I’m sure, like many Brits, I’ve watched Team GB’s Olympic medal haul with a sense of pride and excitement. A steady stream of dedicated, hard working sportspeople standing with their eyes lit up as the Union flag is hoisted to the sound of our national anthem. The pundits hail their successes and commentators are calling for an ongoing investment in sport. Sure, our medal haul could be linked to the sheer level of financial investment our current Olympians have enjoyed; this Team GB have received unprecedented investment of £264m in 2012 (comp with from £60m in 2000).
But, the key tactic catching my eye is the team strategies behind those ‘podiuming’. Whilst Beijing 2008 was famously labelled “the Games where the UK won medals in sports when we were sitting down” in rowing, sailing, cycling etc; to me, London 2012 seems to be “the Games of great team effort” behind the person bowing to receive their medal. There is a dedicated team from the obvious entourage of parents, coaches, performance managers and sports psychologists to the number of sports people who have been willing to throw all their energy into a team strategy to enable a colleague achieve the final medal position. Emma Pooley in the Road Cycling and Stuart Hayes in the Triathlon were just two of the people clearly dedicated to the team effort even though a different personal strategy might have improved their individual finish times (and possibly at the expense of personal sponsorship).
So what could we learn from Team GB about managing performance? Team GB is a organisation with a mission to gain a target number of medals; a bit like a series of any other business targets. Certainly, investing in people, resources and specialist skills is essential. But, the effort of so many to ensure the visible success of the few calls into question the common practice of individual performance targets. If Emma or Stuart were sitting in another organisation, would they feel recognised for their personal contribution? Talent Glue research has found that just over half of UK workers (57%) feel their manager recognises their contribution.
So, perhaps there is more that can be done to boost performance by simply looking at how we go about setting targets. Do we really have performance systems that recognise the contribution and sacrifices that individuals make to ensure team success? Or do we discourage people from even thinking this way and opt instead for a simple system of individual measurable targets that erode a sense of team contribution? As FTSE 100 firms start to gear up for reporting on their HR Metrics, finding the best method for assessing performance at the right level – at the individual, team or organisation – is going to be essential.