I always find the Olympics to be a really interesting exercise. As a viewer, I am glued to the television when I see athletes of the caliber of Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps apply their trade. I enjoy seeing sports that I never watch, highlighted on the world stage; the strength of gymnasts scares me and I cannot understand how divers enter the water with hardly a ripple. I love seeing small countries march into the stadium with their traditional uniforms and stars in their eyes. However, what interests me most is how people handle the atmosphere and the pressure of the Olympics.

We all know that the Australian team has been accused of underachieving in these games. We have been riding the crest of a wave in recent Olympics and have consistently sat in the top five performing teams; We have one of the largest squads and we are well funded. Sport is in our national psyche and we all have massive expectations of our Olympians. As a sporting nation, we have been spoiled with results in recent times and as of last night though, we have managed to win two gold medals (and a stack of silver and bronze) with the media and the country in general, not satisfied.

So what has gone wrong?

For me, it started with the opening ceremony. To be completely honest, it actually started before the games. I believe that the real problem has been our athletes’ infatuation with Twitter. Let’s start with our swimming team: Prior to the Olympics, we had two athletes posting pictures of themselves posing with guns and ammunition. This became a national issue and distracted our entire team as arguments came into the public domain. We then had pictures of Stephanie Rice and before you knew it we were discussing whether she was totally focused on the games. Our athletics team was divided by a tweet from John Steffensen where he protested about team selections and threatened to withdraw from the games. Finally, we had Natalie Cook threaten not to march if a woman was not selected as our flag bearer and once again the whole team was in disarray.

If I was Chief De Mission Nick Green, I would set some very strong guidelines about behavioural expectations regarding social media for future games. For whatever reasons, we have had people use these tools to self promote, often negatively, at the expense of team unity. I was amazed when watching the opening ceremony to see our whole team with their heads buried into their iPhones instead of soaking in the atmosphere. Apparently, our athletes were tweeting busily and their followers would have been happy and intrigued. However, are we doing this at the expense of focusing on the job at hand? The results say so.

It wasn’t too long ago when I was conducting a performance review with somebody and they started texting in the middle of it. I think it was texting – it may have been tweeting, they may have been on Facebook – I really could not be sure. Either way, they were not “with” me during the meeting and it is fair to say that this left me feeling fired up and cranky. They were rude and disinterested in the job at hand. I genuinely believe that this individual was so focused on their social lives that work was a secondary consideration. I wonder if this is the same as some of our athletes.

I am not saying that all of our athletes are not mature enough to use social media. I am not saying that they are rude or indifferent to the job at hand. I am only saying that I sincerely feel as though social media has distracted the team as a whole and brought forward issues that have not seen them “keep their eye on the prize.”

Distractions like this can have a considerable negative impact within the workplace and can affect your employees focus and concentration; resulting in poor business performance and creating tension within your team. It is advisable that you implement guidelines that cover acceptable usage policies relating to social media, the internet and email. This gives your employees a basis of understanding and the rest should be common sense.

On one final note, I have to congratulate the whole team on what they have achieved. I know it has not been as “successful” as expected but the Australian athletes have done extremely well. Special congratulations to Leisel Jones who dealt with such unfair scrutiny before the games and handled herself with class. You have all done Australia proud.

Brad McMahon – Managing Director

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