Sports and business have a lot in common in terms of motivation, values and vision. This might explain why so many great athletes become great businesspeople.
Just look at how sport captures the attention of the world and you’ll quickly understand its power. Sport has the ability to bring culture, people and passion together. Sport shows us experiences, and reinforces traits such as resilience, determination, tenacity, and resolve – the same qualities are needed to succeed in business. Sport and business also share other attributes which enable success; planning, execution, implementation, and monitoring.
Sports is one of the greatest motivators, with individuals constantly striving for excellence, pushing limits, and tackling failures. Most importantly, sport is impulsive, thrilling and real, which makes it inspirational.
This may be why sporting metaphors are used commonly in the business world, to help people visualise and work towards victory. When we perform better, we have more success, whether that be winning a game or achieving a personal best. Improved performance is a coordinated effort from individuals, coaches, scientists, and other professionals. It’s the same in business, with employees, stakeholders, suppliers, and partners.
There are so many examples of sport transcending language and nothing brings us together like sport.
Sport is, and always will be, a leader in creating opportunities. This originates with a team’s values, understanding that their success is driven by the team as one unit, and not from an individual. The sporting elite wouldn’t be where they are today without constant assessment and team feedback, and many of the techniques and principles used to improve performance are the same ones utilised in developing teams in business.
Sport demands commitment. As well as years of practice, and hours spent on working out a strategy or game plan, athletes also need a determined mindset and belief that ‘they can’ to recover from the highs and lows they’ll face.
Practice: It’s a common rule of thumb, that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a true professional and expert, popularised by Malcom Gladwell. However, hours worked is not a definitive measurement. In sport, time spent focusing improves speed and efficiency. Regardless of your role, much of what we do is a process, it’s important to choose the right process from the start and focus on refining the exercise. In both sports and business, you can perfect your form by learning from great mentors and their theories.
Strategy: In sports, strategy starts on day one. Whether it’s a specific mentality, awareness of the overall team or set of psychological techniques, there is much to learn from the achievements of successful athletes. Just like in business, if you strategize a game play you’re more likely to see greater returns.
Determination: Athletes play for the love of the game, but every athlete is still in it to win. The same approach should be taken in business, not just in terms of competitors, but at an individual level. It is an athlete trait to want to be the best at what they do, who wants to be mediocre? An athlete’s pride won’t settle for less and there is nothing wrong with wanting to win.
In addition if you compare characteristics exhibited by both entrepreneurs and athletes, although applied in different ways, you can start to draw the parallels between the sports arena and the business office.
The best coaches know that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work – brains and talent are just the starting point. To build committed athletes who are likely to achieve greater long-term success, goal-setting methods are implemented to continually stimulate athletes to be more motivated towards both their goals and the competition.
Even though athletes train for hours a day, most days of the year, their success is not guaranteed. However, if they lose a game or match, they come to the next one with renewed strength and determination – recognising losses are inevitable. It’s their grit and support of their team which propels them to victory more often than not.
From a Leadership perspective, sport can provide great examples of change and innovation best practices. In a study conducted by PwC, it was estimated that millennials will form 50% of the global workforce in 2020 – who learn faster than any previous generation. organisations should be taking stock to uncover some of the lessons taking place in sport and from coaches who are making a profound impact, not just on the results of a team and the development of players, but also in educating the business. Millennial’s will consistently challenge the belief that established methods are better and are always searching for an alternative effective solution.
There are many stories from sport that can motivate employees, improve leadership performance and ultimately, improve business efficiency. Sport has many differing lessons from which we can learn, especially when we align specific challenges and opportunities that different organisations can face.