Whenever the Olympics are happening, I’m reminded of Peter Ueberroth and the common perception that he saved the Olympics from dying. Although Peter played a key role,  it was a young person on the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) who asked a pivotal question during a team meeting that saved the Olympic Games. You see, in 1976 the Olympics were held in Montreal and the Canadians lost USD 6.1 billion hosting it (720% over budget). They are not alone, as I believe the Russians might still be paying off the cost of hosting the 1980 Olympic Games. Los Angeles was named as the city to host the ’84 Olympics by default, and no countries had, at that point, put bids forward to host the 1988 games.

That’s right, leading up to the 1984 Olympics, as Dr. Edward Debono tells it, Ueberroth held a team meeting, posing the question of how LA could break even and not lose money? He drew a picture of the field and explained that the fans wouldn’t pay any more for tickets to attend. Then he drew a line to the television cameras representing the networks.

At that point, a young team member asked this question: “how much are the networks paying?”

Peter responded with “nothing…we pay the networks to televise the Olympics.” The team member pointed out that it would make business sense for the networks to share the revenue they make from the sponsors. The rest is history – the Olympics were saved. The 1984 Summer Olympics generated a profit of nearly $250 million; Ueberroth received the Olympic Order in gold; and, he was named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1984. Through, if Ueberroth had not created a culture where team members felt safe in asking questions and challenging ideas; and, if he had not leveraged the ideas and creativity of his team in determining if there was an alternate model for the Olympics; 1984 may have been the final year of the Olympic Games.

Motivating team members to challenge the status quo and giving them the credit for those ideas is a sign of a secure and confident manager. In fact, when I’m working with a management team, and it becomes apparent that the culture does not support team members in challenging their manager in charge (in a professional manner), it is a clear sign that the train is running off track and I need to jump. Insecure management limits the growth and retention of talent, which in the end will do the company in. Click To Tweet

Although Steve Jobs was driven by his vision of how Apple would grow through innovation, he had the confidence to listen and incorporate insights he had overlooked. When Steve landed Sony as the third major recording producer to agree to sell singles on iTunes, he went back to his team and insisted that access to iTunes be limited to Apple technology. His team fought back, and the story goes that one young person had the courage to tell Steve that he would be making the same mistake he had made in the ‘80s when Apple failed to license the Mac operating system, resulting in Windows becoming the standard by the mid-1990s. The team member argued that by limiting iTunes to Apple devices, they would lose the contracts with the record producers because sales would not meet targets.

If Steve Jobs’ management team had not challenged his decision, iTunes might well be a thing of the past.

Consider a more practical example. I’ve been practicing Hatha Yoga, 90 minute sessions, in a hot room for over fifteen years. If I were doing this series of yoga poses in a room on my own, it is unlikely that I would last for more than 5 minutes. It’s not just the motivation of being part of a group effort that inspires me to practice with others, it is also that in every session someone shows me that there is a new place to go. Alone, I am limited by my perception of my ability - but awareness of others opens my mind to possibility and my journey expands. Click To Tweet

As a manager or a business owner, creating a healthy culture requires the confidence to surround yourself with great minds that aren’t afraid to challenge you. You need to surrender to the fact that you do not have all of the answers and encourage your team to strive and bring forward creativity and new ideas. For some practical guidance in running your team meetings to accomplish this, read Traction by Gino Wickman.

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