Enjoy this excerpt from our new book, Healthy Leadership.

Julie and I love the Olympics. In fact, we were thrilled when they started alternating the summer and winter Olympics so that we would only have to wait two years instead of four to watch the games.

The Olympics embody all that is good and inspiring about the human spirit. We are in awe of how these athletes practice day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out, for that one moment to perform when it really matters.

As we watched the most recent Olympics, we had an aha moment. Olympians spend 99 percent of their time practicing, while they perform just 1 percent (or less) of the time.

Your team members have the opposite challenge. They must perform 99 percent (or more) of the time—taking care of customers, analyzing reports, developing their teams, generating sales, and meeting other organizational needs.

In business, there is precious little time for your team to “practice” all these tasks that keep the company running. The vast majority of your team’s learning and development happens on the job rather than in formal training programs.

Those who coach Olympic athletes literally spend years training their athletes and typically can only sit and watch as they perform. Leaders in a work setting, on the other hand, have the chance to coach their team members day in and day out, for years, in real-time, as they perform. That is a powerful distinction, and it creates a special opportunity for healthy leaders to help their teams flourish.

Even though we are hardly Olympic athletes ourselves, we have experienced the power of a coach to elevate performance in real-time when we exercise (Pilates for Julie and TITLE® Boxing for Lee). The moment the trainer or coach is within eyesight, we predictably increase our intensity, exert more energy, and check to ensure our form is correct.

This natural human reaction to work harder when being observed (or encouraged) has long been established. In fact, the first study to demonstrate this effect was conducted by Norman Triplett, a psychologist from Indiana University, way back in 1898. The fact that we perform better when we are coached in real time is referred to as social facilitation, which is defined as “an improvement in performance produced by the mere presence of others.”

Healthy Leadership Book