Leadership · sport · Team Building

Sport & Business: Same principles, different playing field.

Sport is such a great vehicle for teaching many life and leadership skills. I am constantly using the lessons I learned in sport and am lucky to be able draw parallels between these two worlds daily. Here’s a short list of lessons learned and examples of the cross-pollination between sport and business.
1. Cheering for the team, not for yourself
Remember that at the core, everyone on the team has the same objectives. When it comes to sports teams, at one level we are competing with each other for the starting spot, but whoever is performing the best will always have the starting spot on the court and in the spirit of sportsmanship, the second in line should be right their cheering that person on because it is the team’s goals that are the overarching driver. One of the things that sport has taught me is to internalize my own performance. I know when I am not performing as well as my peer and if they are doing a better job at helping us reach our goals, then they need to be ahead of me, period. When I see this happening does it motivate me to step up even more? To do whatever it takes to get back on track? To kick my performance into high gear? Absolutely. But I will never ever disrespect a teammate who is performing better than me, I will learn from them.
2. Building High Performing Sports Teams = Building High Performing Teams in Business
In team sport, everyone knows that when you reach a certain level, you usually specialize and really hone your skills in your chosen ‘position’ because its where you are your strongest and perform your best, especially under pressure (quarter back in football, point guard in basketball etc.). Then those who are the best in the different positions get picked to form the team. In business teams, if everyone else ‘does what you do’ (for example your all interior designers, or your all lawyers, or your all marketers etc.) what is the differentiator each person brings that can really take your team from just performing to excelling? Its your unique strengths. To discover these I highly recommend teams do the Strength Finder 2.0 Test (you have to buy the book and then take the test online). It identifies your top 5 strengths and provides you with examples of how to best use them – It was bang on for me and anyone I know who has taken the test. It helps explain why we love and excel at certain aspects of our work, while we dislike other parts – so you can reallocate resources, time and energy on your team to maximize the use of people’s strengths and drive some serious results.
3. Analyzing yourself and your opponent
Sports teams and individual players spend countless hours watching video of both their performance and their opponents – analyzing movement patterns, strategy, preparation, momentum shifts, moments of break down, moments of resurgence all with one question in mind – how can I/we improve and play smarter next time? While you may not sit and watch video of your team in business – ha, could you imagine?! – it is equally important to reflect/de-brief on your decisions and results (good or bad) and the process you took to get there – if you don’t, you’ve missed an incredible learning opportunity that could propel you and your team forward leaps and bounds.
4. Respecting a better performing opponent through emotional intelligence and self-control. 
Respect for your opponent/competitor, especially when you are being out-performed, is a great lesson learned from sport. I find that you learn the most from your poor performances when you are not angry at the opponent or what they are doing but instead direct your attention onto yourself – being angry is a waste of time and also narrows your focus. What they do is out of your control so instead focus on what you can control, your performance and reactions. The beauty of doing this is that it helps keep your attention broad so that key information can come in at the right time to trigger a shift to your advantage. Love those moments.
5. It ain’t over till it’s over
Anything can happen at any time – look at the last 19 seconds of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup!  The same thing can happen in business, the game can shift at a moments notice and being agile to these changes is key.

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