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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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    Published on October 8, 2019

    How to Advance Your Career (and the Big Mistakes You May be Making)

    How to Advance Your Career (and the Big Mistakes You May be Making)

    The late writer William S. Burroughs once said that “When you stop growing, you start dying.” It might have a morbid undertone, but it’s one hundred percent true in terms of one’s career.

    The days of finding a job with one company that you can stick with for 30 years, and simply relax as you move up its company escalator are few and far between in today’s world. This isn’t necessarily bad news. On the contrary, it means that you’re the one in charge of shaping your career advancement.

    By putting these principles and behaviors into practice, you’ll begin to see how to advance your career quickly. Ready? Let’s get started…

    1. Define What Success Is for You

    There’s no right or wrong definition of what success in your career looks like. The important thing is to figure out what success looks like for YOU. It might, and probably will, change along the way, but if you don’t have some sort of milestone on the horizon, then you won’t know which direction to go in.

    Think about success in your career in terms of one year, five years, and 10 years. Once you have that, it’s time to lace up your boots and get to work.

    2. Learn How to Develop and Follow a Plan

    Nobody just stumbles upon success accidentally. Sure, they may stumble upon breakthroughs or new methods accidentally, but all success stories have one thing in common — a plan.

    Establish a timeline for the things that you want to achieve in your career in the next year, five years, 10 years, and so on. Consider the skills that you’ll need to learn to make these things happen and work on acquiring them.

    3. Surround Yourself With Those Better Than You

    It’s a rule of thumb among musicians that if you want to get better, then you need to get out of the bedroom and play with people who are better than you.

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    By surrounding yourself with people who are better than you and where you want to be, you’ll not only see how these people climbed to where they are in their respective fields, but you’ll learn from them and naturally want to push yourself to be better in your own job as well.

    4. Seek Out a Mentor(s)

    A mentor will not only be able to help you refine and reach your career goals, but will be invaluable in landing promotions and finding unadvertised job openings.

    One unique approach is to work on fostering a relationship with a mentor both within and outside of your company. This will help in giving you different perspectives as you rise up through the ranks in your company and career overall.

    5. Stop Wasting Your Mornings

    You may not think you’re a morning person, but if you can learn to be one, you’ll thank yourself 10 years down the road.

    Prepare a to-do list of tasks that you want to accomplish the day before and work on knocking them out for at least one hour before you respond to morning emails. The problem with responding to emails first, is you’re giving your attention to somebody else’s agenda, instead of plotting your own course for the day.

    6. Arrange or Attend a Networking Party

    If you’re attending networking events simply because you might get a few free drinks, you’re doing them wrong. These events are great for meeting new people and forming relationships. Your goal shouldn’t be to get hired by the end of the night, but to simply make a good impression by being friendly and authentic. So what’s next?

    Reach out a few days later via email or on social media to follow up and connect!

    7. Pick Up Some New Skills

    Nobody wants to be the old dog that can’t learn any new tricks. To move up in your career, you’re going to likely need to pick up new skills along the way. Maybe your company offers on-the-job training or you have the option of taking online classes at night.

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    By learning new skills, you’ll not only be able to expand upon what you can already do, but you’ll make yourself more valuable to your employer and future employers.

    8. Exploit the Benefits Already at Your Disposal

    Remember what we just said about the possibility of your company providing on-the-job training? Take advantage of these sorts of benefits!

    If you’re working for a company that allows you to job shadow other employees or has company mixers, you should attend these. They not only allow you to develop your skills within the company, but show seasoned executives within your field that you’re interested in more than just clocking in for a paycheck.

    9. Make Yourself Indispensable

    Good help is hard to find and employers want to retain outstanding employees. If you can learn to make yourself indispensable to your company, you’ll not only communicate that you’re successful, but will have a lot more job security. What’s this entail though?

    It’s actually not all that difficult. By being reliable, adapting to new challenges, and holding your own work and performance to a high standard, you’ll stand out among your peers and others will take notice. Easy enough, right?

    10. Get Off the Fence

    People who advance in their careers are those who don’t shy away from voicing their opinion and stand up with authority when the opportunity arises.

    If a problem arises in your company and you think you might have a solution or are willing to work to find one, then let others know. Employers value and promote problem solvers. Start off with something small and work your way up towards tackling more difficult tasks and projects.

    11. Don’t Wait for More Responsibility, Ask for It

    If you want more responsibility in your job, then be open about it with your manager. Your manager may be so busy with their own work that they weren’t aware you were looking for more challenges.

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    Just make sure you can handle it and that you already show strong performance in your current duties. And if your manager doesn’t seem supportive about offering you more responsibility, well, then it could be time to look for new employment.

    12. Stop Wasting Time on What You Don’t Want

    If your career goals start with “I should do this…” there could be a problem. This kind of language in referring to goals can doom them to failure because the want isn’t there.

    Consider using the RUMBA method (Reasonable, Understandable, Measurable, Behavioral and Agreed) when setting your goals. That “agreed” part should really be “want.” By going after career goals that you actually want to accomplish, you’re much more likely to achieve them.

    13. Seek Out Feedback and Apply It

    Simply doing your job might not always push you up in your career advancement. Too often, employees just assume that their bosses will notice their performance strides and reach out when the time is right to advance.

    Don’t be afraid to regularly seek out feedback and ask for constructive criticism. It not only shows that you value your manager’s opinion but demonstrates that you care about your job and want to become better in your chosen field.

    14. Pick Your Bosses Wisely

    Advancing in your career can move a lot quicker if you’re working for the right people. If your boss isn’t any good at their job or doesn’t value you, then moving up could become difficult.

    A great boss though, will be able to help you capitalize on your strengths and be an advocate for your success. If there aren’t any strong developers of talent in your management chain already, then look around for some and seek them out as mentors.

    15. Learn to Develop Your Sense of Timing

    The odds of asking for a promotion or raise are in your favor with over 70 percent of respondents to a survey from PayScale reporting some success. One thing to keep in mind that can make all the difference is when you ask.

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    Some corporate cultures may prefer that employees reach out about advancement during their annual review, but maybe you work for a more free-spirited startup. The best approach may be to take note of when others advance and ask about how the organization handles employee development.

    16. Work Hard and Promote Yourself

    Working hard and delivering a solid job performance are the keys to advancing in your career no matter what field you’re in. This doesn’t mean you need to be completely humble about your accomplishments either.

    Keep a record of your positive impact within the organization and let others both within your company and your field know that you’re enthusiastic about your role and work.

    17. Don’t Just Build Your Network… Cultivate It

    It’s way too easy to add new people to your LinkedIn network and then forget about them for all eternity. Rather than just collecting business cards or social media contacts, you should be cultivating relationships with the ones you already have.

    Follow up with people that you haven’t spoken to in a while, offer to connect them with somebody you know in their field, or ask about a new job title they may have taken on. Doing so could be the spark that leads to a potential job referral.

    18. Join a Professional Organization

    The National Association of (insert your industry here) and other professional organizations can still offer a great wealth of advantages from networking to industry insights, and skill development.

    Even outside of professional organizations dedicated to particular job fields, civic organizations can also be fantastic for making new contacts. After all, so much about career advancement is who you know, and you never know who you’ll meet who knows somebody else who is looking for someone with your skills and experience.

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    Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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