The Olympians’ intense internal focus served to eliminate distractions—those things that were out of their control—thereby allowing them to concentrate on those things they could control. These premier athletes chose an attitude of optimism over pessimism, of responsibility over irresponsibility, and of problem solver over victim of circumstances. They focused on results, not on obstacles.
Attitudes are important. Your outlook on life is the lens through which you see the world. When challenges and adversity hit you or your team, and they will, you have an opportunity to decide what to focus on. Your focus can and will influence your teammates. When your teammates are frustrated or uncertain about a course of action, they will look to you as a guide to their decisions and actions.
The Olympian rowers exemplify how focus on objectives, not on the obstacles, is the key to championship performance. The major point is that everyone has the ability to choose their attitudes and develop a positive state of mind. Players with poor attitudes are going to be unhappy and quick to blame their circumstance or other teammates for failure when confronted with trials and tribulations. Many choices of attitudes exist, and the one’s you and your teammates choose matter.
Obstacles are always a part of the competitive sports environment. Effective team leaders accept this fact and focus their attention on what they know they can do, regardless of the external context. Committed team members know and accept the vital role of problem-solver as a responsibility of team leadership. And being an effective problem solver requires leaders to know when a problem is outside the boat.
The high-performing team leader recognizes the importance of helping his or her teammates to manage the journey. The first step toward focusing your teammates on the objectives is reinforcing team member commitment to the team’s objectives—its vision, mission, and goals. And when obstacles arise, become an active change agent helping teammates adjust their attitudes and refocus their energy. Whether in calm or troubled waters, champions overcome obstacles by focusing on objectives.