This Olympic year, more than any other, our Team USA athletes are under intense pressure.
As if it’s not stressful enough to qualify and make the team ordinarily, members of Team USA have trained, traveled and competed during a global pandemic to earn their spots this year. Then, in preparation for, and while in Beijing, they must adhere to strict Covid protocols, including constant testing, to keep themselves and their teammates and competitors healthy for competition. On top of that, they have the usual random drug testing and, much less usual, their own government is boycotting the Games due to the host country’s human rights violations.
It’s a lot. It’s especially a lot if your sole focus is supposed to be on your sport.
While the athletes are laser-focused on their competitions, as well as on enjoying the Olympic experience, one other pressure is unavoidable: the presence of the media. The media, both print and broadcast, come with the territory of the Olympic Games. And while not every athlete is a draw for the mainstream media, every athlete certainly is a draw for their hometown media at the very least.
The media will be interested to hear everything from the athletes’ feelings about their competitions and venues to how they like the food and everything in between. “Everything in between” is where it can get dicey; for example, at these Games, that could include questions about the U.S. diplomatic boycott, China’s human rights record, the situation with Peng Shuai, or even air quality and environmental concerns. Again, it’s a lot.
So, as you watch the Games this month, and the Paralympic Games next month, enjoy the spectacular athletic feats you see. But also pay attention to the public speaking feats as well. As with any high-profile spokesperson or ambassador, we should be seeing a demonstration of the following 5 principles from Jock Talk in the interviews they give:
Audience-centricity – Are they making it interesting and accessible to the audience, or are they using jargon and making it hard to follow or understand?
Transparency – Are they being as open as possible about, and letting us into, their experience? In other words, are they being as open and sincere about their feelings and emotions as they are about the facts?
Graciousness – Are they taking the high road when asked about a disappointing performance or about their host country? Are they displaying good sportsmanship and are they representing their teams and country well?
Brevity – Are they getting to the point or rambling in their responses to questions? Are they able to end the interview once they’ve said everything they have to say?
Preparedness – Are they prepared to address victory as well as defeat, or do they seem to be caught off guard? Are they consistent in how they present themselves and “on brand” or on point with their responses?
Enjoy watching the Games this month and next and, while you’re at it, learn from these athletes’ performances at the mic. Hopefully, both on and off the field of play, Team USA will inspire us to be better!
Well, here we are <insert tentative smile> at the onset of another new year.
As they typically are, this new year is filled with the promise, hopefulness, and opportunities of a new start. Yet, at the same time, many of us feel uncertain, limited, and confused by the same constraints this winter as we did last year at this time.
The pandemic is obviously with us. It’s moving into the new year with us and likely beyond. So it’s not really a new normal we need to concern ourselves with now, it’s the next normal we need to anticipate. While the situation around us is constantly evolving, and we’re hastily evolving along with it, the key question is: Do we have everything we need to be successful in the next normal?
Sure, we’ve adapted and taken advantage of tools and resources we always had access to but hadn’t yet mastered or maximized. One of those, of course, is virtual meetings and virtual meeting platforms. Zoom has become the Kleenex or Xerox of virtual meeting platforms. But I think we all can agree it’s very 2020 and so it’s the old new normal. And while there’s a huge adoption of, and so many improvements to, virtual platforms like Zoom, there’s also still a ton of fatigue. The reality for all of us is that engagement in virtual meetings is still elusive.
What’s missing then? What can we do to be better, more effective, less draining to others?
Communication. How we communicate, how much we communicate, when we communicate, how we listen, how we engage, how we execute on our goals for a meeting. Communication skills and styles need to be the sharpest tools in the toolbox in order to be ready and be successful in the next normal.
Getting there isn’t or shouldn’t be difficult. For starters, there are the five communication principles I espouse in Jock Talk: 5 Communication Principles for Leaders as Exemplified by Legends of the Sports World. They are audience-centricity, transparency, graciousness, brevity and preparedness. All five are critical, but clearly brevity is the one in shortest supply.
Take it upon yourself to sharpen your communication skills in 2022. Read the book (or listen to it) or reach out for coaching. In many cases, your exposure to others, internally and externally, will be one-dimensional … on a screen. Let’s make sure the impression you leave isn’t like the screen … flat.
Welcome to 2022!
Here we are at the end of 2021. Cheers to all of us! We’ve been in person, virtual, working, resigning, working from home, returning to offices, and a hybrid of all of the above. We’ve seen normal, new normal, and the next normal. Adapting to change seems to be the one constant.
But it’s not.
The one constant is Communication. Communication is the one superpower that can handle anything! In fact, I may be biased, but I would suggest that the people and the organizations who value communication the most and execute on it the best are poised to be more successful and better prepared for whatever comes our way in the new year.
As we reflect on this past year and look to 2022, let’s put Communication at #1. It’s the one thing we all need.