what real winning is. Go ahead, motivate your teams by praising those important qualities, however, reward the outcomes.

Those athletes who perform well enough to become Olympians get lots of recognition — the winners get rewarded.

As human resource professionals, we need to focus on winning in several realms. First is the realm of those employees and leaders we support. Dole out the recognition as though it were running out of style. This is an excellent way to keep your company team focused and engaged. Second, the realm of the human resource office — and this one is tough. We cannot confuse what we do in our office with what we do for those we support. HR does not get rewarded for working hard. Don’t wait for that to happen.

We want to be recognized and rewarded for delivering outcomes that add value to the company. This is winning. Delivering outcomes or results. Making important things happen. Anticipating a need and putting a solution in place. These are all examples of winning.

This is so important for us as human resource professionals to understand. We know we work hard, but, we don’t get paid to work hard. Working hard is not the result — it is what we do to get to results. We get paid for results. The Olympic relay race team does not get a medal for training hard, but for delivering a winning performance.

The idea of team is also important. The relay team is a good example because all members must be strong, dedicated and know what they are doing. However, each has a special talent or role to play in the race. One might be better at sprinting, another at extending a lead, another at closing gaps, and so forth. To win, the team must race and run as a team. The passing of the baton from runner to runner is analogous to the human resource professional knowing where and what his or her co-worker is doing.

We pass work from player to player. Make those passes count. Dropping something on another’s desk and saying “It is now their responsibility, not mine” is not a good pass. It is a drop off. Dropping the baton in a relay race is death. You lose races that way. Don’t do that in the human resource office. Make a connection. Look the other person in the eye. Talk to them. Make a legitimate, respectful, meaningful hand-off, and keep running the race.

Focus on winning. Focus on delivering results. Put the right team player in at the right time. No one single member of the team wins. Either the team succeeds or the team fails.

Do you know the strength and weaknesses of your team players?

Do you pass work hand to hand or do you drop-off?

Does your team talk hard work and long hours or about results?

Do you know what your team’s top three next results are?

Believe it or not, your customers do not care how difficult it was to manufacture a particular product. They don’t care how hard you worked to solve an employee relations issue. The level of difficulty has no bearing on the value of your company’s product or service.

Focus on value and results. That is all your customers care about.

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Philip Espinosa partners with people to deliver value: People | Partnerships | Value serves as his tag line. As a strategic human resources leader, he believes that service starts with the customer. His book "Deliver Excellent Customer Service with a SNAP” helps others drive customer engagement using simple and consistent communication strategies. A second book titled "Focus On Your Success - 24 Simple Insights To Drive Daily Achievement" (ebook) helps working professionals view their daily choices through a different perspective. In addition to his writing, Philip works with strategic human capital initiatives and has delivered successful results over a career spanning more than 25 years.

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