For the Love of the Game – Think Like an Athlete to Win in Business

By: Emily Ferreira, Vice President Sales and Media Delivery Technology Solutions, Valassis
Published Thursday, Feb 23, 2017

For the Love of the Game – Think Like an Athlete to Win in Business

Hang up your cleats and put the glove away. It’s time to focus on the real world, real work -- your professional career. But what if organizations in the business world took advantage of the “off the field” skills a high-performing athlete can bring to the business game? Athletes often are conditioned for performance from an early age. A huge advantage in businesses!  By the time athletes are entering the corporate world they have well over a decade of experience in areas many organizations would consider their “core values.” 

Dedication, determination and the thrill of competing to drive results are attributes found in most high- performing athletes. Why is this important? Those same athletes will enter the business world conditioned with a strong work ethic that is highly beneficial to any organization. CEOs would love a team of employees at all levels that push for perfection every day; no different than a coach’s expectations of their team. “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect,” said one of the greatest coaches of all time, Vince Lombardi, and I have to agree. While no one can be perfect all the time, striving to deliver your best each and every day should not be reserved solely for the playing field. A team striving to be the best; deliver the best; and sell the best can be the difference between a good organization and a great one.

To win, athletic organizations study their current team with precision. They fine tune their players’ strengths and determine what talent they need to recruit in order to deliver a championship. That approach, in some fashion or another, should take place within any firm large or small.  The diversity of thought and experience needed to move an organization forward is no different than staffing a winning sports team. Coaches would never dream of having their star pitcher play short stop, catcher and first base. It’s not just about the expertise needed to play a position. Whether on the field or in the boardroom, it’s about the mindset that goes along with it.

Self-motivation is a virtue that business leaders would love to see from all employees. Athletes are accustomed to winning and losing. They know how to pick themselves up after a loss and get back in the game or prepare differently for the next game. They have mastered the self-motivation to hone their skills and learn from their mistakes. They fail faster every day to reach the next level of greatness.

Many would argue that an athlete’s performance “slump” may be the worst situation they can be faced with -- even more so than an injury. But a “slump” can occur even with a sound body. So, how do the great ones overcome this obstacle that can feel like a Herculean effort? The answer is:  mindset, self-motivation and self-awareness are much more important than conditioning/physical preparation. That tenacious, will-to-win attitude and mindset will not only produce results in the business world for the individual, but more importantly, the ferocity of their determination will be infectious within the organization.

When looking toward the finish line, sparking the athlete in all of us might be the difference between our organization delivering a good performance and a great one.