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Employee Attachment: Lessons From An Elite Athlete


This week will see many of our future Australian Olympians compete at the 2016 NSW State Age Swimming Championships at SOPAC. We are proud to have recently hired an elite athlete, Maddie. I would like to share Maddie’s first blog with you. If you are an organisation looking to recruit in 2017,
I would highly recommend you look at hiring an elite athlete, and after reading Maddie’s blog, you will understand why…

Does Employee Attachment really matter that much?

This is a question I asked my mother as I told her I had just been offered an internship at shcBOND out of absolutely no-where. I remember the exact moment I was offered my internship at shcBOND.

I met Selina Sork for a coffee, she had asked me to provide some university notes I had taken on social media – I thought why not? Free coffee in exchange for some notes I had made during a lecture? Easy.

I had just finished swimming training and met Selina at her office. I arrived with wet hair, in tracksuit pants, a jumper and a pair of ugg-boots – the typical swimmers uniform in the middle of winter. We spoke about social media, our shared interest in public relations and our mutual love for the sport of swimming.

Then out of the blue, Selina asked me to work for her company shcBOND. Stunned, all I could think of was ‘If I knew this was going to be a job interview, I would have dressed better’. I said yes right away still dwelling on my current choice of clothing, but Selina assured me that I should think about my decision.

As I was driving home, it dwelled on me.

Me? To work for an Employee Attachment company? I can assure you I didn’t know the first thing about ‘Attachment’, let alone ‘Employee Attachment’.

I asked my mother, who in fact runs her own business as to how important she believed Employee Attachment truly was. She listed a variety of reasons as to how critical employee attachment is to every business, regardless of their field. I guess you can see as a 19 year old, I didn’t have much understanding of employee attachment and its core perceptions of Security, Trust and Value, Acceptance and Belonging… Well at least that’s what I thought.

Anthony and Selina Sork were both active members at the swim club I had only been a part of for about a year and a half, and it was at swim club that we formed our first ‘bond’. I had never moved swim clubs before. I had been part of the one swim club for 18 years before moving to a new one.

I can assure you that I have never been more nervous in my life, then the day I moved to Randwick City Swim Club – and I had been competing at a National level since I was 12 years old. You ask yourself a variety of questions before you enter a new ‘workforce’ – whether a new job or a new swim club. You find yourself questioning whether this new group of strangers will accept you. Are you good enough? Talented enough? Smart enough? Friendly enough? As you are probably aware, the list goes on.

As I thought about this experience, I realised how critical Attachment was to me at that very moment. And if Attachment was so critical to me when I was entering a new training atmosphere, imagine how critical it would be to someone who is entering a new workplace.

I am sure you can reflect on a time when you felt vulnerable in a social situation or workplace like this.

You crave security from those around you. You want them to accept you. You want to feel secure, trusted and of course to belong. This however, as we all know does not happen immediately. Without you consciously realising it, you are in fact seeking the core perceptions of Security, Trust & Value, Acceptance and Belonging.

On your first day in a new ‘workplace’ everyone seems nice, ‘superficially nice’ to be realistic. It isn’t until about the third our fourth day, that you truly begin to feel like this group of strangers want to get to know you, and in fact, you want to get to know them.

As Bo Hanson, a former Olympic Athlete once said, “a successful coach has communication and teaching abilities. They are aware that to help make athletes feel part of the team and be valued, that athletes are to be treated as unique people”. My new coach, who didn’t know me too well at the time immediately made me feel a sense of belonging and security; constantly checking up on me, talking to me, and asking how I felt about the squad.

Employee Attachment is all about creating a strong emotional bond between the new employee and organisation. Selina Sork, CEO shcBOND.

This is exactly what my coach set out to achieve one morning when he set me up to ‘prove’ myself as an athlete to the rest of the team.

I didn’t realise I was ‘proving’ myself as an athlete at the time, nor did I realise my coach’s intentions at the time. All I recall was it being 4:50am on a Monday morning and my coach announced that the squad would be divided for the morning session. We broke into two separate groups. What I perceived at the time was ‘the easier ideal set with all the people I felt accepted by’ and ‘the boys and Maddie’. We were then informed we were to do a 3-kilometre time trial set, “and Maddie was to keep up the entire time”. I will never forget the feeling of 5 boys – all older than me or around the same age, staring at me and smirking. Great.

I swam the entire set and kept up. Obviously not the outcome ‘The boys’ were expecting I can assure you that. After the set I remember touching the wall, panting and reaching for my drink bottle. Then each one of the boys turned around and congratulated me, saying things like “well that was unexpected” and “nice work Mad’s” – I even earned myself a new nickname. Fabulous!

I frequently reflect on this particular experience and I have realised that my coach had already given me an enormous amount of trust and believed in my swimming ability.

Since that morning, I haven’t looked back. This ‘group of strangers’ made me feel accepted, secure, and like I belonged – they also trusted and valued me, as I did them. Bo Hanson once spoke about the importance of a team:
An attached team of athletes almost always rises above a team who may have greater physiological traits and technical skills

Following my acceptance into the squad, not only did I – but the entire squad had one of the most successful seasons of our lives. Our coach continually reminded us throughout the season “the group of you have the chance to make something truly special happen – as long as you continue to work together, rely on each other, encourage one another and push one another”. I can assure you, we made that something special happen.

Security, Trust and Value, Acceptance and Belonging as you can see are critical. We as humans subconsciously need these core perceptions to stay motivated and succeed. You may wonder how a 19 year-old girl killing herself in swimming training to feel accepted relates to employees in the corporate world?

In corporate teams, strong emotional connections are connections we have with the whole person. To work effectively with someone, we need to understand them. Anthony Sork, CEO shcBOND

In my case, my new team needed to understand I was willing to work hard to be accepted, in your case, as a business manager or CEO you need to ensure your employees feel accepted, secure, like they belong, and are valued and trusted – without this, can you expect them to stay with your organisation and work to their maximum potential each day?

You will never know what your employees are well and truly capable of until you create a strong emotional bond, based on the core perceptions of security, trust and value, acceptance and belonging, between the employee and the organisation.

By Maddie, shcBOND intern for Social Media.

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