How Winter Olympics skills apply (sort of) to internal communication

Workplace survival requires the precision of a master curler, the nerve of a bobsled pilot and the agility of a slalom skier. Let the messaging games begin.

What do communicators have in common with figure skaters?

Style points count, but it’s mostly about execution and sticking the landing. Thankfully, triple lutzes, ice dancing and shiny outfits are not required at most offices, but we all have an audience—and judges—to whom we’re beholden.

In observance of the 2018 Winter Olympics, here are four more events communicators might recognize:

  1. Curling the stones of strategy.

Communicators aren’t typically tasked with gliding polished granite stones onto concentric circles, but successful communication does require precision, teamwork and strategy. It takes a deft touch—and no small amount of furious scrubbing—to ensure messages land smack dab in the middle of a target.

Communicators would be wise to take a page from curlers’ careful consideration. Each shot they take is purposeful, measured and painstakingly calculated. In the same way, be precise and concise with your language and with each project you take on. Define your target, consider your trajectory, glide confidently toward your objective, relentlessly brush away impediments (#editing), and land your stones in the right spots.

  1. Giant slalom around obstacles.

This grueling event requires incredible dexterity, agility and endurance. As if careening down an icy mountain weren’t daunting enough, participants must sharply turn—left, right, left, right—darting around the checkpoints.

Does this sound familiar? Communication, though far less dangerous, also requires swift pivots around potential obstacles. Messaging campaigns often feel like a bracing run down a hazardous mountain.

Whereas skiers study the course to figure out where each gate is—to the point of memorization—communicators often just take off and hope for the best. In which case you might end up with a rather disappointing result:

Communicators don’t have the benefit of knowing where potential obstacles might be lurking, but try to anticipate any possible barriers to your campaign. Be ready to shift at a moment’s notice.

  1. Bobsledding with frosty colleagues.

Communicators are like bobsled drivers. Your colleagues are crammed into the same sled, entirely at your messaging mercy, as you all hurtle down an icy chute at 90 miles per hour. Your steering decisions dictate whether you roar through the finish line or crash into a frozen wall. For success, everyone has a role to play.

It’s your job to guide the communication craft safely to your destination, but bobsled teams also have a brakeman, whose job is to support, advise and coach up the driver. The brakeman also plays a crucial role in pushing and getting the sled moving down the track.

If you don’t have one already, find your office “brakeman” who’s willing and able to give direct, unyielding feedback. Every communicator should have a brakeman to offer guidance, give constructive criticism and help launch your messaging down the track.

  1. Biathlon of talents.

The biathlon is a twofold event featuring cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. If you excel at one skill but fail at another, you’re bound to lose. You must be proficient at both.

In the same way, communicators should be dual threats. For some, writing is a strength. Others might excel at digital marketing. Whatever it is, one primary skill is no longer enough to hang your hat on. Communicators must learn a handful of relevant, complementary skills. We must be able to ski though heavy snow and shoot with precision.

Run your own race

Of course, communicators never receive the glory afforded to athletes. Most of us will never stand on a pedestal, receive a medal or land a triple axel before an adoring crowd. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t strive, train and compete with the intense focus of an Olympian.

We all have a race to run—now go forth and run it as though the whole world is watching.

By Robby Brumberg, first published on February 21, 2018