Corporate executives are very much like elite athletes. Read the following points and consider how great business executives and world-class athletes exhibit exactly the same traits:
1) PERSONAL “DRIVE” AND AMBITION
The business executive moves up the corporate ladder by channeling long hours of work and mental focus constantly on the business. On an extreme scale, corporate work ethic can sometimes be reworded as “workaholic”. These corporate athletes retain and capitalize on their intense mental focus — their desire to succeed never wanes.
The sports athlete moves up to world class status by employing unwavering effort and thousands of hours of practice, through the appropriate channels in their own sport (leagues, tournaments, competitions). Sports athletes have an unparalleled drive to achieve, whether at a professional, world-class or Olympic level . They do not let anything deflect them from their goals – they exhibit incredible work ethic, intense focus and a “never-give-up” attitude.
2) TRAINING AND PREPARATION
Business executives begin their careers with education in an area of expertise, then progress by gaining varied experience in higher and higher levels of business. Business training and preparation is both formal and informal. Learning the politics of people, business deals and corporate culture is often as important as any technical education.
Sports training and preparation begins in a similar way, with technical skills development as the foundation, complemented by increasingly complex nuances of learning in a particular sport. The right mix of training to enable athletes perform using both technical skills (the “science”) and natural talent/ability (the “art”) is key to elite status.
3) CROSS TRAINING
Broad-based expertise is a key ingredient for successful business leaders. Decision-making requires expertise in multiple disciplines (marketing, financial, operational). Mentorship and career development programs are a great way to focus on this broader range of skill building – MBAs are an example of diversified training in the business world.
In sports, the importance of sport-specific training is always present; however cross-training adds complementary strengths and skills to support an ahtlete’s success in a variety of situations. Yes, hockey players may employ strength/yoga/core training to complement their speed skating and puck-handling skills. Bikers and runners will add upper body weight training as part of their overall training plans.
<4) CONTINUOUS SKILLS / STRENGTH BUILDING OVER A LIFETIME
Executives and leaders never stop learning or building their business, it’s a “compound effect”. Some leaders will never retire – their business has been continuous for decades and stopping or retiring is just inconceivable. Success to these individuals is often as much the journey as the destination.
Athletes parallel this attitude. Physical training never stops – the invested effort to achieve peak physical conditioning and elite performance levels is so significant, athletes are usually reluctant to stop or take a break because the decline in performance takes too much effort to recover later. Often, the psychology of sport is embedded in an athlete’s persona; their love of hockey, basketball, etc is a lifetime passion.
5) NATURAL TALENT / ABILITY ACCERATES LEVEL OF SUCCESS
Natural business leaders with an instinct for making deals or obtaining innovative results will achieve greater levels of business success.
The same principle applies for athletes – those with natural ability will excel because they have found their “niche” talent and are tapping it.
6) PERFORMANCE UNDER PRESSURE
Imagine running a multi-million dollar company with thousands of jobs depending on you and competitors trying to cut you off at the knees on every deal you make. Hundreds of daily decisions are necessary, each with big risks in terms of money, jobs or the business’s reputation – and the days are always 12-18 hours long.
Athletes experience comparable pressure. Mental focus and concentration culminates in competition; sometimes years of investment riding on one moment or one event. Consider what goes through the mind of a golfer in the Masters Tournament, or how a hockey player handles overtime playoffs in the Stanley Cup.
The key to reaching elite status, whether in business or in sport, is the combination of all the above factors: preparation, hard work, mental focus and life experience all contribute to hone the capabilities and potential of each individual.
Find your passion, then pursue it with determination and planned action!