A Sprinter’s Failure Teaches Us a Lesson about Professionalism

Professionalism is not an option. It is a must.

Professionalism

It was a long shot that a Canadian men’s relay team could medal against some of the powerhouse teams they were up against. But medal they did – well, almost.

Initially they came in third, qualifying for a bronze medal. Their names up in lights on the leaderboard as having won the bronze led them in celebration, hugs and kisses with family and friends, wrapping themselves in the Canadian flag and jumping around the track, proud of what they achieved. But the celebrations were fleeting, as minutes after having been declared winners, they saw that they had been disqualified from the race and that fourth-place Trinidad, would win the bronze.

For those who watched, the loss was palpable – from tears of joy, to tears of devastation in just a few moments. How could this have happened? For what seemed like an eternity, the team and the crowd waited for an explanation.

The replay was shown for the world to see, and it showed that Jared Connaughton, one of the sprinters in the relay, stepped on the line as he came around a corner. One step. That’s all it took for the team to be disqualified. Four years of working toward this moment, disqualified by a single step. It was heartbreaking.

Professionalism Mean Accepting Responsibility

It seemed like such a small infraction. One step? Minutes after the ruling came down, Connaughton was assaulted by media. It would have been easy to blame the judges or to complain about the harshness of the rule. Instead, he acknowledged his error as having cost his team a medal.

He told reporters that the rules were there for a reason, and that he broke the rule – no matter how small of an infraction – and that he had to accept responsibility for that. He apologized to his team. “I can live with it. I’m a man, and I can take it on the chin,” he told CBC News Saturday. “But for Justyn, Seyi, Gavin, not to have a bronze medal is the most disappointing thing of it all.”

canada men's relay

In one brief moment and when the eyes of the world were on him, Connaughton showed the world what he was made of. He handled himself with professionalism, grace and maturity – not an easy thing to do when facing the lowest moment in your career.

Some may argue that honesty isn’t too difficult when you’ve got video evidence of your mistake, but there are some who may have chosen the route of blaming the organization for rules that were too tough. Connaughton chose a different path.

Professionalism is doing your very best, representing your company (or your country in this case) well, and earning the respect of others for your hard work, integrity and excellence. Connaughton ran an exceptional race – he contributed to the team’s third place finish. But he made a mistake, and when he did, professionalism led him to account for it.

Professionalism is about more than looking good on the outside. It’s about more than just achieving excellence, although that’s an important part. Professionalism is also grace under fire, accountability when it’s difficult, and the ability to overcome obstacles and stay committed to your goal.

At Global, we value professionalism in our staff. Will they sometimes make mistakes? Of course. But we encourage a culture where they will be accountable. Jared Connaughton’s professionalism was demonstrated on a world stage, but we have the opportunity to demonstrate those same qualities every day. 

We’re proud of our team and the level of professionalism we see in them as they contribute to helping us achieve our goals.