SPORT – LESSONS FOR BUSINESS!

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I am sure like many of you I spent a large part of the Christmas break watching a wealth of sport. Most notably the Ashes series and more recently the Australian Open – well done Roger! Though, this time of year does also offer up a number of
other international sporting events.

We were recently lucky enough to combine ‘Work’ and ‘Sport’ by hosting a number of clients at the Sydney Cricket Ground. We proudly partnered with Northcott (one of Australia’s largest not-for- profit disability service organisations) who in conjunction with Cricket NSW we purchased a box at the SCG at a fundraising event. And, 50% of us had a great day watching the Poms beat the Aussies at the ODI on a glorious summers day. Now, I know it’s a hard to perceive siting and a box, being fed and watered all day as

“Work”. However, on a serious note it did get me thinking about what are the parallels between Sport and Work. Are there lessons we can learn from sport and in general are there many similarities (or not!) between sporting and corporate arenas?

Sport has lent its vocabulary and metaphors to the business world for decades, whether it is to describe a winning mentality or the consistent traits of a champion. We often compare the characteristics of a successful athlete, such as hard work, discipline, learning from failure, to that of successful business leaders.

Business people are often so fascinated with elite sport that companies pay vast fees to listen to inspirational talks by sporting legends. But what do they learn from them? If we had to adopt more than simply vocabulary into the workplace – what practices
would we choose to adopt?

Create sense of purpose. Great teams have sense of purpose. They know who they are of service to and, they know why what they do matters. Focus on the people for whom your product makes a difference. Successful organisations showcase people whose lives have been turned around thanks to their products. They arrange for these people to address the employees.

Motivate the whole team, not just the stars.  If you can recall Alan Hansen’s famous quote “you’ll win nothing with kids”. Manchester United under Alex Ferguson then went on to win the 1995/96 Premier League with a squad of players largely drawn from the youth academy. Furthermore Leicester City won last years Premier League in what many saw as sports greatest fairy-tale. I am sure we can all see the merits, if at work; we collaborate collectively as a team towards a shared goal.

Set up successes for people to build upon. Good coaches know that big victories stand on the shoulders of numerous smaller victories. They set attainable goals and praise their players when they achieve them. By doing so, they create a culture of success. You can do the same thing by challenging your people to improve their skills in a manner that’s realistic. Use work-related developmental assignments that require them to stretch their skills and knowledge until they become increasingly proficient. Allowing them to consistently improve enhances individual confidence while simultaneously preparing the team for higher performance.

Whilst looking into the link between the sporting and corporate worlds I also discovered some more interesting correlations. Interestingly enough many phrases often used in the business world have their origins firmly from the world of sport.

Dropped the ball. This phrase refers to a huge mistake made by players in football and rugby (a fumble), or a dropped catch in baseball and became common parlance in sporting commentary from the 1950s / 60s onwards. As you are probably aware if
you “drop the ball” at work, it means you’ve made a big mistake and either you or your colleagues are going to suffer for it!

Down to the wire. In horse racing, the “wire” is what was traditionally stretched over the finish line in many of the major horse races such as the Derby. So doing something “under the wire” means you did it at the very last possible moment, or barely in the nick of time.

So whether it be in the field of Sport or Business we are team are here to support you through 2018 and who knows be lucky enough to combine the two in our next box at the Cricket or Tennis!