Is Winning at Any Cost the Right Message?

Posted on August 2, 2012.

Dominique Moceanu was part of the U.S. Women’s gymnastic team that won the gold medal in 1996.  Her recent memoir, Off Balance, talks about the cost of training as an elite athlete.  The reality is that it’s not just in the Olympics that we can take winning a bit to far.

In a recent interview with Business Week, Dominique discussed how so many of the coaches yell and berate their students. She feels while the gymnasts are still having a great experience, she doesn’t often see real joy in their faces. Does any of this sound familiar?  How many of us have worked with “bully” like managers that never compliment and only criticize?  In high-pressured office environments, is anyone ever having any fun? Are successes celebrated or only expected?

Maybe it’s time to step back and see if you’re creating the right environment. Do you consistently do the following?

1)   Recognize and reward success.  Not just when someone really hits it out of the park, but anytime he or she has gone above and beyond. It might be training someone without being asked or creating a workflow system that benefits everyone.  Taking the time to recognize someone unexpectedly creates loyalty.

2)   Compliment not criticize. Everyone wants and deserves feedback. And sometimes people make mistakes. But even if you need to correct an error, you should always start with something they did well.  If you can’t find anything they did well, you have to wonder why they still work for you.  When people only hear criticism, they lose confidence and tend to underperform over time.

3)   Create a fun environment. When was the last time you had a pizza party or a team-building event?  All work and no play is not just a phrase.  People need to take a break and do something that’s not work related. Along the same lines, make sure you encourage people to really vacate when they vacation.

I enjoy the Olympics just like everyone else, but I think Dominique’s message is a good one.  Winning is critical to the success of any company, but being able to sustain that success means making sure it’s okay to lose every now an then.