Culture: an elite athlete perspective

I received permission to share an email (below) that one of my clients circulated among the staff of his organization…the day after an intensive culture workshop I facilitated. So often it seems that leaders are looking for a light switch process to “turn on” culture improvement…rather than go through the process. However, it is the process that works the depth of true transformation…painful though it may be.

At the start of a person’s journey from inactivity to elite athlete they have to expend high levels of their energy to do relatively little because they are not in very good shape. At the same time, they make big improvements in their fitness and ability to achieve in their sport.

As they get more fit, that same level of energy expenditure does quite a lot more and they improve noticeably. It’s a nice linear progression and as long as you only want to be good at the sport you can work reasonably hard and be in quite good shape.

However, if the goal is to be an elite athlete then moving from the 90th percentile to the 92nd percentile doesn’t take just 2% more energy, it takes almost as much energy as was expended to get from 0 – 90%. Getting a tiny bit better takes high levels of intense energy and focus. The work to go from 10th best in the world to on the podium is massive.

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