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Ten Lessons from China’s Olympics Preparations

Ten Lessons from China’s Olympics Preparations

Ten Lessons from China's Olympics Preparations

    It looks like much of the gold that was brought to China for this year’s Olympics will remain there after the games’ end. Michael Phelps’ legendary 8 gold medals for the US team helped the Americans bring up their count but not nearly enough to keep them in the top spot for winning gold since the fall of the Soviet empire. Even if you discount a few from China for biased judging, they still won this year’s Lycra War. This 29th Olympiad became China’s great coming out party. Everyone was invited and entertained while these enthusiastic hosts met their ambitious goals for the August event.

    There are some important lessons we can learn from what some call China’s great awakening. This relates to Napoleon’s account to his European colleagues that China was a sleeping tiger – one he figured should best be left asleep while his forces agitated in Europe and the New World. Since Napoleon is no longer around, we decided to fill in and take some careful notes from our experience in China these past several days. We have come up with the following ten lessons from China’s Olympic preparations:

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    1.    Plan

    China had a plan that went into high gear from the moment they learned the country won the bid in 2001 to host the 2008 Games. An important aspect was the focus on addressing the approximately 120 sports the country had never achieved any measurable success in such as swimming, track and field and water events.

    The country and organizing host city engaged in massive planning efforts to ensure the infrastructure was in good shape. Fabulous venues, subways, airports, highways and railways were built, dirty factories shut down, and automobiles restricted. The IOC suggested China went a bit too far in its planning that went overboard in some aspects of security and media control. The IOC had to publicly tell the hosts not to obstruct reporters.

    Plan well and start planning far enough in advance to achieve your goals, however lofty your goals may seem when they first start to take shape.

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    2.    Slogans for communicating the strategy

    “China Project 119” was a simple and clear slogan for communicating the strategy for China’s need to concentrate special resources on the 119 events in which the country was the weakest.  “Impossible is nothing” was an Adidas co-sponsor slogan that became one of the main public slogans used for boosting the Games to the general public. Use such slogans if you have a need to communicate ideas to large numbers of people.

    3.    Public buy-in

    Those who suggest that these Olympic Games were primarily a propaganda gimmick that came from a committee located in Beijing do not understand the Chinese people or the country very well. One would need to go deep into the countryside to find someone who did not have an awareness of or interest in this major national undertaking. Even mountain goats in the Tibet region had Olympic rings painted onto them! If that was purely propaganda, it does not explain how traffic patterns in diverse cities changed in response to events in Beijing with crowds gathered around television sets in the cities and around radios on the trains during various events.

    On the other hand, the Hong Kong crowd seemed indifferent in comparison to the mainland Chinese. Olympic flags, T-shirts and paraphernalia are everywhere although it is hard to know how much of it is authentic and from IOC approved suppliers. The Chinese buy-in was huge and you should make sure that you have whatever buy-in you need for your great undertakings.

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    4.    Resources

    There was about $40 billion dollars invested in this year’s Olympic Games by the Chinese. Some claim about $6 million was additionally spent on each medal-winning athlete. The country has only recently become able to afford this level of spending but did not appear to cut corners on costs. Put up the required resources for your project, plus support and reward your key players well is the message here.

    5.    Know yourself and the competitive landscape

    The Chinese Olympic leadership set its sights very high – taking aim at the American gold medal count as being the only target worth beating. The sights were high but the leadership understood its own strengths and weaknesses well enough to know that it was an achievable goal. It also knew the strengths and weaknesses of the competition. The American team had its traditional great individual capabilities which Phelps demonstrated to an extreme. The Chinese were able to overcome this through numbers, sifting through a quarter of the world’s population to create its talent pool.

    6.    Bring in the best

    The country brought in about 50 top coaches from a dozen countries to give their team the edge needed to make it over the top. This comes on top of the 2500 coaches China has sent to over 100 countries beginning in the 1960s. Great planners, architects, engineers, administrators and professionals of all types were brought in or consulted on the myriad aspects of the Games. As an example, China had global accounting powerhouse PricewaterhouseCoopers working on medal count spreadsheets.

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    7.    Great propaganda

    Starting several years ahead of time, a 24-hour national television channel was launched featuring Chinese athletes winning events and preparing for the upcoming Games. It is hard to see how this could not inspire athletes and interest the public. This programming was continually available considering that there are relatively few television channels available in China with about half of them still dedicated to old Chinese martial arts based movies and shows. Currently, the other half are dedicated to the Olympics and news. This is only one example of the positive propaganda used to generate and sustain interest in these events. There are many others. The lesson here is to deploy effective propaganda to support your initiatives.

    8.    Sufficiently developed infrastructure

    Along with new railways, airports and roadways, the whole nation’s plumbing system was reworked as part of the preparations for the Games. Entire river systems were altered with water, sewage and industrial wastewater pollution standards substantially upgraded. Ten years ago, finding a relatively clean western-style toilet complete with paper was a treat to find. Now it is the norm. The lesson here is to ensure you have sufficient infrastructure in place that you won’t find yourself in an uncomfortable place due to lack of suitable facilities for whatever you are trying to accomplish.

    9.    Strong motive

    The Chinese have accomplished amazing things in their recent development into a modern society. The Games represent a great opportunity for individual athletes, communities and the country as a whole to show off in a constructive way. This strong motivation is reinforced by the clearly aligned need to continue promoting Chinese interests internally and abroad. Whether your primary motive is showing off or something else, make sure it is a strong one that is clearly aligned with your interests.

    10.    Selection, screening and training process

    CBS News correspondent Barry Peterson recently reported that “Nine-year-old Zhang Huiman is on the lonely road to Olympic gold, running 20 miles a day preparing for the games of 2020.” Peterson also reported that the nation is “so obsessed with Olympic gold that it is training 200,000 handpicked kids in state-run sports boarding schools. It’s the same system the Soviets used to train gold medalists like Maria Filatova in their Cold-War sports duel with the United States.” The systems and processes are robust. When Chinese star athlete Liu Xiang failed to clear his first hurdle in Beijing, the massive selection, screening and training process ensured that China’s Olympic aspirations were not dashed. China’s numerous gold-winning weightlifters, divers and gymnasts were more than able to compensate. Have a similarly reliable process for achieving your goals.

    We’ll need to see how much of the gold China ends up with at the end of the Games. We already know it will be more than the Americans, who have been dominant since the former Soviet team divided into multiple countries. If you’ve learned any other lessons from China’s Olympic preparations, please share them in the comments.

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    Last Updated on April 17, 2019

    10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

    10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

    What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

    Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

    They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

    1. Communication Skills

    Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

    To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

    Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

    Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

    After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

    2. Flexibility

    Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

    Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

    Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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    Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

    3. Being a Team Player

    Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

    What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

    This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

    Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

    4. Positive Mental Attitude

    There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

    Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

    Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

    It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

    Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

    5. A Strong Work Ethic

    People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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    If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

    Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

    • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
    • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
    • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
    • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

    For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

    6. Public Speaking

    Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

    Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

    If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

    For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

    Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

    7. Integrity

    From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

    • Always doing what you say you will do
    • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

    …even when no one is around to check up on you.

    There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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    Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

    8. Managing Your Time

    Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

    A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

    Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

    Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

    These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

    9. Assertiveness

    In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

    • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
    • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
    • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
    • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

    Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

    How do you use this information for yourself?

    It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

    Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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    How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

    10. Creative Thinking

    LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

    Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

    How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

    Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

    These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

    You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

    What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

    Final Thoughts

    The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

    So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

    The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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    Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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