This season’s NBC-TV reality show American Ninja Warrior is well under way as qualifiers fight to make it through some of the most challenging obstacles. Their goal is to be one of the 15 finalists sent through to the Las Vegas final rounds.
In Vegas, each finalist will be given the opportunity to put his or her strengths to the ultimate test battling the perilous four-stage course modeled after the famed Mt. Midoriyama course in Japan.
Just as happens in business, the top competitors won’t make it to the top by accident. Their intense year-round training and continuous support from fellow competitors, coaches, family and friends will have pushed them to become the best warriors.
Entrepreneurs are no different: They have the same ability to push their teams to the peak of their personal and professional goals. And as with the TV ninjas, the effective performance management they achieve can’t be executed without dedication and support from everyone involved.
Here’s how leaders can train everyone on their team to be victors in their careers:
1. Set a defined course.
The American Ninja warriors aren’t preparing for random obstacles and strength tests. Instead, they’re focusing on specific courses/obstacles that could appear in their qualifying rounds.
From grip and core strength to balance and agility, they know exactly what skills and strengths they’ll need to overcome each obstacle. This knowledge will give them the opportunity to set a defined course for training and a set route to victory, and to not waste time on unnecessary tangents along the way.
Tip for warrior leaders: Leaders need to construct performance-management strategies that prepare their team for all challenges — both current and future ones. These lessons should revolve around previous experiences and smaller goals that will help them achieve their ultimate feat.
To do this, they shouldn’t simply include scattered courses, trainings and advice in their training throughout the year. Instead, leaders need to set up a defined “course” or path employees will follow when they run into specific issues and challenges.
At your company, assign team members to plan the best performance-management path to reach their final goal. As each step is marked, plan out special training, mentoring and development opportunities to help them prepare for the next steps.
2. Focus on one obstacle at a time.
Each stage of Mount Midoriyama contains various obstacles of increasing difficulty, and competitors must complete all 23 obstacles in order to be considered for the winning title of American Ninja Warrior.
Twenty-three obstacles take an immense amount of focus and attention to detail. If competitors are caught up in worrying about what’s up ahead, they’ll lose sight of what’s needed to accomplish the current course.
Unfortunately, this distraction frequently results in many slipping or falling, and being disqualified from the challenge.
Tip for warrior leaders: Most employees, both new and experienced, understand the immense pressures of completing various tasks at the same time. This also means they’re familiar with the experience of feeling overwhelmed and not performing their best.
As employees face difficult projects or clients or simply feel overwhelmed with their workload, they can lose sight of even the simplest tasks. Leaders need to keep their team focused by breaking down performance management and projects into smaller, manageable steps.
When employees have a Vegas rounds-level project, be sure that they keep their focus on the smaller short-term goals that will help them accomplish their major goal. Encourage them to keep the larger goal in mind for motivation, but put their efforts and determination into each challenge that arises before their final project is due.
3. Have clear goals.
On the reality show, all warriors’ ultimate goal is to make it to the Vegas rounds. However, they know it’s crucial to set smaller benchmarks for themselves. In order to do this, they work on strengthening their grip and repeat individual obstacles to train their bodies for the physical stress.
In this context, during a recent episode of American Ninja Warrior a 54-year-old competitor explained how he trains using his own home gym. His course has multiple levels, allowing him to set smaller goals for himself while he continues to push his own limits.
Tip for warrior leaders: If employees aren’t clear on where they currently stand with their goals and the final objective, the course will be especially challenging. Setting clear goals will help team members easily understand and take charge of their successes.
Set these defined goals during a meeting with each employee individually. Employees want to know managers are listening, understand their goals and are willing to help them reach the golden strip.
Unfortunately, 31 percent of employees wish their manager communicated with them more frequently, according to Officevibe’s July State of Employee Engagement report.
Connect with employees by having a discussion on how each goal will guide them to the next step in helping them reach their final victory.
4. Offer training opportunities.
From the Ultimate Cliffhanger, to the Salmon Ladder, to Unstable Bridge — all obstacles on American Ninja Warrior — the competitors understand what training is necessary to make it through each obstacle. Their year-round determination to focus on this specific training is what sets the Vegas round qualifiers apart from the rest.
Tip for warrior leaders: Employees need training and performance management to effectively achieve their goals once they’re in place. This will not only help team members achieve their goals, but also give them more motivation to stay with the organization.
In fact, 83 percent of 7,700 millennial surveyed in The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey said they were likely to stay at their current company for more than five years if the organization provided professional development.
Depending on the goals involved, this could include very skill-specific training or wider-range training, such as communication skills, creativity exercises or even teamwork. Cut out specific time for employees each month to focus on their training. Placing this time into their normal workday will let them know their entire management team is invested in their success.