What organisations can learn from a surprising Paralympic success

The Paralympic Games in Rio, which ended last weekend, provided entertainment, inspiration, drama, excitement and, for me at lerio1ast, the greatest of admiration for some astonishing sporting achievements.

One thing that surprised me as the games progressed, was just how well Ukrainian athletes were performing, and thus the number of medals they were winning.  They finished the Paralympics 3rd in the medal table. Only a couple of weeks previously at the Olympic Games, Ukraine had finished 31st on the medal table (their own worst performance ever). So congratulations and well done to all Ukrainian Paralympians.

So why were their Paralympians so much more successful than their Olympic counterparts?

Ukraine’s Paralympic Chief, Valeriy Sushkevych explained to the BBC: “In Ukraine we have set up the best system of physical education, sport and rehabilitation for people with disability. There is infrastructure in all regions of Ukraine, with schools for children with disabilities. This system works and brings results.

“But the system can’t work without people… people who withstand all these problems: lack of money, political crisis, war and all other troubles. And these people are extremely dedicated.”

In that short extract from the interview, Sushkevych sums up the essence of their success: the country getting the infrastructure right, and the athletes applying themselves with dedication and commitment.

The same factors are vital to success in any organisation. Organisations that want to raise the engagement of their employees and maximise their productivity must put the right infrastructure in place. That’s not just the physical infrastructure (although that’s clearly important) but more importantly the organisational systems, structures and resources that enable people to grow, and to perform to the best of their ability.

But just putting the infrastructure in place isn’t sufficient; it’s a vital part, but not the whole. Through leadership, the organisation must also communicate its own vision, values and priorities, so that employees are able to align themselves to the organisation and, through their own commitment and dedication, deliver the best results they can, bringing success both personally and for the organisation.

No matter how dedicated the people are, without effective leadership and infrastructure they will flounder. And no matter how good the organisation’s infrastructure and leadership is, without dedicated employees the organisation will struggle to flourish.

Practically speaking, the key factor in bringing about such alignment is the organisation’s line managers – they are key people in how effective internal communication is, and in the extent to which each employee chooses to commit (or not) to the organisation and the extent to which they will choose to engaged. Valeriy Sushkevych may well be a good role model to emulate.

The Ukrainian success at the Paralympics gives the perfect illustration of how the emenex extraMILE model works in practice, aligning the organisation’s needs with what its employees can deliver. You can find out more about the extraMILE model here.

Image based on: https://www.rio2016.com/en 

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