Same strokes with different folks

The British Rowing Team announced their first competitive squad of the Olympic season in April this year. In an Olympic season there’s some interesting alterations to existing crews (who were already world champions and world medalists some 6 months ago).

The decision to change is one that supports the desire to win as many gold medals as possible, rather than to win as many medals as possible. This focus on what really matters at an Olympigc Games means that athletes are now focused on applying their talents to the challenge that is in front of them for this season.


For some, this means continuing with exactly the same combination as last year and the focus is on taking their performance to an all time high in a year when it matters most. For others, they are in the same boat as they were last year, but are now working on that same project with different people, who bring different experiences, ideas, personalities and idiosyncracies. There are those who are now faced with going into a new boat and working with new colleagues. And of course, there are those who thought they would be going to the Olympics and now it looks like this dream may be broken.

Regardless of the situation the athletes find themselves in, they all know that ultimately their job is to be the best possible version of themselves as they possibly can. They also know that their job is to work as effectively as possible with their existing or new crew mates to ensure two things: 1) that they personally are better because they exploit the strengths of their colleagues and challenge themselves to never be the weakest link in the boat, and 2) that they ensure they challenge themselves to ensure they’re constantly pushing their crew mates to become better athletes than themselves. This conflicting approach ensures that the internal competition within boats is used as healthily and productively as possible. Each athlete knows they want to be part of a gold medal winning crew and that they have the best chance of that if all of the talents are constantly pooled to be collectively stronger than any other combination than can be put together by another nation.

Two questions can help focus the thinking to ensure the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts:

  1. How have I become a better performer today as a result of exploiting the knowledge, skills and experience of my colleagues?
  2. What have I done today to challenge my colleagues to set an even higher bar for themselves, me and us?

If you consistently make sure you can answer these questions with conviction and through tangible actions, then inevitably the change of people who you interact with will only every be a positive thing for you.