Sarah Ayton OBE

Double Olympic Gold medalist & world champion

Many parallels can be drawn between elite sport and running a successful business - as a double Olympic Gold medalist, Sarah uses her experience on and off the water to deliver a series of inspirational talks based on her Olympic success and her approaches for achieving gold.  

Discover your Inner Athlete: The best version of you #Proud.

From a young age, being an Olympic champion has been Sarah's dream - the thought of standing on the podium and being the best in the world became her driving force to turn the dream into a reality.

There is a combination of crucial factors in turning her dream into a reality, most of which can be learned and developed. Sarah was lucky as she found her passion for sailing at a young age; it was the thing she loved to do, a place to escape  and be free. As Sarah grew up, it was more about the racing and technical side of the sport she enjoyed until reaching her senior years, where she discovered how much she thrived under pressure, enjoying the project management and leadership side of campaigning and, of course, there was the winning!

Over Sarah's career as an athlete, she learned to get the best from herself physically and mentally. Sarah developed her resilience and mental toughness to be solution-focused - spending the least time worrying about things she can’t control and focusing more on a solution to any given problem.

Self-awareness is also critical in identifying her red flags, knowing when to take time out, when to ask for help, when to do things differently, and when to have those difficult conversations.

Discovering your inner athlete will help individuals and teams to understand themselves better, take ownership and be accountable for their progression. Discovering your inner athlete helps you be more solution-focused, goal-driven and motivated to achieve your “Dream Goals.”  

Building a winning team: The power of collaborative leadership

When Sarah moved to the back of the boat to lead her team to success in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, she had no idea how to be a leader! All she knew was that she wanted to change how sailing teams had a helm - often the name of the campaign.

And then there was the crew. It was time to ditch the ego and lead by example. Having won gold in Athens at the front of the boat, there was much more Sarah wanted to achieve, like winning a World Championship, a Europeans to dominate our class, but more significantly, building a team that backed each other, who felt valued, listened to and able to be themselves.

The making of a good team in Sarah's sport was a significant contributor to our overall success; they listened, they respected each other and – of considerable importance – adopted an honest approach when addressing challenges and obstacles that needed to be sorted at stressful points before and during the race.  The ability to talk in an honest way with team members and to be able to move on from challenging moments were key points on their path to success.  It was about the focus on them all as individuals, what they had to offer and how they worked as a team to combine thier skill sets and strengths.

Likewise, businesses are about people and collaborative working with a clear goal in mind.  Developing, respecting, and rewarding your team where appropriate strongly influences the path to business success.

The importance of vision, values, and ethos.

Values, vision, and ethos are equally important in business success. They are the backbone of a business which works collectively and as a collaborative team where ideas are shared and considered with respect.  Sarah's values going for gold were alertness, team unity, single-mindedness, and pride. A business that considers its values and has them at the heart of development will have the correct approach to success.

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