Lessons from the Olympic Games Rio 2016

This summer, I was fortunate enough to soak in the sights and sounds of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I frequent Brazil to visit family, but witnessing the spectacle and sportsmanship of the games first-hand made this trip even more amazing.

For me, the most memorable people and moments include Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky, the first gold for the Brazilian men’s soccer team and of course Ryan Lochte.

Being there in person gave me a different viewpoint than what the average spectator sees on television. In addition to cheering on our U.S. team, I took in valuable lessons about teamwork, talent and strategy.

The team behind the team

In the media, all the focus lands on the athletes themselves. While it’s true that the talent and skill they possess is inspiring, an array of people works tirelessly behind the scenes to make them look good.

Coaches, trainers and families were driving forces on the sidelines, not to mention sponsors and the public back home. The athletes carry the hopes, dreams and sacrifices of thousands of people.

That’s true in business as well. The contributions of those at every level set the tone for your overall performance. If the people behind the scenes don’t have confidence in your vision, you need to work harder to get them fully on board.

Know your role

Watching the men’s volleyball semifinal match, I was struck by the different team roles. Even someone not familiar with the strategy could pick out the utility player, the specialist and the clutch performer — not to mention the team motivator. It was obvious that everyone knew his specific part.

In your day-to-day work life, what persona are you presenting? Is it consistent? Do people know they can depend on you, time and time again? While it’s important to be adaptable, building a reputation for steadiness in a volatile environment raises your credibility. Know your role and do it exceptionally well.

Sometimes you get lucky

And sometimes you don’t. I was there for Honduras’ historic victory over South Korea in the men’s soccer quarterfinals. South Korea played with more intensity and creativity for the majority of the game, but a 60th minute strike by Alberth Elis turned out to be the only score. (He also knocked out the U.S. men’s team.)

No matter how hard you work, your plans may be disrupted. In a deal, your status as underdog or favorite doesn’t matter once the final decision is made.

Ask yourself what you can do today to maximize your chances of winning. Be present and be persistent, and if things don’t go your way, come back tomorrow with the same determination.

From the athletes fighting for funding to the household names, the 2016 Olympics provided ample opportunities to be entertained, amazed and humbled. For me, they also provided insight into running a successful company. The world might not be watching, but we can rise to the challenge of inspiring those around us to be better, stronger and faster.


Greg Lignelli is the COO of System One Holdings LLC, which delivers workforce solutions and integrated services to help clients get work done more efficiently and economically, without compromising quality.