9 Things Facilities Managers and Olympic Athletes Have in Common

by Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers on April 12, 2019

A vast majority of us will never have the opportunity to compete in the Olympic Games.  We regard these athletes as the best of the best–the leaders in their field.  The similarities between Olympic athletes and facilities managers are astounding.  These shared attributes are what make both parties “Olympians” both on the field and off.  

Facilities managers and olympic athletes have 9 things in common.

1. Big Thinking

An Olympian never sells themselves short.  They are fearless in their endeavors and are leaders amongst their colleagues.  Much like a successful facilities manager, they are unwilling to settle for anything less than success and are always looking towards the future, what their next set of goals will be and their plans for achieving those objectives.

2. Optimism

Optimism is a powerful force when it comes to the success of an Olympic athlete.  Psychologists indicate that optimism’s value lies in the determination it sparks in an individual to always better their situation. The motivation to find solutions to improve one’s life stems from this optimistic attitude.  With a career built around finding solutions, facilities managers must possess this quality for long term success.

3. Adaptability

The ability to adapt to new situations is critical for the success of both Olympic athletes and facilities managers.  Change is a natural part of life, yet learning to adjust to these changes with ease is not something that comes naturally to  us all.  The manner in which you conduct yourself in the face of adversity is what sets the stars apart from the rest. The principals look at adversity as a chance to grow and learn–just another part of the journey on their path to success.

4. Proficiency

The duties of a facilities manager is to accomplish more with less.  For long-term success, proficiency is key.  Time management is paramount to the balance and success of both an Olympian’s and a facilities manager’s life.  For United States’ Olympic Triathlete Gwen Jorgensen, mastery of this trait made all the difference in maintaining balance in her life.  Because of her increased proficiency at work, she was able to cut back on her hours at the accounting firm.  Her proficiency in time management allowed her to get more work done in less time. This freed her schedule so she was able to find the perfect balance between her training, workload and personal life. 

5. Accountability

To achieve any measure of success, one must be held accountable for their actions.  Much like an Olympian, a leader in facilities management must surround themselves with a strong support team–one that positively supports through each goal they are working to accomplish.  By utilizing facility management tools at your disposal your team can be held accountable for the time it takes them to complete a service request ticket. This leaves no room for excuses, only honesty, support and, in turn, growth.

6. The Desire to Learn

Olympic athletes are learning powerhouses, always seeking out new information.  Whether through sessions with their coaches and mentors, videotapes of their performances or studying their competition, their drive to learn and grow more is unwavering.  It is this inclination to always learn more that contributes to some of the strongest work ethics in the professional world.

7. Coachability

Maintaining a certain level of self-awareness is critical to anyone’s success.  Whether on the field or in the office, there is no room for egos.  Acknowledging that we all have room for improvement and keeping an open mind is what makes us “coachable”.  The knowledge that no one is immune to failure is what gives us the ability to grow.  And growth is fundamental to success.


8. Leaving Emotions at the Door

Your mother is sick, your car broke down, or your child is having trouble in school–every one of us has something going on in our personal lives.  The ability to compartmentalize the emotions that go with these events is the mark of a good leader.  When an athlete walks onto the field, all emotions must be put aside, with total focus on their immediate goal.

9. Consistency

Pioneers in facility management are consistently great.  A clear  understanding of their goals and aligning their actions WITH those goals is critical.  A healthy balance of consistency and adaptability, always keeping their “eye on the prize” sets the Olympians apart from the rest.

Regardless of what professional or personal path you are on, the mark of a great leader is in how they carry themselves both on and off the field.  The ability to adapt and grow is just as essential as never settling for anything short of triumph.  Just as the everyday marathon runner looks towards the Olympic marathoner, your facilities management team seeks guidance from you as their “Olympic” FM.  The path to greatness lies within all of us, we just have to discover those qualities and nurture them.

Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in February 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and relevance.


Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers

Tiffany covers leadership and marketing topics and enjoys learning about how technology shapes our industry. Before iOFFICE, she worked in local news but don't hold that against her.

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