“If we work together, then we can both be part of something that’s much bigger, that’s much more sustainable. How we frame success has a big impact on whether we’re able to explore our potential or not.”
Dr. Cath Bishop is a former olympic athlete and diplomat, and current business coach and author. Her mission is to reimagine the winner-take-all approach that still dominates everywhere from classrooms to boardrooms. In her book The Long Win, she proposes a new approach to achieve more meaningful, sustained success.
The following is a summary of Episode 177 of the Real Leaders Podcast, a conversation with former olympic athlete and diplomat Dr. Cath Bishop. Watch, read, or listen to the full conversation below.
Cath shares how her athletic career as an Olympic rower helped her to uniquely understand teamwork and the pursuit of a common goal. Rowing with a team requires self-awareness and awareness of others in equal parts. As a result, all team members must all be in perfect agreement in order to move forward, let alone make it to the finish line.
“You can never completely focus on yourself because you have to be in time as much as possible with those around you. So you’re always pushing yourself. But in the same frame you’re thinking, how can I do it in a way that enables us all to go as fast as we can together?”
Understanding the pursuit of a common goal prepared Cath for a career in conflict negotiation. She shares her insights on how to effectively negotiate, and suggests that listening is actually the most influential tool. She emphasizes the importance of connecting with whomever is on the other side of the conversation, especially if you don’t initially get along. While building upon something in common, it’s also important to embrace fundamental differences.
“We all face complex issues, whether its business, politics, the world is complex. We need multiple perspectives. And the more we can get used to that and get comfortable with different ways of seeing the world, the more we learn, the more we grow. It’s a very learning mindset to think like that. How can I learn about your perspective of the world and through that grow my own?”
As both a professional athlete and senior diplomat, Cath recognized that a global culture of (and obsession with) winning has actually created behaviors that hold us back. In business just as much as sports, a focus on external rewards actually hinders motivation — a gold medal or a bonus are only superficial goals. It is focusing on intrinsic motivations, such as purpose and autonomy, that inspire people to be more motivated, creative, and resilient.
Cath explores this idea of shifting our winning mindset to in her book, The Long Win: The Search for a Better Way to Succeed. She suggests we could all benefit from reframing success away from the narrow, short-term, win-at-all-costs approach. In contrast, she emphasizes a more meaningful, sustainable approach, which she calls “The Long Win.”